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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

[Interview] Thom Mathews Teases the Return of Tommy Jarvis in Fan Film ‘Never Hike in the Snow’

Tommy Jarvis is back! 

In a prequel to 2017’s breakout fan film Never Hike Alone, Thom Mathews once again reprises his iconic role as the terrorized child-turned tormented adult who resurrected and finally put an end to Jason Voorhees—well, for a while, at least. It’s titled Never Hike in the Snow.

Mathews first played the role of Tommy Jarvis in the 1986 cult classic Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives as the third iteration of the character and arguably the most popular. To the delight of longtime fans, Mathews popped up in a surprise cameo near the end of Never Hike Alone to scrap with Ghost Jason, spew some classic insults, and heroically spirit away the incapacitated protagonist, Kyle McLeod (Drew Leighty).

Now he is back for another round. Never Hike in the Snow takes place 30 years after the last known appearance of Jason in Manhattan, and three months prior to the events of Never Hike Alone. The trailer dropped earlier today (you’ll find it down below), and it looks like Vincente DiSanti and his crew at Womp Stomp Films have raised the bar even higher.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Thom and have a candid conversation over Zoom. Presented below is the full interview, covering Never Hike in the Snow and much more.

Going into Jason Lives, did you have any idea that it would become as iconic as it has?

No. I had no idea. Like I’ve always said, I was just happy to have a job as a young actor in Hollywood, you know. Going to work and doing the best job I could do for the day, at the time, and was just happy to be a part of it.

Were you a fan of Friday the 13th before accepting the role?

I had seen it. I wasn’t a horror fan, per se. I did do my research and saw all the ones that had been made up until before we shot, of course; one through five I saw. I think what really resonates with the fans is that they—the fans, had someone to root for. Tom McLoughlin did a great script, with the characters and the relationships between the characters. So, the fans had someone to root for. And it’s beautifully shot. The cinematography’s great, the story’s great. And I think it really paid off for the fans.

It’s definitely one of the more unique installments in the series. I think that’s what really resonates with people. There was a lot of humor in that one that wasn’t in the others.

You know, I’ve been thinking about that over the years. Some of that was a little over the top for me. Because I’m more of a serious kind of guy.

I can see that.

But it worked. I loved all the Easter eggs with the lightning bolt for Frankenstein in the beginning, all the references; the Karloff supermarket we had in the background, the phonebooth, the 007 where Tom pushed in and did the slicing thing with the machete. That was kind of cool. The opening sequence, before the credits is just amazing.

How did you get the role of Tommy Jarvis?

I auditioned for, I think, Fern Champion was the casting directors. I read for them and they called me back for a callback for the producers, bunch of people in the room and I just got the part.

Pretty standard process then? They didn’t make you jump through any hoops?

No, and I asked Tom McLoughlin, the director. Cause I was just coming off Return of the Living Dead the year before that and I asked him if that had anything to do with me getting the part and he said no, he had no idea it was even out or anything. I was just curious.

After two versions of the character up to this point where you took over, how did you come up with your version?

You know, like I said, I watched 1-5 and paid particular interest to four and five. Cause I was representing that character so I was just looking at it like an artist and seeing if I could pull some kind of mannerism or something I could lace into my performance and what I did. Didn’t really see anything that stood out so I just kinda did my own thing. You know, just looked at the script and every day did the best job I could. When you get a script, you don’t shoot it chronologically so emotionally you have to know where you’re at. Sometimes you shoot the beginning at the end and the end in the middle and vice versa, depending on the production and what’s going on. And it’ll change as weather conditions change and stuff happens, you know, in life and equally as when you’re shooting a movie. So, you just have to be prepared. You make notes in your script and just kind of go from there.

I think I can speak for most of the horror community—that may be a bit presumptuous—but I think I feel confident in saying that you’re the most popular version of Tommy Jarvis.

Yeah, again, I think it goes back to the script and the characters that Tom developed. I mean, we really had someone—there’s a story there, a beginning, middle, and end. There was a through line for the characters and I think it really added to the franchise.

