It should come as no big surprise to anyone who knows us, that we love the Friday the 13th movies. We grew up watching Jason Voorhees slice and dice his way through fresh batches of camp councillors in what seemed at the time like a never-ending series of films.
While we always rooted for Jason, hungry to see how he would dispatch his next hapless victim, the movies would have been nothing without those plucky, debauchery obsessed teens who lined up to act as cannon fodder for the maniacal, hockey-masked psychopath.
One such unlucky camper to feel the sharp edge of Jason’s machete was poor Shelly. Shelly might have been a bit of a doof. Hopeless with the ladies and not skinny enough to go skinny dipping, but he will always occupy a special place in our hearts. It was Shelly who was single-handedly responsible for the iconic look that Jason still has, nearly four decades later. It’s Shelly’s hockey mask that covers Mr Voorhees’ mangled visage. If that doesn’t earn Shelly a place in the top five Friday characters list, then what does?
We were lucky enough to sit and have face to face, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, with Mr Larry Zerner, the man who brought Shelly to life, not just in the movie but more recently in the Friday the 13th video game. And it was a genuine pleasure.
Unfortunately, we had a few technical issues, to begin with, but Larry saved the day and introduced us to something called Google Meet. Being a couple of techno-idiots, we had never heard of it, but it worked like a charm.
Once up and running, the interview went without a hitch, and it was great chatting to Larry, who now works as a lawyer, but has as much love for the franchise and the character as he ever did.
Here’s what he had to say…
RHS - We heard you were discovered for the role of Shelly whilst working at a movie theatre.
Is that true, and how did you transition to the role?
LZ – Okay, so that’s not completely true. I had a job in the winter of 1882. I was handing out movie tickets to a sneak preview of The Road warrior. That was my job, standing on a street corner and asking people if they wanted to see this movie that no one had ever seen, and audiences would come in. It’s something we do in LA for test screens. So, they were having a test screening of The Road Warrior, and I was standing there, and these people came up to me and said, “excuse me, are you an actor?” I was an actor, meaning I acted in high school, and I wanted to be an actor as I was studying acting in college. They said, “we wrote this movie, and we think you’d be perfect for it,” and I said, “What movie is that?” And they said “Friday the 13th part 3,” and I said, “Okay, great!” So, I had an agent, and I gave them my agent’s number, and that was on a Saturday night, and I got a call on Tuesday to come and audition, so I did an audition. In fact, I auditioned a few times. They didn’t just give me the role, but I got the audition in the end.
RHS – And the rest is history…
LZ – Yes, the rest is history. (Laughs)
RHS - How familiar were you with the previous movies before you auditioned for part 3?
LZ – I had heard of them, but I’m pretty sure I had not seen either one.
RHS - Shelly was added to the video game and was instantly a favourite playable character. Did you get to do the mo-cap, or was it voice work only?
LZ – It was just the voice work. The mo-cap was all the same for the male councillors, but I got to go in and do the voice, and that was fantastic.
RHS – Did you find it easy getting back into character?
LZ – Yes, because Shelly is so much me. On the first day of shooting Friday the 13th Part 3, Steve Miner came up to me and said, “I don’t want you to do a character. Just be yourself. You’re Shelly.” It’s true. Shelly was just me at the time, and everything was just ‘what would I do in this situation?’ I could certainly relate to not being the best looking guy and trying to hit on the pretty girls and not getting anywhere.
RHS – We can relate to that.
LZ – (laughs) Yeah, and being a wannabe actor, I mean all that stuff was there, so it wasn’t so hard, although the challenge of doing the game is that you have to do things like shout, “OH MY GOD, THEY’RE GOING TO KILL ME!” You know, that’s tough. It’s not the character. It’s all the emotion. It’s getting up to that pitch where you’re going, “I DON’T WANNA DIE!” That’s the part that’s hard. The lines are the same for each character. “HEY, WHAT’S THIS BATTERY DOING OVER HERE?” (laughs)
RHS - Do you play the game yourself? It must be an odd thing to play a video game as you?
LZ – I did play when it first came out and got into it, but now there are no online servers. Now you have to play with your friends as they’ve closed the servers.
RHS – Yeah, sadly.
LZ – Right, and unfortunately, it’s now a game that’s sort of dead, unless you really want to play it.
RHS - Would you say it’s a fair assessment that despite Shelly’s bumbling charm, he was a bit of a love/hate character for a lot of people?
