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INT: Todd Farmer

10.01.2001by: The Arrow

The Arrow interviews Todd Farmer

Todd Farmer wrote the screenplay for the long awaited "Jason X". The film was his first produced screenplay and he even acts in the film. Arrow decided to toss a couple of questions Mr. Farmer's way and this is what he spit back.

1- What's your favorite horror film?

I've never had a favorite movie regardless of genre. "Phantasm" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" scared me the most when I first saw them as a kid. "Jason Lives" is my favorite of the F13s, The first "Nightmare on Elm Streeet" is my favorite of the series, but I'm never disappointed when I pop "Dream Warriors" in. "Evil Dead", "The Exorcist", "Rosemary's Baby", "Hellraiser", "Scream". I tend to favor the originals over the sequels unless the sequel takes me to a new place.

2- You both wrote and acted in "Jason X". Are you a writer first, an actor first, or do you want to work in both fields on the same level?

I'm a writer first. Acting is fun but as a writer I think there's a lot to learn from being in front of the camera. I would love to have a part in every movie I write. But I don't think I'd pursue it outside of that.

3- Were you a big "Friday The 13th" fan before writing the screenplay?

Huge fan. But I always wanted the story to take me somewhere different. I was so excited about "Jason Takes Manhattan". I was there opening night. I left a little disappointed. I wanted to see Jason TAKE Manhattan.

4- What inspired you to slap Jason in space? How did that come about?

That's not a short story. Sean Cunningham had been involved with "Freddy vs. Jason" for way too many years and still no script. He was getting frustrated. It happens. I'd been working under contract for him since '96. In '99 he'd had enough. He decided it was time to make another Jason movie while the never-ending process to come up with a Freddy vs. Jason script continued. The problem, of course, would be New Line. If you were New Line would you want to make another Jason flick if you knew you had Freddy vs. Jason to deal with? It was illogical from every standpoint. The 49ers don't run up and play a Canadian team a week before the Superbowl. And on top of that DeLuca had never hidden the fact that he didn't like Jason anyway. The deck was pretty much stacked against us.

But when Sean puts his mind to something, get out of his way. He called, Jim Isaac, his son, Noel and myself into his office and told us he wanted Jason ideas. We had Jason fighting gangsters in LA, Jimmy suggested Camp Crystal Lake in the winter; we had a number of good ideas, but we didn't know if they were enough. We had one shot at this. We had to tell DeLuca a story that would win him over as a fan.

Then there was another problem. Freddy vs. Jason. We couldn't tell a story pre-FvsJ due to the fact that we could screw up what they had planned. We also couldn't explain Jason's escape from Hell because we had no idea how the FvsJ team was going to handle it. In a perfect world we would have worked hand in hand with the FvsJ team, but in the real world that's not the way it worked. Coming up with the story was anything but simple. We had a thousand factors we had to deal with. I wondered if we could do with Jason what Frank Miller did with Batman. Tell a story that took place in the future, leaving room for the stories in the present to continue. So, that's where Jason in the Future came from. We'd open the story in 2010.

Of course, we had one guy say we couldn't do that because we were giving away who won between Freddy and Jason by having Jason alive in 2010. I cracked up. Hello? How many times have both Freddy and Jason been killed? Is there really anybody out there who thinks Freddy vs Jason will be the ultimate end to one of them? Good grief. There are three things in life that are constant. Death, taxes and Freddy and Jason will always come back. It didn't matter who won. Freddy and Jason would both be back long before the storyline reached the year 2010.

So, we'd side-stepped the Freddy/Jason issue, now we had New Line and DeLuca to win over. Freddy built New Line and their address is on Elm Street. They had no desire to take a road trip to Crystal Lake and we knew it. Three seconds on the clock, it was fourth down and we were down by four with seventy yards to go. A run up the middle wasn't going to get it. We needed a Hail Mary pass. So, what if we really take him into the future? What if Earth is dead and the human race is living somewhere else? What if an archaeological team returns to Earth and finds Jason cryogenically frozen? We've seen Jason in his environment. How would he react in some foreign environment? Would it piss him off that he was plucked out of his habitat? I thought it would. The task would be to tell a story that would stay true to Jason while turning some of the myth on its head. Like Jason's initial waking for instance. here would be no blue lightning or dark Wiccan chanting. Jason wakes for the simple reason that two kids are having sex and it pisses him off! My job was two fold. Create a story that wouldn't alienate the fans but at the same time win over New Line with something different. Beyond that my job was simple. I write a story I'd want to see and hope that those with the power to make it and later the fans agree with my vision. That's really all any writer can do. So, we met DeLuca. Jimmy and I pitched the story and by the end of the meeting, DeLuca was laughing and said the story rocked.

5- Having read the script, I found it somewhat similar to "Aliens" when it came to the initial premise. Was the James Cameron sequel somewhat of an inspiration?

I've read reviews that state I ripped off "Alien Resurrection", however at the time of writing Jason X I hadn't seen it. But I had seen "Alien" and "Aliens" and yes, guilty as charged. I made no attempt to hide the fact that Aliens was an influence. The character I play was named Dallas as was Tom Skerritt in Alien. Rowan's name being close to that of Ripley was no coincidence. Ex-Grunts and Colonial Marines. Kay-Em and Bishop. But there are other influences. "Predator", "Quake", "Die Hard", "Dr. Strangelove", "Matrix", "The Six Million Dollar Man" (believe it or not) and of course, the previous Friday films. Doesn't sound like the influences of a typical horror movie, but we never intended to make a typical horror movie nor did we intend to write Scream dialogue. We intended to make a Horror with big action, some humor and overall just a fun ride that will give you your money's worth.

