I’ve been writing for Bloody-Disgusting for almost two years, but I still hesitate to read articles on the development of horror films I’m looking forward to. Why is this? Well, I don’t like getting my hopes up. I adore the Friday the 13th franchise, but for the past seven years I’ve been avoiding much of the news circulating around the development of the next installment. My rule is that I don’t read too much into pre-production news on a film so that my hopes don’t get crushed if i doesn’t work out. Once production starts I will start keeping up with news on the film.
I broke my rule today. I went through the past seven years of news articles about the next installment in the Friday the 13th franchise and wrote a summary of them.* As many of you probably already know, it’s been a troubled and problematic road to production (and it still hasn’t started production yet). Those of you who want to make sure you’re caught up on the behind-the-scenes drama of the franchise can use this article as a reference point.
*All information presented in this article is current as of October 18, 2016.
The Marcus Nispel-directed remake of Friday the 13th is released on February 13, 2009 by Warner Bros. Pictures. After grossing a massive $40.5 million on its opening weekend, the film would only go on to gross $65 million domestically and $26.3 internationally throughout its entire theatrical run. With a production budget of $19 million, Friday the 13th‘s earnings are nothing to scoff at, but they weren’t impressive enough to rush a sequel into production.
In October of 2009, just eight months after the remake was released, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that Friday the 13th Part 2 would be released on August 13, 2010. Unfortunately, they pulled the film from release just two months later. At the time it was still expected that Damian Shannon and Marcus Swift, the writers of the remake (and Freddy Vs. Jason) would be writing the sequel and that it would be in 3D.
In April of 2010 (just two months after Warner Bros. Pictures postponed production), producer Brad Fuller tweeted that the sequel was officially canceled. This was essentially due to the fact that both Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema were being thrifty during the poor economy at the time and only wanted to produce films that were more box office friendly.
Fast forward to January of 2011. Fuller went to Twitter to give a status update on the film. Shannon and Swift had written a script that was set in the winter and they were all ready to move forward, but Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema were not. It appears that his tweet did nothing to motivate them, seeing as how we haven’t gotten a new Friday the 13th film yet.
By the time September of 2011 rolled around, there were rumors flying around that the new Friday the 13th would be a found footage horror film, but Fuller once again said that there was no actual momentum for the production of the film. News on Friday the 13th went silent for a while, as the studios were figuring out the rights to the franchise.
It was announced in October 2012 that Warner Bros. Pictures had the rights to the entire Friday the 13th film catalog, which meant that a Blu-Ray Box Set containing all 12 original films was not out of the question. It was later released in September of 2013 and is now quite expensive, selling for double the cost of its original retail price.
Paramount Pictures finally regained control of the Friday the 13th franchise in June of 2013. How did that happen? Paramount Pictures agreed to co-produce the Christopher Nolan sci-fi film Interstellar, and in exchange Warner Bros. Pictures agreed to give up the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise (and South Park, but that’s another story). As you can imagine, news spread quickly that a sequel was on the fast-track, especially considering the rumor that Paramount only had five years to make a new Friday the 13th film. Jason actor Derek Mears stated that Platinum Dunes (aka Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form) were going to be partnering with Paramount to make the sequel. Fuller confirmed that the franchise was a priority in a tweet released the following month (July of 2013). Sadly, the film would be trapped in development hell from this point forward.
Rumors started again in October of 2013 stating that the new film might be a found footage film that would reboot the franchise, rather than a sequel to the 2009 remake. One month later (November of 2013) it was reported that the new film was given a release date of March 13, 2015, though no other details were confirmed other than the fact that Platinum Dunes would be producing.
Fans got a shock in the beginning of 2014 when it was reported that Jason might not even be in the film. Fuller again stated that he would love to have Mears reprise his role as Jason Voorhees but since they didn’t have a script yet (the previous versions were dumped) they couldn’t for sure say what iteration of Jason (if any) would be present in the film. Friday the 13th may not have had a script, but in April David Buckner was in negotiations to be its director. Bruckner, as you may recall, directed the “Amateur Night” segment in the Bloody-Disgusting-produced V/H/S. May saw the March 13, 2015 release date switch to November 13, 2015. Bruckner was still in talks to direct but still had not been confirmed.
News didn’t stop coming in during the last half of 2014. A 3D format was confirmed in June but that news was proved false in July when Fuller came forward again to say that there was no commitment to a found footage or 3D format. There still wasn’t a script at the time (seriously, how hard is it to write a Friday the 13th script?). Fuller also did an interview in August saying that Jason would be in the new film and was misquoted in his previous interview. Christmastime brought about rumors that Friday the 13th would be returning to its roots and be set in the 1980s and feature Jason’s mother Pamela in a leading role. It would also be permanently ditching the found footage style.
