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Corey Feldman in 2014 (Photo: Getty Images)
Say what you want about Corey Feldman, but you can’t deny the 44-year-old actor-singer-dancer’s status as a pop-culture icon. His ‘80s movies — ranging from The Fox and the Hound to The Goonies to Stand by Me to The Lost Boys — made him a teen heartthrob, and solidified his status as a movie star before he was even licensed to drive.
Since today is Friday the 13th, what better way to celebrate than by catching up with the man who, at the age of 11, originated the role of Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter? One of the most engaging protagonists of the famous franchise, Feldman’s Tommy Jarvis was a pre-teen obsessed with horror movies and local folklore. In the movie’s climactic scene, Tommy shaves his head to remind Jason of his own childhood — distracting the killer long enough for Tommy to grab a machete and bring the killer to his (presumably) final end.
Since his formative days as a teen pin-up, Feldman has kept himself busy. In addition to making music — both solo, and with his band Truth Movement — for more than two decades, Feldman became a reality TV star with The Surreal Life and The Two Coreys, co-starring his friend and fellow 80s icon, the late Corey Haim. Most notably, Feldman released his memoir, Coreyography, in 2013, allowing his fans (known affectionally as The Feld Family) a candid look at his past. In our conversation, Feldman talked about his Friday the 13th days, a potential Goonies sequel, and how Mel Gibson cost him a role in 1994’s Maverick.
What do you remember about your audition for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter?
When it came along, I was still relatively new in my career, and playing the game the normal way: I was in a roomful of kids, and I was just another one of them. I’d already done a number of successful films at that time, like Fox and the Hound and Gremlins. I don’t think I’ve even booked The Goonies yet.
The first time I met the director, Joseph Zito, he was taken aback, because I was so small. My agent called my mom later, and [told] her that they really liked me, but were afraid that no one would believe that a kid my size could pick up a machete and hack this guy to pieces. I told my mom I could do it, but she wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle it. Her big concern was that I would fall over and make it look stupid [laughs]. But she went out and got a prop machete or bat for me to swing around, and it wasn’t a problem.
I’m glad you stuck to your guns!
Yeah! After [that], they wanted to know if I would shave my head for the role. I remember debating that for a long time. I came up with the conclusion of “Look, I get picked on enough in school — the last thing I need to do is walk in there with a bald head.” So we told them if it all came down to shaving my head, I couldn’t do it because it was just too much. Plus, my mom didn’t want me taken out of work possibilities for the next year. In the end, they decided to just make a bald cap for me, and it worked out just fine.
Feldman goes bald (above) before taking down Jason (below).
Were people excited to be on the set with Jason Voorhees? I can only imagine…
I wasn’t too familiar with the Friday the 13th series as a kid, but it was pretty amazing to see how excited people were when Jason would come on the scene. That’s when I started to realize how important this franchise, and the character of Jason was to people. However, it really hit me when the film started screening and Joseph called me from Japan [and said] he was looking at my face on the side of a building. I didn’t know what he meant. He then said, “Your face has been painted on an entire side of a building with Friday the 13th in Japanese under it.”
He called me again later and put a recording to the phone. He had made a tape of kids just freaking out inside the theater watching the first screening of Friday the 13th in Japan. You would have thought you were watching a football game. Of course, they were watching the scene where I kill Jason.
Watch a trivia-packed look back at the ‘Friday the 13th’ series below:
Do you remember what the reception was like here?
I was just so excited. I was the main kid! In Gremlins, I had a small role, but Friday the 13th was my first big movie. I remember going to Mann’s Chinese Theater with Joseph for a matinee and walking into a [theater playing the] trailer for Friday the 13th. Right when it starts with [a voiceover saying] “three times …,” everyone just started screaming during the middle of the afternoon. I knew it was going to have some great thunder behind it. It went right to No. 1 [on opening weekend], and stayed there for a couple weeks. In those days, slasher movies didn’t go to No. 1. It was just crazy for me.
Your other big horror hit was The Lost Boys, which was later followed by Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: Thirst (2010). I was thrilled when they decided to make a franchise, largely focusing on The Frog Brothers. What it is about these films that people connect with?
It all comes down to family. When you break down the trilogy, each movie centers on a family and their struggles to remain together. The first one focuses on the Emerson family and Max and David’s family. That second one mirrors that structure with the new iteration of the Emersons and a vampire family. The third one is all about the Frog family and what’s happened to them. Along the way, a sister who has lost her brother comes to them for their help. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do a fourth. I have a really good idea for how to tie them all together which involves David’s character and the rest of his family.
