You can see our other Friday the 13th lists here. Today, it’s time for Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), aka, the one where Manhattan looked mostly like Vancouver.
It had been a good run, this partnership between Paramount and the Friday the 13th producers. They had churned out 7 films between 1980 and 1988, grossing a combined $191.3 million against a combined production budget of just $14.6 million. However, the dwindling box office for Parts 5-7 told the producers that Jason killing yet more campers at Crystal Lake had grown impossibly stale, but they weren’t quite ready to give up on the franchise.
[My sources from this point forward are: Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th documentary & the companion coffee table book of the same name]
1. Why didn’t they bring back Lar Park-Lincoln’s Tina Shepherd from New Blood?
Pretty much anytime an actor asked for more money to return in a Friday the 13th sequel Paramount conveniently lost their number. Amy Steel (Part 2‘s Ginny) and John Shepherd (Part V‘s Tommy Jarvis) knew this, each purposefully asking for way too much money during sequel negotiations since they didn’t actually want to come back but didn’t want to burn bridges by simply refusing to return. Sadly, Lar Park-Lincoln actually did want to come back, but she picked the wrong time in the franchise’s history to request even a modest raise.
If she wanted more money then they didn’t want her, even if she was the titular “New Blood” who could set Jason on fire with just her mind. So, Tina Shepherd joined the ranks of similarly discarded Friday the 13th final girls: Part 2‘s Ginny (Amy Steel), Part 3‘s Chris (Dana Kimmell), Tommy Jarvis’ sister (Kimberly Beck) from Part 4 and his Part 5 (Melanei Kinnaman) and Part 6 (Jennifer Cooke) girlfriends.
2. Both the director and stars of New Blood wanted to come back for, essentially, Jason Vs. Carrie: Round 2
New Blood‘s director (John Carl Buechler) and two surviving characters (Lincoln’s Tina, and Kevin Spirtas’ Nick) each had some definite ideas about where the story should go. Buechler wanted Tina to be institutionalized since everyone blamed her for the New Blood deaths, but Lincoln wanted to go Nightmare on Elm Street 3 with it by having a slightly older Tina work as a mental health professional for troubled teenagers. She even adapted this into a screenplay, co-written with her husband, a die-hard horror movie fan.
Spirtas was similarly motivated to pen his own Part 8 script, but he went a totally different direction, “My take was that Part 7 was all a dream, and I killed off Lar Park Lincoln. I don’t know if it would have been a Jason movie in the traditional sense.” This is a good time to point out that Lincoln and Spirtas famously did not get along while making New Blood despite playing love interests. Then the dude wrote a script killing her off and featuring him as the star. So, yeah, that happened.
Buechler wasn’t asked back because New Blood‘s producer, Barbara Sachs, reportedly hated him. Lincoln’s story idea died on the vine after her failed contract negotiations. And it’s not clear if anyone other than Spirtas ever actually read his script.
3. The director had previously written and directed for Friday the 13th: The Series
Part 8 director Rob Hedden had previously worked as a writer for Paramount on MacGyver, but what he really wanted to do was direct (doesn’t everyone?). So, when the studio asked him to write for Friday the 13th: The Series he’d only do it if he could also direct. hey hated the sound of that, but two months later they were still desperate for writers. So, they gave in, hired Hedden, and let him direct 2 episodes, walking away impressed enough with his work behind the camera to offer him the job to write/direct Part 8.
4. Jason taking Manhattan came about almost accidentally
During a story pitch meeting, the newly hired Rob Hedden asked Executive Producer Frank Mancuso, Jr., “Can we take [Jason] out of Crystal Lake? Can we take him out and put him in the big city?” Mancuso jumped at the idea, “Oh, Jason takes Manhattan.”
Actually, Hedden didn’t even have a specific city in mind, but, sure, if the boss says “Manhattan” then Manhattan it is. They reverse engineered the story from there.
5. Jason was supposed to box in Madison Square Garden, climb the Statue of Liberty and engage in other grandiose New York activities, but ultimately didn’t because that shit’s expensive to film
Jason’t spends most of his time in Takes Manhattan conquering the Love Boat before briefly marching through a very Vancouver-like New York. What about the taking Manhattan part? Are you crazy? That shit’s expensive to film! They were lucky to get that awesome scene in Times Square:
“The way I envisioned it for the first third of the movie we’d be on the boat, then we’d get to New York at the end of Act I. Everything about New York was going to be completely exploited and milked. There was going to be a tremendous scene on the Brooklyn Bridge, a boxing match in Madison Square Garden, Jason would go through department stores, Broadway plays. He’d even crawl onto the top of the Statue of Liberty and dive off.”
Um, yeah, they only had a budget of $4 million. With that, you can only afford to film in New York for one week. So they filmed everything else in Vancouver, which was simply the cheapest place they could find to film, and kept the characters on that boat far longer than they originally intended.
6. Elizabeth Berkley auditioned for the female lead & the original male lead was fired for being too gay
These are the leads in Jason Takes Manhattan:
Here’s who Jensen Daggett beat out for her role:
Scott Reeves, on the other hand, originally auditioned for the role of Sean, but then became unavailable. The guy they did cast didn’t work out because, well, according to producer Randolph Cheveldave, “He was a very nice guy, a very handsome guy. But in the dailies he just came across so gay. Like so gay. Yet in person you didn’t fell that at all. It never even occurred to us.” So, they fired him, and called up Reeves, who was willing and able to be on set by the very next day.
