‘Friday the 13th’ Star Travis Van Winkle Kills It, Gets Killed
Travis Van Winkle: remember that name. It sounds ideally American Boy, he looks formidably like an American Boy, and if you need any more verification, yeah, he modeled for Abercrombie at one point. And this American Boy is—after stints on That’s So Raven, The OC, and Veronica Mars, doing a clasically American thing: running from a knife-wielding Jason Voorhees in the remake of Friday the 13th. BlackBook’s Eiseley Tauginas got a chance to sit down and talk with him about what it’s like to film a movie with the ubiquitous killer, the snow in New York, and oh, and by the way: serious spoiler alerts ahead.
It just started snowing in New York a few minutes ago I am jealous as a motherfucker. That sounds amazing. I went to New York four times in the last couple of months, and that’s all I wanted. I need to go back now since it’s actually snowing. I’ve never been to New York during the Christmas season to see the spectacle that goes on there either.
You have to see the tree and the typical New York things at least once. What was the first time you were ever scared by a film? I remember watching The People Under the Stairs by Wes Craven. I remember that movie scaring the crap out of me. It’s so over the top, but I was genuinely freaked out. I actually watched the movie a few weeks ago for the first time in many years and it still freaked me out. So the People Under the Stairs is my choice for a really good scary movie.
How old were you when you first saw it? Maybe 8 or 9.
Has being on the other side of horror films desensitized you to scary movies? It definitely opens you up to understand what goes on, to know the special effects behind it, to know that the blood good—it tastes like candy. So you know that all of it is fake, but if a movie is good and it still scares you, you have to respect that movie. I watch The Descent recently. That movie freaked me out. I know what goes on and how you shoot things and what goes on behind the scenes, but this movie still did the trick. If you can get lost in a movie and it scares you, then they did a damn good job making that movie. It was fantastic. I was surprised how much it actually captured me and scared the shit out of me.
How was your experience—as a dude—different from the actresses in Friday the 13th? Do you think you had a physical advantage in the testosterone-charged movie set? Testosterone. What’s the word I’m looking for—I felt like there were a lot of women on set. (Ed. Estrogen?) I didn’t feel like it was a testosterone-based set at all.
I heard through the grapevine that in free time on the set, a lot of the guys would challenge one another to push up competitions. Okay, yes. There was that. In between takes, we’d see who could do more push-ups. Okay, you’re right. There was a lot of testosterone on set. But, I don’t think there was an advantage, because the girls had to do just as many stunts as the guys did. It was nagging on us all equally. It was just a good set to be on, I’ll tell you that. I had a damn good time with the people that were there. Everyone had amazing chemistry. You didn’t have to worry about being judged for having a push-up contest. Everyone was cheering us on. Everyone was just very involved and very into each other. It was a really great set.
What was the best on-screen death in the film? Hold on, I’m going through all 13 deaths right now in my head. I like Chewie’s. Chewie had a cool death. I liked Bree, Bree had a really kickass death, because he actually sticks her head through a coat hanger and then I shoot her. She gets it pretty bad. And before she gets hung up on the coat hanger, she gets suffocated. She gets strangled by Jason and then he hangs her up on a coat hanger, then I shoot her. It’s a pretty intense death.
How was shooting that? It was fun, because I got to fire a gun and I got to go over the training on how to shoot a gun and how to load a gun and all of the safety precautions. It was fun firing off live blanks on set. People take it so seriously. It’s a pretty big deal when you do that, and there’s so much safety that goes behind the scenes. You think it’s just a blank, but it definitely made that night an event for me.
So Bree’s is the most gruesome? Yeah I would say Bree’s is the most gruesome. I just like hers because you get to see her head going through a coat hook, then she gets shot and she gets soaked in her own blood. That sounds pretty fucking gruesome to me.
I agree. How did you prepare for all of this, mentally and physically, on the day you knew you were filming your death? Believe it or not, I tell you, its very interesting going into shooting your own death scene. With mine, I had to be held up in the air. So I had no breath and the one thing that I really tried to think about the most was, if you have a machete in your lungs, how would that affect the air that came out of your mouth? How would that affect the way that you breathe? How long would you last if your lungs got basically sliced open? I tried to work on recreating that in my trailer and in my own time, but how do you prepare to die your own death? I listened to soft music, to get me in that mindset of “I’m dying.” Emotionally, before I did my death scene, I’d put myself into an emotional state of “I’m leaving this earth.” It’s a really strange role to have to play to figure out how you would be right before you die. How the fuck would you be right before you die—you wont know until you do it. It was very strange having to prepare for my own death.
Did you ever try on the hockey mask? I did not try on the hockey mask. I wanted to, but I didn’t think that it would be right to do that. Not my place.
Did you spend time with Jason out of character? It was fantastic hanging out with Derek. He is a down-to-earth, really caring guy. He’s very nice. We liked to hang out and go out for drinks.
What did you do with free time in Austin? Played basketball—a lot. We went out to restaurants, and to all the crazy bars, saw live music. It’s a really good town. It’s filled with cool coffee shops and all sorts of entertainment. They have this movie theater called The Alamo Draft House. It’s a full bar, full menu, full everything as you watch a movie. I think they should have that everywhere. I think people would love that. To get drunk and watch a funny movie, or watch a scary movie. I’m down for that. They need to have one of those in LA or New York.
I agree, maybe this is your next venture—the franchise. I’m starting it up tomorrow.
When Trent dies, does he deserve it by horror movie no-no rules (having sex, drinking and drugs, separating from the group, etc.)? I do have sex. So therefore, I think I should die, because everyone who has sex in a horror movie dies. I don’t do drugs, or really even drink that much, but I end up separating myself from the group—so 2 out of 3, yeah I should die. I deserve it. I was meant to go.
After shooting this film, do you think you’ll ever send your kids away to summer camp? I’ve never been a big fan of summer camp anyways. This movie helps solidify that. But I don’t think I’m gonna send my kids off to summer camp for the fact alone that there may be some creepy old man in a mask trying to kill them. And, no, I don’t think that kids need a summer camp. I’d want to hang out and play with my kids during the summer instead of sending them off to a camp.
Aren’t you glad now that you’ve thought this through ahead of time? I am. Now, my summers are set with my children. When I have them. Weird that I’m talking about my kids—I don’t have any kids.
Are you superstitious at all? I tend to be superstitious, yes.
Are you prepared for Friday, February 13th? I think I’m just going to be incredibly excited when that film releases. There is a certain amount of energy that happens on the Friday the 13th days, because it’s supposed to be a very spooky day. So, to have this franchise opening on that same day—I think it’s going to be electrifying. There’s going to be a lot of good energy in the air, and I think that alone will help bring people out to the movies