The Adrienne King Interview:
How The First Final Girl In Friday The 13th Ended Up
Living in Her Own Horror Movie and Emerged As A Survivor!
By Lee Sobel (9/10/20
When an actress starring in a horror movie suddenly finds herself living in a very real one of her own, then the fantasy world on the blood-soaked screen suddenly seems tame in comparison. This is what happened to actress Adrienne King, who was "the final girl" in the first Friday the 13th movie in 1980 and despite a number of frightening real events in her life, has emerged as a true survivor.
Adrienne King is the stunningly attractive lead in Friday the 13th and her performance shows the many sides of her acting abilities - she's
funny, vulnerable and strong. I have to admit I liked her more than the movie itself. Despite the movie opening to a huge success, Ms. King's life was turned upside down when she found herself being pursued by a dangerous stalker. Dropping out of movies after a brief appearance in the sequel to Friday the 13th, Ms. King got married and tried to move on, only for the Avianca plane crash of 1990 that claimed the lives of 75 passengers, to occur a mere 50 to 100 yards from her home. Ms. King and her husband were just about to sell their house at the time and move away when she was plunged into another all-too-real nightmare, witnessing body bags being removed from the crash site practically in their own backyard.
Despite these events, Adrienne King is back making movies, has had her own line of "Camp Crystal Lake" wines, the labels of which display her remarkable paintings. The Adrienne King story is fascinating and continues to unfold. The day I interviewed her by phone she was waiting to see if she might have to evacuate her home due to the massive fires sweeping through the area of southern Oregon where she now resides. Luckily the wind shifted and I was able to speak to the delightful Ms. King. I see why she is a big hit at fan conventions as she is super friendly and engaging.
Lee Sobel: Sounds like you had a busy childhood, taking the train into New York City from Long Island by yourself to attend voice and dance classes and auditions. What particularly sticks out in your memory for that time?
Adrienne King: I had a blast. I started at six months old. My mom didn't mind chauffeuring me around as kid. I was in Inherit the Wind (1965) with all these big stars and I was just hooked. The director George Schaefer said to me, "You don't have to cry, it's just a rehearsal," but I said to him that I couldn't help it because it was so sad. After a few years went by I really wanted to keep doing it and I went to a school on Long Island that had split sessions that started at 6am and let out every day at 12:17pm. I was able to take the train into the city to take voice and dance lessons. I was around 14 when I started doing that. My dad worked for Grey Advertising on Third Avenue and I would visit him at his office.
Lee Sobel: So you were a kid riding the Long Island Rail Road by yourself into the city in the 1970s which was a dangerous time back then in New York. You weren't afraid?
Adrienne King: I was not scared at all. I had pretty good street sense at that age. I never had any problems except for one time in eleventh grade I was in
the city for an audition and it was St. Patrick's Day with the big parade. It was midday and this guy came up to me on Madison Avenue and stuck what he said was a gun in my ribs and told me, "Don't make a scene and this will go easier." Don't ask me how I did it but within a split second I pivoted out of his arms in an arabesque and noticed cops across the street and there was a break in traffic. So I just bolted and ran to the cops. By the time I got to the other side of the street, I turned back and the guy was gone. I walked over to my dad's office and I was trembling. I pulled myself together and I never told my parents what had happened until much later. And to this day I never go out on St. Patrick's Day.
Lee Sobel: I don't blame you! Tell me about how you were cast in Friday the 13th (1980).
Adrienne King: I answered an ad in Backstage for an open casting call. I got called back a couple of times and then they asked me to read with Kevin Bacon and Harry Crosby, because at that point they didn't know who was going to be who in the
Adrienne King as a young child model
movie. Then it came down to who was going to play Alice and they screen tested six girls and I was one of the six. The screen test didn't have a lot of dialogue -- it was screaming and fighting and rolling around on the ground. The casting process was around four weeks of going back and forth and then Sean S. Cunningham called me in and said, "Congratulations, you're our Alice." And then a week or two later we were filming the movie. It was right after Labor Day in 1979 that we started shooting on the camp grounds in Blairstown, New Jersey.
