Thursday 29 March 2012

An Interview with Adrienne King

To horror film fans around the globe Adrienne King will forever be remembered for being the sole survivor of the original Friday the 13th (1980). Today, Adrienne is a highly regarded artist whose work reflects not only the darkness from her past but also the new light and colours reflecting her new brighter places and experiences. As well as being an artist she is also a successful wine maker, and after a far too long absence she is once again acting in films. Following a highly successful exhibition in September 2011 at the Misty Moon Gallery in Ladywell, South London, Adrienne came back by popular demand in April 2012 with a selection of new works and to share with fans special screenings of Friday the 13th Parts 1 and 2. Ahead of ‘The Return’ event she very kindly took some time to reminisce with me about Friday the 13th and to share some of her experiences (light and dark) which have helped shape her art.

From Oyster Bay Long Island to Ladywell, South London. I imagine it been quite an interesting journey so far for you Adrienne?

It’s been a rollercoaster to be sure. With a few dragons and dungeons thrown in too, but it’s been an incredible journey, and the best of it is happening now and in the future.

You started appearing in commercials when you were just 6 months old so being in front of a camera from such an early age presumably held no fears for you – but what was the young Adrienne King afraid of as a child?

I do recall bogeymen as a child, I mean real live bogeymen. I was about five years old and my sister was three. We were in the New York City suburb Queens. My parents were looking at cars in a showroom and left my sister and I in the car. A pervert came up and started doing ‘nasty things’ in front of us (and we of course had no clue of what they were), but I was smart enough, god knows how, to quickly roll up the windows and put my fist on the car horn. And after that experience I do recall having a few little nightmares. The world is full of wackos and it’s just a matter of side-stepping them I suppose.

Did you watch scary movies at all as a child?

I did, I remember being hooked. On Sat mornings when all my friends were glued to their televisions watching cartoons I was watching Channel 9 which used to run all the old black and white classic Universal horror films like Frankenstein and Dracula. I loved the make-up, the costumes, I loved all the over-the-top of it all, the sheer theatricality of it. And then, when I was a little bit older I found the Bette Davis / Joan Crawford movies like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. I did love horror movies growing up, well, at least up until I saw The Exorcist and that scared the bloody Jesus out of me!

Your acting career could have so easily taken a completely different path in 1979 as you were auditioning for the musical Grease on Broadway at the same time as Friday the 13th. If you could go back in time and change history would you have rather got the part of Sandy on Broadway or would you have still chosen to be the camp counsellor who beheads Jason Voorhees’ mother?

Without a doubt I would have to be the ‘sole survivor’. Why? Suppose I did get the part of Sandy on Broadway, let’s go back there to 1979 right now. Oh, I’m going to give up this silly little independent horror film that has no distribution deal, that barely has enough money to shoot, and instead I’m going to play Sandy in Grease. But that means nothing to Hollywood when they come to putting together the movie version of Grease and then they come up with Oliver Newton John and I’m crushed forever and commit suicide! It would’ve been bloody awful I tell you! Or perhaps nothing quite so drastic as suicide, perhaps I would have just ended up in the old home for the long lost Sandy’s of Grease. There’s probably about a hundred of them, but there’s only been one Alice Hardy.
After the original Friday the 13th’s runaway success predictably a sequel soon followed. What wasn’t predictable, (at least to audiences leaving the auditorium after part one) was the revelation that the boy who supposedly drowned in Crystal Lake was very much alive. When did you first get an inkling that Jason was being lined up to carry on the franchise?

Well I believe after that opening night, Friday May 13th 1980, when it opened on over 3,000 screens and Paramount realised they had a hit on their hands – a gift from god so to speak - I believe they all got together that weekend and came up with what was going to happen. I’m sure they were on top of that thing so quickly like a fly on paper that they probably had a rough draft of the script by Monday. They had to deal with the fact that Jason at that point was only in my dream, and the fact that there was no bogeyman. Mrs Voorhees was gone, maybe they thought for a second that Alice could become a killer...? Anyway, I was very happy for the success of the movie – not so happy about the stalker [we’ll come on to that in a moment] because it meant a lot to me. Sean Cunningham had given me the role of a lifetime, before this I’d only had small parts in film (like a dancer in Saturday Night Fever) but not even a film credit – they didn’t do that back then, nowadays the credits last longer than the film! But I was just so thrilled to get the role that whatever they needed from me for part 2 I was there. What the director of Part 2 Steve Miner presented to me was basically a dream within a dream scenario. But the fans wanted him real. Jason was coming back again. And now Jason has become part of our culture.

As you were nervously pacing through your house at the beginning of Part 2 – in reality you were experiencing a real-life terror in the shape of a stalker. Was filming those scenes difficult with life imitating art uncomfortably close?