Did you get to keep anything from set?

Well, it was my jacket, so I kept that. I don’t know if I still have it. I wish I would have kept more things. You know, wardrobe likes to keep things in case there’s a reshoot or something and they need to match it, the blood stains or whatever stitching or whatever. All the characters, you know, not just mine.

I think the jacket was the one that I was most interested in anyway. It’s so iconic and so associated with the character.

Yeah, I was wearing those at the time, so I just—Levis was my brand, so jeans and jacket. It fit the character. I think you can still get them today on the internet.

Were any of the insults improvised?

Funny you should ask that, because when Jason was getting ready to terrorize the cabin with all the kids in it, Tom came up to me and goes “I can’t figure out how to get him from there to you.” I said, well he’s after me so I’ll just call him out when I’m in the boat. “Come on asshole, you pussy. I’m the one you want.” So, that was good enough and it worked.

How difficult were the boat scenes? There was a lot of moving around. I’m sure some of that was in a tank.

The underwater stuff was in a pool, yeah. It was at a pool here in California. In City of Industries, a suburb. But the stuff on top, the flames got a little warm at points. I actually complained to one of the FX guys who I wasn’t getting along with very well. I think he made them closer to me just to piss me off. But they got a little heated. And then the rock, where he jumps on me and we go under, that was actually a stuntman who was there. And all the underwater stuff was at the pool, like I said earlier. That was really cool. I had never done that before. The camera guy was down there with a, you know, tank of oxygen. And we, CJ [Graham] and I, both had guys, divers underneath the water with an extra mouthpiece for us and we would just go like [arm across chest/diver signal] when we wanted more oxygen. We would shoot the scene. We were under water for maybe 20-30 minutes at a time. It played really well and was a lot of fun.

Following Jason Lives, were there ever any plans to bring Tommy Jarvis back?

Well, I think I’m in New Blood in the beginning of it. They used the clips from part six. You know, I don’t know the thinking behind the franchise and why they didn’t just go with that through line. It would have tied everyone together. I think they were seeing what made the most money that year and then they created something in the franchise that, you know, simulated that in some way. Whatever the flavor of the year was. Whatever blockbuster came out.

It’s been all this time since Friday the 13th VI. What made you say yes to Never Hike Alone?

You know, there was a lot of discussions about, at the time—well, for several years there was a really cool idea kinda like the fugitive series and Tommy Jarvis would go around, he’s a detective now. He only became a detective because he’s still hunting for Jason and he still knows he’s out there. So, we’d go to these mysterious murders in the camp and stuff like that searching for him. That was kind of a cool idea. Actually, how it came to happen, I have a writer friend whose roommate has a friend, Barry, who is a huge Friday the 13th fan. So, my writer friend who lives, not too far from me—I’ve known him 35 years—he said, will you do me a favor please. This guy won’t stop bugging me. He’s a Friday the 13th fan. He won’t shut up. Just do me a favor. You know, could we have dinner or something. I said sure, anything for you. So, we had dinner. And during the course of dinner he said, he was exec prod on a fan film, and would it be possible if I would do anything. And I’m thinking, god, you know, a fan film, sounds great. Cause I’d seen a few of them and they weren’t very good. And I said sure, send over what you have. So, he sent over, they had shot the first half over the course of two months on the weekends and stuff like that and I saw it and I thought [wow] the production value was amazing. The story was great.

So, he put me in touch with Vincente DiSanti and we had a meeting and we kinda found something at the end for me to do. I think it works great. I think Kyle is great in it, the character. It’s very topical with goPro and him and a blog, and it was just really cool. So, I was happy to be a part of it. And as you know, I think it has 1.6 million views on YouTube. Anyone can watch it. Because of that, we did a prequel called Never Hike in the Snow, which is dropping on September 1st, the trailer is. We were planning to release it or have the world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in October like we did three years ago for Never Hike Alone. We don’t know if that’s going to happen or not. So, we’re excited to see it come out. And we’re making a sequel to Never Hike Alone that’s going to be up and coming. It takes place during and after Never Hike Alone. So, my fight scene in Never Hike Alone, with Jason that you don’t see, in the sequel, you’re actually going to see it more from Tommy Jarvis’ perspective. So, you see the fight scene and how I come to be and see the van. So, it’s gonna all loop over. Then we get introduced again to Rick Cologne cause he’s now the new sheriff in town, or has been the sheriff in town for a while and he thinks it’s all me doing it, up to my old tricks again. It’s going to be fun.