7. They were desperate to get their female lead to do a nude scene
Rennie is possibly the most consistently fully-clothed teenage female character in Friday the 13th history.
It wasn’t supposed to go down like that, though. They fully intended for Rennie, their virtuous, goodie-goodie, to have a nude scene, thus rebuking slasher norms in which only the slutty girls show skin. They simply forgot to cast an actress who would agree to it. The director repeatedly worked on wearing Jensen Daggett down, pointing to examples of notable actresses who had done nudity without causing damage to their careers.
First, he asked her to go nude. No dice.
Then, maybe just topless. Again with the no dice.
Finally, he requested that she at least take off her blouse. She said good day, sir, and rightfully so. No, after all, still means no.
8. The director went the full monty
They got their nudity, of course, in a shower scene with Sharlene Martin, playing the requisite bitch:
However, Martin was barely more comfortable with showing her body than Daggett. To put her at ease, Hedden borrowed a page from theater and film lore and stripped down fully nude and walked into the shower to illustrate how easy it all was. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize the camera was rolling the whole time. When the producers watched the dailies the next morning they were very, very confused as to why their director was standing completely nude in a shower and talking to one of his lovely young actresses.
9. They had to import potatoes into Canada to use one of the boats
Due to a scheduling conflict, 3 days before they started filming they lost the huge cruise ship they were counting on. In the subsequent mad scramble, they settled on using 3 different boats: a practical ship in water, a second ship sitting in a dry dock, and a third ship for certain interiors.
The practical ship was owned by a wealthy British Columbia businessman who let the film crew use it in exchange for a mere fee of one dollar. However, the ship had been sitting in the same spot for two years meaning he owed a massive debt in wharfing fees. The people who owned the wharfs took it out on the film crew, limiting their access to the ship to bizarre nighttime hours.
One of the other used ships had recently been won in a poker game in Washington, and the new owner didn’t really know what to do with it. The production crew rented it from him on the cheap, but there was one problem: they were filming in Canada, and this was not a Canadian boat. Legally, they were not allowed to move it to Canada for the purpose of filming since there were other Canadian boats available for that use. So, they had to load the ship with bags of potatoes, and its actual legal use was importing potatoes into Canada.
10. Those were real punches during that boxing match
Well, obviously not Jason’s final punch in which he literally knocks poor Julius’ (V.C. Dupree) head clean off. However, Kane Hodder is a big, tough guy, wearing plenty of padding. So, to make it look real he just told V.C. Dupree to go all out and actually punch him. Incidentally, as you might have guessed this is the scene director Hedden originally envisioned taking place in Madison Square Garden.
11. Seriously, what was up with that ending? The toxic waste turns Jason back into a little boy?
The original scripted ending featured Jason being completely melted by toxic waste, but you have to leave something behind if you have any chance at a sequel. So, the produces nixed that idea. Rob Hedden then figured:
“In the first film a young boy drowns and we find out it is his mother who is the one that has been killing everbody. It’s not Jason. That was a great twist, but young Jason still propelled the whole thing. So, in our movie, he drowns in the toxic waste and turns back to that young boy. I wanted to have it come full circle. His soul has finally been released.”
It’s up to the audience to decide if Jason has literally reverted back to the form of a small boy, or if that is simply another one of Rennie’s visions. However, the audience also reserved the right to simply laugh themselves silly, floored that Jason Takes Manhattan had managed to somehow top New Blood‘s death-by-ghost-dad ending in sheer stupidity.
12. Young Jason was played by the editor’s son
The original child actor cast as Jason struggled with the underwater scenes. Luckily, the editor’s (Steve Mirkovich) similarly aged son (Timothy Burr) was visiting him on set that day. A star was born. Timothy’s choice was either go back home to school with the rest of his family or stay in Canada with his dad for five weeks and get to play make-believe. They probably had him at the “get to miss school” part.
13. The original cut was over 2 hours long
In the original, 2 hour+ cut of the film there was considerably more footage meant to flesh out all of the characters so that we’d care when they died. According to the DVD commentary from Hedden, these lost scenes included:
- Several additional scenes with Tamara and Eva
- A scene at the beginning where Sean hears that Rennie will not be on board and is disappointed
- Several scenes with Miles, who is shown to have been an Olympic diver
- Before Rennie gets pushed into the water there was a longer conversation between her and Colleen
- A scene of Eva meeting with the group on the bridge and then leaving to find Tamara
- A shot of Rennie touching Jason after he is electrocuted on the railroad tracks
The final damage for Jason Lives?
- Body Count: 18
- Box Office: Released on July 28th 1989, Takes Manhattan ultimately earned just $14.3m at the US box office, the lowest grossing installment in the franchise to date. This was the fourth straight disappointing box office take for the franchise, which was enough for Paramount to finally sever all ties. They would not release another until co-producing the 2009 Friday the 13th.
Next Friday, we’ll do our best to make sense of the bat-shit crazy Jason Goes to Hell. You can also just use the following links to check out all of our other “13 Things…” lists: Friday the 13th, Part 2, Part 3, The Final Chapter, A New Beginning, Jason Lives, New Blood, Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, Freddy Vs. Jason, and Friday the 13th (2009). For a making of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan featurette head over to YouTube.