It’s understandable that fans would be getting their hopes up when so much news was coming forward about the films, but those hopes were crushed in January of 2015 when producer Andrew Form said that they were still waiting on a script. Unsurprisingly, the November 2015 release date didn’t stick and the film was pushed back once again to May 13, 2016 later that month. Fuller and Form mentioned in February that the new film might delve into Jason’s supernatural roots to bring something new to the franchise. So the idea was to make the film about Jason’s mythology.
In March Hannibal writer Nick Antosca was announced as the screenwriter for the new film (finally!). Antosca was pretty active on Twitter over the next couple of months. He posted images of him researching different types of machetes even went so far as to confirm that his version would not be a sequel to the 2009 film. “Different characters, time period, style,” he said. At this point the film was set to be released just under a year later. He turned in his first draft of the script to Bruckner and Platinum Dunes on July 24, 2015.
Apparently that draft failed to impress, as it was announced in October that a new writer was being sought out for the film and the release date was shifted from May 13, 2016 to January 13, 2017. Bruckner’s involvement with the film was uncertain after this announcement, but we here at Bloody-Disgusting were unable to get a clear answer from anyone on the inside.
Christmas came early that year as a new writer was announced on December 3. That writer was Aaron Guzikowski, the writer of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. It was also confirmed that Bruckner was no longer involved with the project. You’ve got to feel bad for the guy. He stuck it out with the film for so many years, and was either pushed out or gave up. It’s a shame, really.
We’re in the home stretch now! The beginning of the year saw a lot of information come out about what Bruckner’s and Antosca’s Friday the 13th would have been like. First Bruckner opened up about the original concept for the film and the fact that it would have been an ensemble piece, then Antosca said the film would have opened with the 1980s Paramount logo (I really hope this still happens). You can read Mr. Disgusting’s analysis of Antosca’s script, which he was fortunate enough to read, here.
March saw more momentum on the project when Form gave more hints about the film in an interview. He confirmed that it was set in a time period that wasn’t the present and reiterated that it would not be in found footage. Fuller even teased that a set visit was imminent, meaning that he believed that production would be starting soon. We learned that Guzikowski’s draft of the script was due in April and if everything went well (and a new director was hired) then filming would begin in the summer. I probably don’t have to tell you that that did not happen.
Guzikowski did turn in a script, and the studio gave him notes for a second draft. In May, Fuller stated that they were moving forward with a draft of Guzikowski’s script. That script centered around an origin story for Jason Voorhees. In June it was reported that that origin story would feature Pamela and Jason’s father Elias, who has never been seen in any of the previous films, in prominent roles. Much of the script focused on the Voorhees family, a fact that Brad Fuller confirmed just days later. Fuller backtracked a couple of weeks later, saying that Elias’s presence in the film was uncertain, but that Jason and Pamela would for sure be a focus.
Everything was looking good in August. Breck Eisner (The Crazies) was announced to be in final negotiations to direct the film and a lucky tax credit pretty much guaranteed that the film would start filming in the fall or early winter. It all seemed on the up and up until….
The Legal Battle
Another(!) wrench was thrown in the production of Friday the 13th when a lawsuit was filed between Victor Miller, the screenwriter of the original 1980 film, and Horror Inc. and the Manny Company. As we reported on August 29th:
Miller is using a provision in copyright law by which a creator of an original work must wait 35 years before they can put forth a claim to obtain and reclaim the works that they have created. The claim must be submitted two years before the termination date, which is why the lawsuit will happen in the near future but the rights will only revert to Miller, if he wins, in 2018.
Here’s where things get interesting: the reason a lawsuit is even happening is because Horror Inc. and Manny Company are trying to beat him to the punch by trying to stop his termination of rights filing. An out of court settlement is always an option at this point but if that doesn’t happen then it’s their duty to prove that Miller was a “writer-for-hire”, which means he doesn’t own the original material.
As predicted, Paramount Pictures pushed back Friday the 13th to October 13, 2017. One final update on the lawsuit was provided earlier this month but it supposedly won’t effect the production of the new film.
So where do we stand with the new Friday the 13th? Breck Eisner is still in talks to direct but has yet to be confirmed. Aaron Guzikowski’s script is being used (as of now). And a release date of October 13, 2017 has been set (again, as of now). With such a complicated development history (this “brief” summary is comprised of about 1,700 words), it’s difficult to get one’s hopes up, but with any luck we will have a new Friday the 13th film in theaters by this time next year.