LZ – Well, I have found that there are people who really like Shelly, and they think he is one of the best characters in the series, and there are people who hate Shelly and think he is the worst character in the series. He’s not a character you love to hate. People either just love him or hate him. I think it’s about 80/20 on the love/hate scale.
RHS – We love Shelly.
LZ – To be fair, when people say that they hate Shelly and he’s my least favourite character, I don’t take it personally. Shelly’s obnoxious, so I get it. I would not personally have jumped out and scared a woman.
RHS – No, you need to be careful doing that. (laughs)
LZ – I understand the impulse. (laughs)
RHS - It must be nice to know that your character was the one that introduced the iconic hockey mask to the franchise.
LZ – Yeah, it’s my claim to fame and my little piece of film history. I didn’t have much of an acting career, but I have that. I gave Jason his hockey mask; you know. If anyone says, “Oh, you were an actor? What did you do?” I’m like (I gave Jason his hockey mask.” Nobody doesn’t know what that is. Nobody doesn’t get that. To have that is amazing.
RHS - Shelly must have struck a chord with many fans, though. Your character in Knights of Badassdom was apparently called Shelly, and he even appeared as a Deadite in the Freddy vs Jason vs Ash comic.
LZ – Oh, okay. I don’t think I saw that.
RHS – You’ll have to look for it.
LZ – There’s a movie called Death House, and I have a cameo as Shelly, so we did a little thing there.
RHS – Still a lot of love for Shelly then.
LZ – Oh, yeah.
RH - If Shelly had survived his encounter at Crystal Lake, what do you think he would be doing now?
LZ – Well, I hope he’d be just like me…
RHS – He’d be a lawyer?
LZ – (laughs) Well, yeah, I’m a lawyer now, so I guess Shelly would have been, because would he have made it as an actor? I don’t think, had he have lived, that he’d have made it as an actor. (laughs)
RHS - Have you watched the other movies in the franchise, and do you have a favourite entry or moment in the series?
LZ – I’ve seen all the movies, sure, I’ve seen all the movies over the years. I Love six. I think six is great. I love in four when Crispin starts dancing, (laughter). I was a big fan of eight; I remember going to a theatre to see eight. It’s such a… You know, they just hyped it up so much as Jason goes to Manhattan, and then it’s like, why are we on this boat?
RHS – And then they end up in Vancouver.
LZ – Right.
RHS - What about other horror movies? Do you watch any, and do you have any favourites?
LZ – Yeah, I do love them. I’ve always loved horror movies. I love zombie movies. I love the Romero movies. I really love the first Conjuring movie; that was so good. I like the Paranormal Activity movies. Those are the ones that come to mind.
RHS – As you mentioned earlier, you’re now a copyright lawyer. How did you go from having your throat cut in a slasher movie to a legal career?
LZ – Well, the acting wasn’t going anywhere, and my dad was a lawyer, and he said he’d pay for law school. I was like, "well, I’ve got nothing else going, so let's try that." It turned out that I’m good at it, so it worked out well. I represent a lot of people in the horror world.
RHS – That’s pretty cool.
LZ – It’s fun, yeah.
RHS – Speaking of which, the legal battle between Victor Miller and Horror Inc still rages on. In your professional opinion, do you think there’s an end in sight, and what would the most likely outcome look like?
LZ – Well, I mean, we’ve just been waiting for the courts to make a decision. They’ve had the case since last February for the appeal. Now, Victor won at the lower court, and Sean appealed, and so the oral orders were February 2020, and normally you’d have a decision by now, but I think what happened was that one of the judges, you have three judges on the panel, and one of the judges passed away in the December, and he was probably the one who was writing the opinion, and because he died, now they have to assign it to a new judge to write the opinion. That is probably the reason for the delay because it shouldn’t take sixteen months to get an opinion out on a case like this. Most likely, they will just uphold Victor’s writ. It’s very unlikely that Sean wins outright. The second most likely outcome is that they send it back for trial with the issue of whether Victor was an employee or a contractor, and I hope they don’t do that because that will be another two or three years.
RHS – Yeah, we’re all wanting a new film.
LZ – Right, it’s all already horrible.
RHS – One of your other accolades is that you were a winning contestant on the 1 vs 100 game show. That must have been a very unique experience.
LZ – It was a good day. You know, I just went in randomly, and you’re one of a hundred. They had changed the rules, and I don’t think it’s a show that airs in Britain, so I’m assuming you’re not familiar with it.