Absolutely true Paul. Very little acting necessary. Unfortunately for me it was just so close to home what you see on screen in those first 10 minutes you could probably have been filmed them in my own apartment in New York City – checking my lock 5 times, etc...It was a very surreal time for me and those memories are not pleasant at all probably because of where I was mentally at the time. It was all like a blur. I was in transition between managers and agents at the time and that may have contributed in some way. I remember we shot my part 2 sequence in one night. No rehearsal, no script – to this day I don’t have a copy of the part 2 script. It was the last day of shooting – there were no other cast left and everyone on the crew wanted to go home. We didn’t rehearse the retractable ice-pick – and the first time they didn’t check it so in the first take I actually got a little hole in my face because it didn’t retract. (It wasn’t Jason by the way it was a crew member – Jason had long since gone by that point). And when I saw the clothes they were putting me in (I was thinner then I was on the first one and they made me look horrible) – a little wardrobe fitting would’ve been nice! And then after it was all over, I was literally afraid when I was going back to my hotel after shooting that night – I looked over my shoulder and to this day I’m almost positive there was a car that was following me as I walked around that little Connecticut town...

Understandably, your paintings during that time reflected your terror and darkest fears.

I wish I still had some of those paintings. My mum would come in and literally take them and throw them down the incinerator because some of them scared her to death. She said you shouldn’t be doing this. I said what do you mean – to me it was my only therapy! Back in those days it was either going to a priest or trying to find solace somehow. Woody Allen hadn’t made going to a shrink popular yet!

After Jason dispatches Alice with an ice-pick to the head that’s the last we will see of you on screen until Psychic Experiment in 2010 – What finally persuaded you to step back in front of the camera?

Betsy Palmer (Mrs Voorhees) and I at the time had the same convention manager. She was contacted to ask whether we’d be interested in reprising our roles or having some sort of cameos in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake. But then alas the producers decided within about a week, that they wanted all the characters to be new and didn’t want to use anyone from the original films. So Betsy said “Fuck ‘em” and I said: “darn it” (!) But you know what? I honestly believe it was meant to be. They called right before I found ‘Walking Distance’ (the original title for Psychic Experiment) so what it did for me was by them turning me down it got me busy reading other scripts. The script for Walking Distance was so wonderful and that’s what actually kick-started me into doing films again.

The fans had been asking me for years and years – please come back, and I kept saying when I find something good enough for I’m hoping now I’m finally going to be able to give them some reward for their patience. I’m excited about a new project I’m working on, it’s called Tales of Poe – it’s a trilogy of tales and I play the Queen of Dreams. (It’s sharing the April cover of Fangoria with Johnny Depp).

I am also doing a UK film. It’s a remake of a 1974 film called Silent Night, Bloody Night. I will be recording some voiceovers for the film at the Misty Moon Gallery on the day of my preview [18th April]. To me it so incredible that I feel so at home in the UK with all my fans there and filmmakers feel they can talk to me on Facebook and as a result they have been sending me some scripts that are very impressive. So, while I’m there I’ll be in talks to potentially do another film this summer in the UK.

Sounds like London is your spiritual home Adrienne...

I feel that way Paul I do feel it’s my spiritual home. There’s just something about London that ever since I first arrived in 1984 to attend RADA, I got out of the car and knew exactly where I was walking – I knew my way as if it was my old stomping grounds.

Today you are not only acting once again on screen but also you are a very highly regarded artist whose paintings are about to be exhibited at the Misty Moon Gallery in London. Clearly Friday the 13th is a major source of inspiration for some of the works – most notably Alice In Canoe, - but also your darker realities as represented by Stalking On 82nd Street. How would you say your art has progressed over the years and where is the artist Adrienne King drawing her inspiration from today?

I’m glad to say my paintings, although they may still show the dark side of life here and there, most of them are happy paintings. I paint where I am mentally as well as physically and I’m in such a wonderful place right now it’s kind of hard to go into those nasty places that came so naturally as therapy for me. I do my journeys now, we went to Antarctica a few years ago and I’m able to take some of the moodiness of my work and put it into the places I travel to. Different settings and different experiences.

There are no penguins on Camp Crystal Lake.

No there aren’t, but there are in my paintings. And they’re my new best friends. Penguins are cool

I agree - penguins are cool.

And so I will be bringing over my Antarctica series which they have the dark that is generally going on in my paintings, but they also have light. My colours are changing now and I’m going into different places and sharing things I wouldn’t normally share on my canvas with people. When I did all my dark art that was just for me personally and so it’s feels almost strange to be sharing these things now but what’s so wonderful is I can do it in a way that makes my experiences meaningful. Sharing this work has brought me so much satisfaction when I hear the reaction of people who ‘get it’. I used to think it only made sense to me but I’ve received responses that are very emotional from people who have seen my artwork. And I’m sharing more if it now because I don’t have that fear of letting people see what’s really going on inside my head. And that’s truly scary sometimes!

I’ve had some incredibly bizarre experiences in my life beyond my stalker. This is the first time I’ve talked publicly about this. On the 25th January 1990 a plane crashed 50 yards away from my house. We lived in a little enclave on Long Island called Cove Neck back then. It was like an earthquake, our house caved in. I was the first one on the scene and me and my husband were pulling body parts out of the trees. We were doing body bags. There was only one road out and one road in, so the first responders were a combination of firemen, doctors and local people. It was the nightmare from hell. I had post traumatic shock therapy for 2 years after that. You just don’t sleep for a long time. So, in 1980 I had my stalker, in 1990 there was the plane crash. So sensing a pattern, in 2000 I was underneath the table holding on for dear life! It was certainly something that creeped into my art. Whatever is part of me is part of my art. So every once in a while I will have a nightmare about these events and dark art is the result.