I know some actors don’t like to look back at their careers, but you don’t seem to mind. Is It because you feel a sense of responsibility toward the fans?
Sure. Projects that I’ve been lucky enough to become a part of have eked out a place in pop culture. You want to make sure you keep up to date with the pulse of the world. In this business, especially today. You need to know what’s relevant. It helps you know what the next step is. That’s how the Lost Boys movies came to be. We were reading so much fanmail that we knew he had to do a third movie for the fans. I’ve also done a lot with Goonies 2 to try and keep the flame lit on that. I’m only a very small voice on that project, though.
We recently spoke to Sean Astin about his own wishes for a Goonies reunion. If they did get back together, how would you like to see their story continue?
What I would like to see and what the reality of the project might be will no doubt be two different things. Sean actually came up with a concept a while ago. We became friends and have remained friends throughout the years. He’s the best and has such a wonderful, talented family. I remember one night, he and I sat down and actually mapped everything out and pitched it to [Goonies director] Richard Donner. Donner was really impressed with the work we put into it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right direction. What we came up with [had] far too big a budget for what they wanted to take on. We wrote something that was Indiana Jones-type big, with the characters going to different countries on this big adventure, with all these special effects. It was maybe a little too much. But I think that’s what you’ve kind of got to do in a sequel.
While fans do crave a bigger and better adventure, the key to a good sequel is the heart and the magic. Those two elements are necessary. Donner said to me in that meeting, “I like where you guys are going, but the one thing you have to remember is we’re not trying to make a big epic movie here. We want to make something true to what the original was, which is more character-driven and full of heart.” Any Goonies sequel has to be based in reality, and in Astoria. That’s where we met and fell in love with these characters. I think that’s the biggest clue I got to where they were heading with the sequel. That was a year ago, so who knows if that’s still the course of action.
In your book, you write about how much Richard Donner as a mentor impacted your life. I’ve always wondered about your cameo in Maverick, and how that came to be.
It’s a bit of a bittersweet story. Donner actually had a better role in mind for me, but that got shut down by Mel Gibson.
Mel was one of the producers ,and starting to take some control in the projects he was doing. Donner wanted me to play The Kid in the big infamous poker scene. It was a very intense scene and took up a good chunk of the movie.. Donner wanted me to do it, but then called me up at the last minute and told me I had to audition for Mel. I protested at first — because it’s a Richard Donner film, and he wanted me for the part — but he had to be respectful of Mel.
I came in and auditioned, but it was really nerve-wracking because I wasn’t used to auditioning anymore. I was acting in films that offered me roles flat-out. It was also awkward because I was going in and auditioning for my friend, Richard. He’s like my Dad! I had a really tough time for that. I didn’t give my greatest performance in front of Mel because I thought it was just a formality. Turns out, it wasn’t! Mel took it all very seriously and just didn’t see what he wanted to see out of me that day. I was pretty upset about it, but then Richard got me in to do a scene with Danny Glover. So that was pretty great! [Ed. note: The role of the Kid ultimately went to Max Perlich]
One of my favorite things on the internet is your music video for the song “Ascension Millennium,” which was filmed in your Los Angeles house. It has so many great references to your career, including a cameo by Sean Astin. How did you come up with the idea for the clip?
The concept of the video is, very simply, a day in the life. Much like in the video, I was lying in bed with my girlfriend when she got up to open the drapes. She’s this beautiful flawless thing and when the light hit her, she looked absolutely angelic. I had just created this whole company called Corey’s Angels, and I was unsure of the direction I was taking it in, but knew I wanted to focus on beautiful, talented women. When I saw her in the light, I knew that image was the company. It was everything.
At that time, we had a woman staying with us down the hallway while she was in town for a photoshoot. Nobody would believe that this is my life. Sometimes we have parties, and we have to turn the house into a nightclub. Sometimes I hold recording sessions there. All of those things happening at the same time seems unreal to the normal person, but it really is my life.
How did you get Sean to make his cameo?
I wanted to try and find moments of my life and somehow integrate them into this video journey. I knew I could always count on Sean. I called him up — very spur-of-the-moment — and asked him to come over for an hour, pop into hair and make-up, and do the bit with the map and the inhaler. When he got to set, he started to ask about our Goonies castmates Jonathan Ke Quan and Jeff Cohen. We then actually reached out to Ke and he was in China visiting family, but said he would have hopped back on a plane because it would have been so awesome [laughs]. Jeff, of course, was too busy being a lawyer to have fun with us that afternoon.