6- Every writer has a ritual when they write. Mine is a rum and coke and the appropriate music in the background. What's yours?

There are two parts to my process. The thinking part and the writing part. The thinking part involves multiple games of Quake II against screenwriter Dean Lorey. We get tremendous pleasure and inspiration from killing each other several times a day. The thinking part requires that I play Unreal, Black and White, EverQuest and many other PC games. I go to movies, I buy DVDs, I'll meet the guys at the SpeakEasy and chase the So Co with some MGDs. Finally comes the writing and when that happens it's marathon time. I write, sleep, write, sleep. I rarely eat, I don't drink. I stay until the job is finished. Normally there are soundtracks playing in the background but not always. However I can't deal with lyrics or I sing along and it goes subconscious. Last thing anyone wants from a Friday the 13th flick is Jason singing "God Gave Rock n Roll to You". I start every day reading and editing what I wrote previously. And when I'm done? I put the lyrics in, turn the stereo up and sing for hours while working out.

7- Having seen the finished product ("Jason X" that is), do you feel it lives up to your script?

No. However, I'm not disappointed with the finished product either.

A draft of "Jason X" hit the net at some point and although it was the first draft I wasn't embarrassed by it. I'm proud of that draft. Also, I might mention, that whoever leaked that tweaked it first. Isn't that funny? There was little stuff throughout the draft that I didn't write. Like the ending for instance: A hand comes up out of the ground and grabs Jason's mask? Hehe, I didn't write that. Guess whoever posted it felt it needed some work :) But first drafts get rewritten. I have some regrets. I wish we could have traveled down the road my first draft was moving toward. It wasn't ready to be a movie at that point by any means but I wanted to make that direction better. However, as it happens with most movies, the writer/director team didn't share the same vision as the production team. And in this Hollywood game of power, the production team held all the keys.

I think the tone suffered. The dialogue suffered. And the characters, rather than becoming a challenge for Jason, were dumbed down slightly. I fought many of the changes, but some changes were due to budget and you just can't fight those. Eventually after I left the set, one of the producers started rewriting. I have the ultimate respect for Jim Isaac. Jason X in the hands of another director could have turned into a disaster. But fortunately he who started rewriting basically made tight scenes longer and that stuff Jimmy and David Handman cut in the editing room. For the most part, they took the movie back to the spirit intended in the first draft. But like I said, tone, dialogue, characters, that stuff suffered slightly. Now, that may sound bad, but remember two things. This is a Jason movie after all. And although I may have some regrets when I saw the finished product, when I saw what Jimmy was able to do, I was pumped. The story is there, Jason is there, the look is fantastic, great deaths, pretty girls and a few twists and turns that should definitely give the audience their money's worth.

8- I will get shot by my readers if I don't ask this...do you know when the film will finally get released?

I know nothing. I can tell you why we've had the delays. Money. New Line's had a tough couple of years. All studios go through a slump. It was just New Line's time. The marketing guys at New Line love "Jason X". They all feel it will make money. They all feel it's packed with marketable elements. Thus, they don't want to dump it and if they had have already released it, that's what they would have had to do. Because the money for marketing hasn't been there. "Rush Hour II" helped. But right now all of their resources are in LOTR.

Also, you gotta take into consideration that we finished "Jason X" and handed it over to New Line just before DeLuca left and they had a huge shift in power. DeLuca had been our champion. With him gone it wasn't until the new marketing department took over and viewed the film before they realized what they had on their hands. So, my best guess would be early next year. March sounds good to me, but that's just a guess. But I can tell you, if there was a date, Jimmy or I would have heard about it. Until LOTR comes out, I'm not sure there will be a definite date.

9- Having written the script, how fulfilling was it to be on set and to see your characters come to life through actors? Must been a trip.

Unless you are James Cameron, Cameron Crowe, Quentin Tarantino or any of a number of writer/directors with proven track records and the power that comes with it, then I'm not sure any screenwriter considers the job fulfilling. The writer is the lowest man on the power pole. I'll argue a couple of times but eventually you just have to make the change. And you make it and you make it as best as you can because, as the writer, you are replaceable. You go into it writing a vision. You come out of it having written someone else's vision. That can be tough, but all writers must face that and move on. Now, if you can overcome the disheartened feeling, then yes, it is sort of a hoot to see all these people racing around to make a movie because you sat down one night at the computer a year ago. You spend a week writing something and a year later people are spending 14 million to make it. That's pretty cool.

10-What's next on your plate? Any new projects on the horizon? A "Jason 11" perhaps?

Jason X got my foot in the door. After it wrapped, I was promptly escorted back outside. Hollywood doesn't give much credit to the tenth in a franchise even though its budget was three times that of those preceding. So, with the Jason money dwindling, I wrote a spec. With that spec I got an agent at ICM (who by the way wasn't impressed with Jason X until she saw it). We went out with that spec to about 40 production companies and I got an offer from one. I also ended up with two dozen meetings with other production companies who'd liked the writing and wanted to meet me. At those meetings I pitched other ideas. From one of those meetings they sent me to an Actor's production company. He's one of those 20 million per picture actors so it was a big meeting to say the least. It went well. So well that today at 3:00 I go back to pitch the man himself. Keep your fingers crossed. Since my spec was so well received I've sort of migrated out of horror for the moment, but that doesn't mean I won't return. I told Jim Isaac a story I had in my head not long ago and he loved it, so we are tweaking it and eventually we'll go out and pitch it around town. It's a special effects driven horror/action and it's a movie I'd go see so it should be fun to write.

I'd like to thank Todd for coming on the site. Come back anytime dude! Is it me or am I now more primed than ever to see Jason X. Man, I can't wait for that puppy...



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