Interview: Mark Swift (Co-Writer, Freddy vs Jason / Friday The 13th 2009)

Entering a brand new century brought renewed hope in the Friday The 13th film franchise. Fans already expected the release of Jason X, but were wondering if the long in development Freddy vs Jason would finally get it's long overdue debut on the big screen. Immediately after Jason X was released in theaters in April 2002, Freddy vs Jason was finally given the go ahead with a script by fans of both franchises, Mark Swift and Damian Shannon.

The film's box office success catapulted New Line Cinema and parent company Warner Bros. to begin anew with both Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger properties. It probably made sense to production company Platinum Dunes to turn to the guys responsible for helping resurrect Jason Voorhees to box office relevancy to bring the Friday The 13th franchise to a new generation of fans. The 2009 release of Friday The 13th was another huge hit and fans were hoping for a new sequel, but unfortunately we have yet to see it.

It's been four years since the last Friday The 13th film, so we decided to find out more about writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, their involvement in the franchise, the next step for the films and what they are working on right now. Our interview with Mark Swift can be found below. Enjoy and let us know your thoughts or leave your questions in the comments section below!


(F13TH FRANCHISE) Even though there are genre fans out there in the community that may already know about both you and Damian's background, how did you "break" into Hollywood as screenwriters and what motivated you to both be involved in films?  

(MARK SWIFT) We broke in with a spec, our fourth, called GATOR FARM.  It's a horror / action / comedy that originally sold to Fox with Arnold Kopelson attached to produce.  It's inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm, and set on a Florida alligator farm that houses all kinds of exotic animals who revolt against their captors.  It's really fun and insane.  After many years in the business, it's still our baby, and one day we'll get it made.  

(F13TH FRANCHISE) Everyone knows by now that the process to get Freddy vs Jason to the silver screen was exhausting and sometimes demoralizing  The delays led to fans getting Jason X, for better or for worse. How did you get involved in Freddy vs Jason and do you as a fan wish it was made sooner so Jason X would possibly never have gone into production?

(MARK SWIFT) First of all, we have nothing against JASON X.  We enjoy each entry in the series, some more than others, not all in the same way.  And JASON X was written by a friend of ours, so lay off, bud :)

We got involved with FvJ because we were writing another script for Mike DeLuca at New Line at the time (DANGER GIRL - a great comic by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell).  He liked what we were doing, and brought up FvJ.  He said they hadn't been able to crack it, and asked if we'd be interested in trying to solve it.  Honestly, it was a dream come true, since we were already such huge fans of Freddy and Jason.  But that's part of the reason we ultimately got the job.  We were fans who cared about the characters, we didn't want the mythologies messed up, and we had very strong opinions about what should and should not be done.  It was a long process from that point, but that was the start.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) It is pretty common knowledge that all of the screenwriter's ideas never make it into a finished film in their entirety. For Freddy vs Jason, how much of what you wrote for the script was actually left in the film, and is there any particular scene(s) that were excised that troubled you and that you wish would have been left in the movie?

(MARK SWIFT) There's always stuff you wish didn't get cut.  You also lament scenes that could have been played differently, especially in terms of tone.  But that's our script up there, for better or worse.  We wrote lots of different drafts of the movie, and some of them are online.  Fans can read them, and compare and contrast, if interested.  But are there lines/moments in the movie which we didn't write that inspire shame and/or hatred?  Sure, but that's the business.  It's not easy making a movie, and not everything's gonna turn out like it is in your head or on the page.

As for a scene we wish hadn't been cut?  Maybe the roadblock scene when they leave Springwood in the van.  The cops stop them, etc., and we understand the town is on lockdown... and we get that Springwood and Crystal Lake are actually NOT next door to each other (yeah, in the script that was a loooooong van ride).  Oh, and we'd take out/put back the stuff which made it clear that Freddy was exploiting Jason's memory of drowning as a child... not that Jason was afraid of water :)

(F13TH FRANCHISE) Freddy vs Jason was such a huge success at the box office that many assumed a sequel was going to happen immediately. Were you and Damian contacted at all to help pen an impending sequel? From your knowledge, or in your opinion, do you have an idea why the sequel never went into production?

(MARK SWIFT) A sequel was never really considered at the studio level.  There were so many rumors about what was supposedly going to happen with a second one, bringing in a third character, etc. etc... but none of that was actually true.  I think the studio's long term plan is what they did -- relaunch each character separately.  And, now that they've done that, maybe we'll finally see FvJ(2).  We've got some great ideas!

(F13TH FRANCHISE) The merging of two completely different Horror franchises must have been a sometimes unbearable undertaking. What was your approach to putting two Horror icons together in one film? Do you feel that you helped put the best product out there for fans of both Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street to enjoy? 

(MARK SWIFT) It was never unbearable.  Getting to play with those two characters was really fun, and an honor.  Our approach was not to mess it up.  We tried to make what we, as fans, wanted to see from two very different franchises.  As for whether or not it's the "best product" ... that's up to audiences.  All I can say is that everyone involved in the production tried their best to deliver for the fans who had waited so long.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) Getting the opportunity to write the script for the biggest Horror team up since the old Universal Monster movies must have been a dream come true. How did you react when you first were contacted to write the Friday The 13th franchise reboot?! What were the circumstances surrounding that moment?