Lee Sobel: What were conditions like while you made the movie?
Adrienne King: The crew stayed at the camp during the entire production. The cast was put up about a half hour away at this horrible motel, but we all bonded a lot and that's what Sean wanted. He wanted actors that looked like the kids next door. That movie was pure passion -- everyone on the set wanted to make a killer movie and it felt really special.
Lee Sobel: September is a great time because it's still warm but did it get cold there as shooting progressed?
Adrienne King: It sure did. It was glorious for the first two weeks. It was mid-October when we got the last shot of me on the lake. There were delays in shooting the ending because Sean wanted three cameras to shoot it and they shut down production a couple of times to raise more money. Sean wanted a slow motion camera for the shot on the lake when Jason comes out of the water to grab me. It was dawn and we had to get the lighting right and I only had one other change of clothes, so it was stressful. Also right before we shot it I heard them say on the radio that it was thirty-eight degrees. Sean and Tom Savini and Ari Lehman as Jason were already in that cold water. When we shot the first take Sean said I went out of frame. Luckily we got it on the second take because I did not have another blouse that matched so if we didn't get it we would have been in trouble. Then two weeks later we shot the added final scene for the movie in the hospital when I wake up and I ask about the boy Jason and the cop says they didn't find him. I say, "Then he's still there." This was because they realized they had the potential for a sequel. It was just kind of tagged on last minute so the movie was like a work in progress all the way through.
Lee Sobel: What other scenes were added into the movie?
Adrienne King: The strip monopoly scene was scripted like the day before we shot it.
Lee Sobel: What other memories do you have of making the movie?
Adrienne King: Sean allowed me to watch the dailies and was open to my suggestions. I got to lie on the floor and watch the scene when Kevin Bacon is killed with the arrow through his neck. Because the movie ran out of money and kept shutting down, I honestly didn't think we'd ever finish shooting it.
Lee Sobel: Toward the end of the movie you have a knock down drag out fight with Betsy Palmer. What do you recall about that?
Adrienne King: It hurt (laughs). She told me not to hold back or I'd get hurt. During rehearsal she hauled off and knocked me across to where there were mattresses on the
floor. That's when I said, "Okay....gloves are off." We started shooting when the sun went down and we didn't finish that scene until the sun came up. Sean choreographed it like it was a ballet and it was dangerous because that was a real sharp machete in that scene. I still have the notes Sean was making on the script from that scene because I grabbed them to save them when we finished shooting that day. Sean kept us apart because he thought we would bond. Later when we met up years later we became the best of friends and I really miss her at these conventions when I go to them (Betsy passed away in 2015).
Lee Sobel: I heard your mom may have inadvertently gotten the movie sold to Paramount Pictures at an early screening.
Adrienne King: Sean had a screening for the movie and had invited distributors from movie studios to come see it.
witness it with my mom.
Lee Sobel: Did you go see the movie in theaters when it opened? What do you recall about audience reaction to the movie?
Adrienne King: I remember my parents and I jumped in a cab to see it on Broadway when it first opened and the line to get into the theater was down the street and around the corner. I remember when we saw it someone had a heart attack and there was an ambulance outside. It might have been a press trick but I remember the audience going crazy, screaming and talking, and my parents were blown away. It was monumental. It was just nuts.
Lee Sobel: The movie received scathing reviews upon its
He invited me and since my mom was in town I asked if I could bring her. We were sitting in the second row and Sean and the distributors sat in the back. During the strip monopoly scene my mother started worrying that I was going to take off my blouse and I had to tell her to chill and be quiet. Then at the end when I was in the canoe, she started to grab her coat to leave and I told her to wait. She was rolling her eyes and sat back down. Then when the magic shot came, she jumped out of her chair, the coat goes flying and she screams. I suddenly realized I had inherited my scream from her. I turned around and saw Sean shaking hands with men on both sides of him. It turned out one side was Frank Mancuso the head of distribution for Paramount (a year later he was head of the studio) and the other guy was from Warner Brothers international sales. So Paramount got North America and Warner's got the rest of the world, and I was there to
release. Gene Siskel said it was some kind of misogynist act against women's liberation in which men wanted to punish women and send them back into the kitchen. How did you feel at the time seeing those reviews?