[Avianca Flight 53 crashed in Cove Neck on route to New York. 8 of the 9 crew and 65 of the 149 passengers on board were killed].

Would you seriously consider writing a book about your experiences?

Every other fan that writes me asks me to write a book. But I’m not sure I really want to go back to those places. I’m not quite done yet. Perhaps when I’m Betsy Palmer’s age! (She admits to 83). D you know we walked the stars along the Hollywood Boulevard in 2005 – it was the 25th anniversary of Friday the 13th and we went walking arm in arm stepping on stars. She didn’t have a star and god knows she deserved one.

So Adrienne, as you relax with a nice glass of your very own Crystal Lake Wine from the Valley View Winery – a crisp Chardonnay or perhaps the smooth Survivor’s Syrah – why do you think Friday the 13th is such a cherished film amongst horror fans?

The reason Friday the 13th made it so big and so lasting and so much a part now of our culture is the back stories and the fact that you care about the characters. We can all relate to someone in the cast. Sean and the casting directors went through every new actor and actress in New York. They wanted the kids next door, and I think they got them spot on. We got our archetypal funny guy, our sexy girl and boy, and then there’s Alice. She’s feminine, but not overly so. She’s a smart, tough, off-centre, a little quirky, and an awful lot of people could relate to her. I receive letters from three separate generations of fans – they find Alice an inspiration. And then you add to the mix the bloody brilliant Betsy Palmer. She could’ve played over the top, but she just hit that right note. When you think of Mrs Voorhees and you know her story you feel for her. The only problem she has is that she’s a loving mother!

She just goes a bit too far now and again!

Exactly! And I felt she brought my game up to a point where I felt like I was in the big leagues (which I was thanks to Betsy Palmer). Then you have Tom Savini’s special effects which were the best of the best – and still hold up today. And then you top it all off with Harry Manfredini’s score. I once watched the film in a theatre in Sacramento with Harry and we had the dialogue turned down so we could just listen to the score and it was incredible. You didn’t need any dialogue!

How do you feel about being termed a ‘Scream Queen’?

That didn’t happen till much later on in my career. Actually I’m now a ‘final girl’. Of course I embrace it because it part of who I am. I had a few years when, for obvious reasons, I didn’t. And then Peter Bracke [author of Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th] got in touch and described it as a global three generational cult classic following. He persuaded me to get back out there and let the fans know why I disappeared for so long.

And whilst on the subject of Scream Queens – I recall there was once a mix up whereby you had been confused with Jamie Lee Curtis?

Yes, I had to buy my father-in-law a ‘Crystal Lake Memories’ book and print out my IMDB list for him after that!

Are you in contact with any of the other Friday the 13th ‘final girls’ or cast members?

I saw the ‘final girls’ from parts 2, 3 and 4 last June in Baltimore, at the Friday the 13th reunion. Everybody’s looking fabulous. [Agreed] I do see Amy Steel [part 2] from time to time. I also met up with Jeannine Taylor [Marcie from part 1] in Baltimore and I saw Harry Crosby [Bill from part 1] in January at a screening in Hollywood, and Sean Cunnigham gave me a back-rub as I was signing (very nice).

As well as naturally celebrating every Friday the 13th with your fans online via your Adrienne King Fan page on Facebook – how do you celebrate that other significant scare date of the year: Halloween?

I used to do when I lived in a neighbourhood. People always knew they had to check out our house because they never knew who was gonna show up at the door! I did my darnest to scare the bejesus out of them, and I think I did pretty good. I love to dress up scary.

I understand you and Ari Lehman [the very first Jason] together with cast members from US shows like Ghost Hunters International ,are about to go ghost hunting onboard the haunted battleship North Carolina. Sounds like some seriously scary fun – can you tell us about this event?

It’s an event for the SyFy Channel. I’ve had four very real ‘close encounters’ (and not of the alien kind). One of them was in London back in 1984. One of them was not so good. One of them was wonderful; two of them were very interesting and in the other one I was being choked. So I want to see if whether when I’m in that kind of environment, this haunted battleship, whether I will experience or see something. I’m really looking forward to it. We will see what happens. I did a convention in Arkansaw and there’s an old Southern hotel down there called The Legacy. They gave me an old type key and when I approached my door it just opened to invite me in! In the morning I checked out the history of the hotel. It had been burned down twice and had been rebuilt by slaves and indentured servants and I can only imagine some of them were still there...

When you come back to London in April for your exhibition at the Misty Moon Gallery, will you be checking out any of London’s very own scare attractions e.g. the London Dungeon, or the London Tombs at the London Bridge Experience?

If I have time I must! I passed the London Dungeon on my previous stay in London and took pictures of the exterior as I thought it was cool.

Adrienne, thank you very for your time, and I look forward to catching up with you in April and chatting some more.

Bloody marvellous talking to you too Paul!

Paul Worts

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