Though he is best known as the silent, masked stalker Jason Voorhees in four of the Friday the 13th movies, Kane Hodder's long career (which includes more than 100 film credits) has seen him play a literal rogues' gallery of some of the grisliest modern monsters to stalk the silver screen. In an early role, he actually put live worms in his mouth, demonstrating a fearlessness and commitment that helped him land his most famous part.
Kane Hodder has starred as Jason, Leatherface, the deranged Victor Crowley in the popular Hatchet series, and some of the most notorious real-life slayers in history. His other movies run the gamut from superhero flicks such as Daredevil and Batman Forever to the horror movies he is usually associated with.
More than a stunt performer or an actor, Hodder is a survivor, detailing his life in his autobiography, Unmasked, as well as a tell-all documentary, To Hell and Back. Here are some more facts about the man behind the mask and how he played the villains that haunt your nightmares.
Hodder Suffered Severe Burns In A Fire That Nearly Took His LifePhoto: Friday the 13th Part VII / Paramount Pictures
When he was only 22 years old, Hodder was giving a demonstration of what was supposed to have been a controlled burn for a newspaper reporter. That was the same year as his first professional (albeit uncredited) stunt work on the television series Emergency! Ironically, in that series, he played a "workman that had been knocked unconscious and burned by an explosion."
Unfortunately, the fire demonstration for the newspaper went badly. So badly, in fact, that Hodder suffered severe burns on over half of his body and only barely survived. The experience scarred him for life and led to a hospital stay that Hodder describes as "horrific torture."
He Didn't Like To Talk About His Mishap Because Of The Trauma He EnduredPhoto: To Hell and Back / Epic Pictures Releasing
The burns that Hodder suffered left him scarred, both physically and mentally. For years, he avoided discussing his trauma, saying that his injuries were exacerbated by decisions made by doctors and even his own father. In the 2017 documentary To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story, directed by Derek Dennis Herbert, Hodder revisits the burn ward where he spent such a miserable portion of his life.
Despite his reluctance to talk about that traumatic period, Hodder has worked with kids in burn centers and raised money to help promote relief for burn survivors. The Burn Survivor Resource Community features a profile on Hodder. "That didn’t stop him from continuing his career," the profile says of the horrific burns that Hodder suffered, "and he has no problem doing stunts that involve fire."
In fact, the burns very nearly landed him another of the biggest roles in horror history. As Hodder told the AV Club:
What happened was that I had done a movie [with Wes Craven]... A few years after that, Wes contacted me and said, "You know, I’m developing a new character called Fred Krueger that is gonna have burn scars." And since I had worked with him previously, he knew that I had burn scars for real.
So I said, "Oh, that sounds interesting," and I went into his office to talk to him a little about it, but he ultimately decided that he wanted more severe burn scars and that they were going to do it with a full prosthetic makeup job because it’d look much scarier.
While Hodder ultimately didn't end up playing Freddy Krueger, he struck up a lifelong friendship with the actor who did, Robert Englund. He also played Krueger's hand in a scene at the end of Jason Goes to Hell.
In The Documentary 'To Hell and Back,' Hodder Candidly Discusses Being Menaced As A ChildPhoto: Darkwolf / 20th Century Fox
Hodder had previously revealed the extreme bullying he survived as a child in his book, Unmasked, co-written with Michael Aloisi, who is frequently interviewed alongside Hodder in the documentary To Hell and Back. A review of the book at Shivers of Horror describes a "traumatic beating he took at a young age by three unknown teenagers," and goes on to "describe many other bullying events or fights that happened in his life as well."
Writing about the documentary, Rue Morgue says, "It's one thing to read about these tragedies, and another, more powerful thing to witness Hodder recalling them, nearly breaking down at one point and asking for the camera to be turned off at another." According to the magazine, it is Hodder's willingness to speak candidly about these difficult moments in his life that give the documentary "a dramatic punch you don't always find in this kind of true-Horrorwood story."
He Made His Screen Debut As An Extra In Robert Altman's 'California Split'Photo: To Hell and Back / Epic Pictures Releasing
"I was in college, and I skipped classes for a day to go down and see what it was all about," Hodder told the AV Club about his appearance as a poker player in Robert Altman's 1974 dramedy, California Split. "It was my first time ever being on a set, and here I am on this set with Elliot Gould and George Segal in a casino in Reno." Hodder added, "I had so much fun that day that I did the same thing the following day."
Still, Hodder hadn't yet figured out that he wanted to make a career for himself in cinema. "The idea of working on a film really was appealing to me, but I never thought at the time that I might do that for a living," he recalled.