Adrienne King: Gene Siskel gave out Betsy Palmer's address in his review because he was so angry that someone of her acting caliber had dropped to this level. Siskel may have criticized the movie for the way it treated women but I thought the women in Friday the 13th were very much empowered. I may not have been the first "final girl" in a horror movie, but I was the first one to fight back with incredible vengeance and I was determined to survive instead of being the wimp. I still have the Janet Maslin review of the movie where she gave away the ending in the opening paragraph because she thought no one would go to see it. At the time of those reviews I didn't care because I got my picture with my name underneath it on the front page of the Sunday New York
Times Arts and Leisure section and my mother was very proud of me. I made it as far as my mom was concerned.
Lee Sobel: After the first movie you had a very traumatic episode with a stalker. What can you tell me about that?
Adrienne King: Friday the 13th was a gift to me that I didn't get to enjoy for very long. I was in an acting class with Theresa Saldana and we both had stalkers at the same time (Saldana's attack by a deranged stalker in 1982 was dramatized in a 1984 TV movie called Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story). People back then didn't take this seriously. When I went to the cops they said, "We can't do anything until you're physically assaulted. But you were in Friday the 13th -- what do you expect?" Paramount had invited
On the set with director Sean S. Cunninham and co- star Betsy Palmer
me to a party and that's where I met my stalker. He gave me his card. He said he was a lawyer and he said someday I might need his help. He pretended he didn't know who I was but he did know who I was. He was transfixed with me to the point of obsession. What I found out is that psychopaths with money are very dangerous people. For a year and a half I suffered serious trauma -- my parents' lives were threatened by this person. I eventually faced my stalker and called the cops and all he got was a slap on the wrist and one night in jail. His word against mine.
Lee Sobel: That's all he got, a slap on the wrist? Is he still around.
Adrienne King: No, he's dead.
Lee Sobel: Did you kill him?
Adrienne King: (laughs) No!
Lee Sobel: I'm kidding, but you seem like you have a really good perspective on that, that you are at a good place now with all this. I read that he slipped polaroid pictures of you under you door and that he somehow got into your apartment and pulled a gun on you.
Adrienne King: Not exactly. But I don't want to get into all of that right now.
Lee Sobel: I understand so let's leave it at that.
FX makeup maestro Tom Savini sets up the big jump scare finale for Friday the 13th
But if you step back and if you viewed this as someone else, you have to say that an actress who stars in a horror movie whose life becomes a real horror movie, is an intense story. You should write a book.
Adrienne King: I have thought about writing a book for years. At the time, I didn't know if I would make it to the next day. I think it would be important to share my story of how you can survive anything, and especially at this time with the pandemic, I think people need those kinds of stories.
Lee Sobel: In Friday the 13th Part II (1981), your character was killed off in the opening of the sequel -- how did you feel about that?
Adrienne King: Because of the stalker situation, I was not of a clear mind. I was going crazy at the time. The cops wouldn't help me. My mother told me
to go talk to a priest. They wouldn't do anything so it was like the pandemic now, let's just wish it away...For the sequel, the producers wanted to use flashbacks from the first movie and my manager at the time asked for some money for it. I later found out that Betsy asked for money too and they wouldn't give us anything.
Lee Sobel: How do you find doing conventions and meeting your fans?
Adrienne King: What I've found is that horror fans are very unique people that bond as a family over horror. Here we are still talking about this movie 41 years later since I shot it and the fans have made that possible.
Catch Adrienne King in her new movie Killer Therapy that also co-stars PJ (Halloween) Soles and Thom (Return of the Living Dead) Mathews. Visit Ms. King's website at: http://www.adrienneking.com/