(MARK SWIFT) We were excited for the opportunity to go back to Jason and do things a little differently.  Not that Jason was done "wrong" in FvJ... but we loved being able to come at it from a different angle.  The circumstances were that we were contacted by Platinum Dunes to see if we'd be interested in coming up with an idea.  They weren't really sure what they wanted to do at that point (remake? sequel?) and asked us to come in with a fresh take (they had already commissioned a draft from another writer but they wanted to go in a different direction).  After we pitched Brad and Drew our idea, we then came back and pitched Michael... and thankfully, he loved it.  After that we had to go pitch New Line as well as Paramount in the same room.  The final pitch had 13 people in it.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) What was your approach to reinvisioning Jason Voorhees and reintroducing audiences to the core story of Friday The 13th?

(MARK SWIFT) The first thing to consider was Jason himself.  We felt strongly that Jason should go back to a more realistic, feral human being.  But as with FvJ, we didn't want his mythology changed.  We wanted F13(09) to be like a sequel which played off of the early films.  And then, there were just a lot of things that we wanted to see as fans, like Jason back in the sack.  We also wanted to come up with some new ideas that we hadn't seen in the previous movies (like underground tunnels or Jason keeping someone alive) so it wasn't just a retread.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) Platinum Dunes had already successfully remade and rebooted The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, so it must have been encouraging to work with the team of Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and Michael Bay. What was the overall experience like working with that Production team as well as Marcus Nispel, who helped Platinum Dunes with the Chainsaw remake.

(MARK SWIFT) We love the guys from Platinum Dunes, and Marcus worked his ass off to make the movie great.  Everyone cared about the franchise, the fans, and did their very best.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) It was mentioned online sometime ago that both you and Damian Shannon visited the location(s) during filming of Friday The 13th 2009. Which shooting locations did you visit and what were your experiences?

(MARK SWIFT) Yes we spent most of our time at the cabin.  Great experience.  We had a really talented and fun group of actors.  If memory serves, I believe that Brad Fuller said it was the first time they ever had writers on one of their sets, so it was great to be able to contribute.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) As with Freddy vs Jason, there were cuts and edits made to your script for the 2009 film. What scenes were edited down too much in your opinion or just excised altogether that really made you upset that you thought should be left in the finished film?

(MARK SWIFT) The scene of Jason outside the cabin on the roof, trying to draw them out... was originally much more drawn out.  But we weren't upset by the editing.  We fought for the roof scene when we were on set, saved it from getting cut altogether, and it made it into the trailer.  So, it's hard to complain.  The cuts that bother the most probably concern the ending.  After Jason is pulled into the wood chipper (first of all -- where's the shot of blood and brain coming out of the chute and hitting the wall??  C'mon!) and Clay and Whitney go down to the lake... originally we then go to all these creepy shots around the camp.  Very quiet, all aftermath.  The cabin, cups spilled on the floor.  The tunnels, fires still just burning.  Jason's childhood bedroom.  And Jason's mother is doing voice over the whole time, ending with:  "Jason was my son... and today is his birthday."  It was really cool and spooky, and, of course, let you know what day today was (which was never actually said in the final cut).  You had a chance to catch your breath before the shock at the end.  (By the way, there were a lot of different versions of the very end.  One version actually had Whitney in a canoe as in the original, and Jason winds up breaking up through the canoe itself).  Anyway, the sequence was cut for time.  In my opinion, it was better with those shots and VO in.  I think fans would have really dug it.  Oh, and if we're changing things, we'd make sure it doesn't seem like Jason is a weed farmer at the beginning :)

(F13TH FRANCHISE) Once again, you wrote a script for a film that was humongous hit at the box office which prompted Platinum Dunes to even announce a release date for the sequel to Friday The 13th 2009 as being August 13,2010. It was then reported not too long after that announcement that a sequel was not given the greenlight and the next film in the franchise has been dormant ever since. Why do you think there was a hold on the sequel after so much hype and success with the reboot? Do you know of any official reasons you can share with the fans?

(MARK SWIFT) Simple answer -- it's very tough to get any movie made, even a sequel to a successful movie.  But don't lose hope, Jason will be back.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) It is well know as well that a script was written for the sequel to your rebooted film franchise and was indeed handed into Warner Bros. Since it has been almost four years since the last film was released can you offer more snippets of what that new sequel would have been like from your script? Fans are aware that it would have taken place in Winter and at camp, but any extra details would be fun for fans to find out, or is there still a legal hush hush on your sequel script due to the possibility it could still get made?

(MARK SWIFT) There is indeed legal hush hush, and would you really wanna know anyway?  We put a lot of great surprises for fans in the sequel.  We've always thought movies play better when you know as little as possible going in.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) How do you feel overall about Friday The 13th 2009? Are you proud of reintroducing Jason Voorhees to a new generation of fans?

(MARK SWIFT) We're definitely proud to help bring Derek Mears to fans.  In our humble opinion, he's the one of the -- scratch that -- the best ever to wear the mask.  Great, great guy.

(F13TH FRANCHISE) You and Damian have been very busy developing new projects, and recently it was reported you are both directing a new Horror film for Paramount Pictures. Tell the fans what you can about the film and what we can expect!

(MARK SWIFT) It's a realistic, modern horror movie with complex and interesting characters.  At least that's the goal.  We'll see what happens once we're the ones who have to decide what gets cut for time...

Thanks for the questions. Follow us @shannonandswift -- we always like to hear from you, positive or negative.


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