I chatted with JHU alumnus Mark Swift about the legacy of “Freddy Vs. Jason”, the “Friday The 13th” franchise, and his current take on today’s horror films.
Q: Talk about your childhood..where you grew up, etc
I’m from West Palm Beach Florida. I went to school in South Florida..I loved it! I’ll move back there when I’m old ::laughs::
After that, I went to USC, where I met my writing partner Damian Shannon. He transferred to NYU Film School, while I transferred to Johns Hopkins to go into Government. Damian and I decided to give films one more go, before we moved on with the rest of our lives. We ended up moving to Los Angeles with our first script. We haven’t looked back obviously.
Q: What was your experience like at Johns Hopkins University?
I LOVED it. I actually hope my kids go there one day. It’s a gorgeous campus, with wonderful teachers, wonderful tradition. I also loved that it was in Baltimore.
I LOVE Baltimore. I love the people, the atmosphere. I’m on record saying The Wharf Rat is my favorite bar EVER. It’s a great place to live.
Fells Point is my second home, so I’m right there with ya.
It’s fantastic isn’t it? You have the Aquarium right there, Camden Yards..I remember when they were building it! It’s an incredible place to see a ball game.
Q: How difficult was writing the script for “Freddy Vs. Jason?”
Very difficult. We wanted to make sure we weren’t throwing the past entries under the bus. We had a lot of mythologies to deal with. We didn’t want to change their backstories at all. So coming up with a concept that could credibly get them in the same movie was a challenge.
Q: Which character was the most fun to write for?
I think Freddy is always fun because out of the two, he’s the only one that speaks. However, coming up with kills for Jason was pretty wild..we could really let our mind go in all sorts of directions.
Q: If you could describe the entire “Freddy Vs. Jason” experience in one word, what would it be and why?
I’m going to give you a phrase instead.. Dream come true. Damian and I were huge fans of both franchises as kids. The opportunity to write for both of them in one shot was a real honor. It was something we didn’t take lightly.
Q: I’m probably going to get a middle of the road answer for this, but who is you favorite..Freddy or Jason?
Nick, you KNOW I’m not going to answer that ::both laugh:: I don’t think I could pick one. That helped while we were writing it because we weren’t prejudiced one way or the other.
Q: You guys also wrote the 2009 reboot of “Friday The 13th.” Was it tougher or easier to write than “Freddy Vs. Jason?”
It was a little easier only because we didn’t have to worry about the “Elm Street” series continuity in that one. It was exciting to go back and do a different version of Jason. Some fans would describe him as a zombie in “FVsJ”, but of course I disagree. We wanted the reboot Jason to be human, we wanted him to have traps, we wanted him to live in the woods like a feral animal.
Q: Was there one character in that film that you would’ve saved if you could’ve?
Well, we decided who lived or died. But it was always interesting watching that in the theater with different audiences. I know we always got a big shock when we killed Danielle Panabaker’s character.
Originally her death was supposed to be more elaborate, but it had to be scaled back because of the shooting schedule. It felt very sudden, but in the end it worked because it surprised the audience.
I will NEVER forgive you for that, sir.
I’ve heard that many, many times since the release. That’s what makes them horror movies.
Very true. She came off as the innocent good girl that typically lives..then BAM!
She’s just the nicest girl you could ever meet. Looking back, we had a great group of kids. They’ve gone on to have pretty great careers
Q: The film “It” has made over $300 million so far. “Annabelle 2” made over $101 million. What are your thoughts on the current state of horror?
What’s interesting is that you’re talking about the SAME creative team that brought “FvJ” and “Friday The 13th.” I’m so happy for everyone over at New Line right now. I know “It” was a passion project for them for many years and it’s so great to see that the audience responded the way they have. I feel horror is in a good place.
I think New Line realized that you have to nurture a horror film creatively and monetarily for it to be a success. Studios that release these cheap horror movies just don’t get it. You can’t just churn them out all the time if the quality isn’t there.
Q: What are your thoughts on Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the “Halloween” franchise?
I LOVE the original “Halloween.” It’s felt over the years like the franchise has gotten off track, so hopefully this puts it back on course. I’m thrilled she’s returning.
It’s my favorite film of all time. John Carpenter is coming back as well I read.
He’s one of the most underrated filmmakers of all time. His version of “The Thing” is one of the greatest horror films of all time. If you look at his filmography, it’s insane. “Halloween”, “Big Trouble In Little China.” They would be foolish not to use him on this next installment.
Q: What is your favorite horror film of all time?
It’s a really hard question. Horror is so broad..there are tons of sub-genres. I mentioned “The Thing” earlier. I would add Kubrick’s “The Shining” as well.
Q: What is your favorite part of the Halloween season? Do you have any traditions?
We go ALL OUT at the Swift house. The house gets decked out, inside and out. It looks like Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Custom graveyard out front, where we write our names and pet names to freak people out. When I was a kid, I remember my friends and I snuck into our teachers closet in the classroom after school. We had a makeup kit and we put on horror makeup, and scared the hell out of her. She dropped to the floor and pretended to have a heart attack, which scared the hell out of us.
“Hey it’s Halloween..everyone’s entitled to one good scare!”
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tease?
One that will hopefully be out in 2020 is called “Genie.” It’s the live action prequel to “Aladdin.” It’s the story of how Genie got trapped in the lamp. We’re doing a new version of “Starship Troopers” for Sony. We’re also doing a movie version of the Tom Swift books. So it’s been kinda hectic but that’s a good problem to have. And we’re also cooking up some new horror stuff. We’ll always love the genre.
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