Do we get any kind of backstory on Tommy, as to what he’s been up to for all these years?

No. Not really. Just been kinda laying low. He’s just obsessed, you know. He knows Jason is out there and he’s got to do whatever he can to stop him.

The Never Hike Alone cameo was a huge surprise, obviously.

People jumped out of their seats. I had some people email me, “Yeah, I’m watching Never Hike Alone right now and you came on the screen and I just leaped from my sofa. They were really excited. It was great. It was so much fun.

What more can we expect from Never Hike in the Snow?

We’re going to see Rick Cologne back in action. What else—what else can I tell you? You know that’s about—I think Rick’s a big thing and there’s still conflict between him and I, and ghost Jason’s back so that’ll be cool.

And in the snow.

And in the snow. We go so lucky with the weather. Because it was sunny on Friday when I was driving up there and it snowed on Saturday and Sunday. The gods were looking down on us because it was being changed to Never Hike in the—something. We were trying to think of names because it wasn’t looking good, but it just snowed that night. It was falling down. Some of the shots, the long shots with the snow falling it just—we got so lucky. So lucky. The production value, it just amped it up. There was snow on the trees, and it was just perfect.

I’m assuming there’s a lot more of Tommy in Never Hike in the Snow.

There is. And there’s going to be more in the sequel.

What would you say the biggest similarities/biggest differences are from being on a Friday set back then and now?

Well, Part Six was a bigger production, first of all. And [NHA/NHS]… they’re fan films. But they’re really—I mean, you saw Never Hike Alone. A lot of people consider it part of the franchise because it was done so well. The production value was great. It was just good to be back in the roll and see Jason, see Rick—Vinny Guastaferro. You know, it’s just like hanging out like old times. 

Never Hike Alone seems right up there on par [with the studio films], certainly even better than some of them.

Yeah, it totally raised the caliber. Raised the bar for fan films.

So, you are a video game character now too. What was that like?

I am. There’s a poster behind me. It was fun. You know, it was pretty simple. I just went in a did some voiceover work. Gun Media sent me an image for me to approve and it was like the guy who sent it over didn’t see Friday the 13th Part VI. Because I had dark hair like you and a dark five o’clock shadow. So, we had to go back and forth six times before we ended up with what the fans know. And that’s great, because it’s creating a whole new generation of fans. Because the younger kids who play video games shouldn’t really see the movies yet, but they’re totally into the video games. So, I get a lot of kids at the horror conventions coming up and saying how they really enjoy playing the game and how great it is. I actually played it a few times in the beginning, and I was a camper. You know, you have to play it to know how to do it, like any video game. So, I was just watching it and then I became Tommy Jarvis and some camper killed me and I was like what the…? That’s not—something’s wrong with that. So, Gun Media fixed that after I complained that shouldn’t be allowable. There’s some guy trolling just killing everybody. 

Would you be down to return as Tommy Jarvis on the big screen?

Oh, totally. I think, oh sure. Especially with the success of Halloween, with Jamie Lee Curtis coming back to it. But you know, you never know what tack they’re going to take or whether they’re going to start it off from the last one or who knows. You got to discount a bunch of stuff depending on the story and stuff like that. Selfishly, I think they should start from part six and go forward. Maybe discount the fan films, although, like I said earlier, a lot of people consider them part of the franchise. So, yeah, we’ll just have to see, and I hope it comes to some kind of resolution for the fans, just to keep it going. And the next one will be the official 13th film of the franchise, so that should be huge.

The trailer for Never Hike in the Snow is below, and the film is set to be released on Tuesday, October 13, 2020—the three year anniversary of the release of Never Hike Alone.


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