C.J. Graham recalls stint as Jason Voorhees at Frightmare Weekend


Preston Barta // Features Editor

Unlike his nemesis Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees has never had much consistency as a character. Several actors have played him in the FRIDAY THE 13TH series. From the earlier years as a deformed boy to the zombified hockey mask-wearing killer he ultimately became, every actor that has played him has added something new to the Jason template.

C.J. Graham, the man behind Jason Voorhees’ iconic mask in ‘JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH VI,” will attend Texas Frightmare Weekend this Friday through Sunday in Dallas. Courtesy Photo.

C.J. Graham, 61, who played Jason in the sixth installment (1986’s JASON LIVES), will be making an appearance at the Texas Frightmare Weekend — a horror convention where fans have the unique opportunity to meet famed talent and filmmakers. The event takes place Friday, May 4 through Sunday, May 6 at the Hyatt Regency DFW International Airport, 2334 N. International Parkway.

Graham will join his six fellow brothers of the machete (including Kane Hodder, Steve Dash and Ken Kirzinger) in a rare opportunity for fans to take a picture with all the Jason actors — in costume, no less.

Looking back, Graham brought a different kind of Jason to the series. In JASON LIVES, Jason’s maggoty corpse was resurrected by a bolt of lighting like Frankenstein, making his character the living dead character Graham is perhaps best known for.

Graham offered a more subtle approach to the silent killer, giving audiences a Jason that’s as menacing as the original Terminator.

“[Playing him that way] sounds complicated, but it’s actually simple,” Graham said. “Naturally being 6-3, 250 pounds, you kind of walk with an authoritative walk. You walk into a room and fortunately — or unfortunately — you are recognized as a big individual.”

Graham credits most of Jason’s menace to his writer and director, Tom McLoughlin. McLoughlin sat him down and said he was looking for something similar to Graham’s natural characteristics. Graham said it was relatively easy stepping into the character, because when your peripherals are gone, you start to connect with the elements in the environment around you.

Although, Graham wasn’t originally cast in the part.

“I was up against another actor [Dan Bradley] who was a stuntman. I understood that the part went to the stuntman,” Graham said. “But when dailies came back for the first filmed scene [the paintball sequence], the satisfaction wasn’t there from management. So I got a call to come back to Paramount’s studio and I stepped into the role.”

People often mistake Graham as a stuntman because he did all of his own stunts. He stood up to a shotgun blast, ran through a wall, set himself on fire and dove into the fabled lake for an extended period of time.

“I had never been on a movie set in my life, nor have I ever done a stunt in my life other than a bar brawl. [The now-retired Graham managed nightclubs and later ran casino resorts in senior management positions.] I had a lot of confidence in the people around me,” Graham said.

Graham appears in Alice Cooper’s music video for the ‘JASON LIVES’ theme song, titled “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask).” Courtesy Photo.

Graham thanks his cast for giving him full control. He recalled the iconic RV sequence with actress Darcy DeMoss, who plays one of the camp counselors at Lake Forest Green (formerly Camp Crystal Lake). DeMoss’ character finds herself in Jason’s grasp. Jason snatches the character and throws her into a wall.

“When you see her head being thrown into the wall, she is being thrown toward the camera. For that shot to have an impact, she had to physically give me her head and let me slam it as fast as I could, within reason, into a camera lens,” Graham recalled. “Of course, I stop before she hits the camera. I had to have a grip on her that made her feel safe, but looked terrifying on camera.”

Graham remembered many scenes, including the opening that sees him ripping the heart out of the late Ron Palillo (Horshack from WELCOME BACK, KOTTER). Many of these scenes were gutted of their gore, thought to be too intense for an R rating at the time.

“If they could add another 10 or 12 minutes to the film, most of it would be the gore,” Graham said. “Unfortunately, in those days, they didn’t save a lot of the scenes that were cut. They all went in the garbage. Nowadays, you save all the editing, because you never know when they may create extended versions down the line.”

Graham now lives in Arizona on his ranch, taking care of his horses. But if the right script ever came along, Graham said he’d take on the role again in a heartbeat.

“If the script made sense and felt like it was going to give the character what they deserve, and most importantly, if I could deliver the product correctly, I’d do it. But for now, I’m enjoying events like Texas Frightmare and all the love from fans for that film that I did 32 years ago.”

Texas Frightmare Weekend is 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, guest information and how you can get a photo with the Graham and the other Jasons can be found on www.texasfrightmareweekend.com. Daily passes cost $30. Weekend passes cost $75.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.