RHS – I think we have our own version of it. Fifteen to One think. We can’t handle one hundred people.
LZ – Oh, well, on the show that I was on, they changed it to being the last man standing because normally, you’re the mob, and the mob only wins if the one doesn’t drop out, but on this one, they were like, “we’re going to have one hundred and one people, and we’ll just go until somebody is left," and I was the last man standing. It was incredible because I’m pretty good at that stuff, that pub trivia kind of stuff, but also on the panel was Ken Jennings, I don’t know if you know who Ken Jennings is, but in the United States, he’s famous for being on Jeopardy for 74 wins. He’s the all-time game show champion. And also, the guy who’d beaten Ken Jennings was also in the group. I beat both of those guys who were the all-time Jeopardy champions.
RHS – That’s quite impressive.
LZ – Yeah, so I knew the one thing that he didn’t, which was how many times Larry King had been married? Do you know Larry King?
RHS – We know who Larry King is.
LZ – I knew he’d been married more than Henry VIII.
RHS – Didn’t Larry King die recently, or did I dream that?
LZ – He did. He died last year.
RHS - You’re going to be in the upcoming movie The Epidemic, which stars Eric Roberts. Can you tell us anything about it?
LZ – It’s probably never going to happen (laughs). It’s been on my IMDB page for about six years, and they’re like, “It’s coming,” and I’m like “Yeah, right.” I’m not holding my breath.
RHS - Do you get to attend many conventions, and if so, how do you find meeting fans? Any plans to attend a convention on our side of the Atlantic?
LZ – I love attending conventions when I can. I try to do one or two a year if I can. Obviously, we haven’t had any for a while. Next year is the 40th anniversary of Friday the 13th Part 3, so we are hoping and planning to do a bunch of conventions, me and a bunch of the other cast members, for the 40th anniversary. We think it will be good. We’d love to come to England and do a show if you have any pull with any convention organisers.
RHS – We can throw suggestions their way and see what we can do.
LZ – That would be great. I got to go to Germany three years ago for a convention, and that was super fun. It’s great. I love doing the conventions. It’s a nice holiday, away from my legal stuff.
RHS – We’ll see if we can do a little persuading.
LZ – Great, tell them next year’s our 40th anniversary.
RHS - Having been a part of such a beloved franchise, are you and your fellow Friday actors across the series like a big family? Do you all keep in touch and get together when in the same town?
LZ – No, I mean when I see people at conventions, because that’s where I see other ‘Friday’ people, it’s like we’re all friends, even though we’re all in different ‘Friday’ movies, it’s like we all went to the same camp, and died, (laughs) so we have that in common. But when I see Adrienne King or Kane Hodder or C.J. Graham or any of the people from these movies; we’re all buddies. I love these people, and they’re great. We don’t hang out here in the city; we don’t all have a get-together. I ran into Russell Todd from Part 2. He lives near me.
RHS – We were hoping the answer would be yes, as we liked the idea of you all sitting around having a drink together. But not camping.
LZ – No. I had lunch with Judy Aronson from Part 4. We’re all friends.
RHS – And that brings us to our final question. It’s the question that we ask everyone we interview. Who would play you in the movie version of your life story?
LZ – At what age?
RHS – You can choose.
LZ – Okay, I guess Jonah Hill. Probably Jonah Hill would work. If it were a teenage me, it would be the kid from Stranger Things.
RHS – Dustin?
LZ – You’ve got to have the Fro.
RHS – Do you miss the Fro? Do you ever want the Shelly hair back?
LZ – I do want that Shelly hair back. I’m losing my hair.
RHS - (Mark) I can relate to that.
LZ – (laughs) Well, not that bad. Yours has all gone.
RHS – (Mark) It’s migrated south. (Lee) His head is on upside down.
LZ – Least you can grow the beard.
RHS – That’s brilliant. Thank you so much, Larry. We’ll let you get back to work now, and sorry for those technical glitches earlier on.
LZ – Alright, no problem. So, yeah, if you know of anyone in England who's running a Con, we’d love to come out there for the 40th anniversary.
RHS – We’ll do as much as we can to make that happen.
LZ – Alright, great. Thanks.
RHS – Alright, thanks, Larry, for your time. Take care.
LZ – No problem. Thanks, guys. Bye.
So, there you have it. If you Organise a horror convention or know anyone who does, It's the 40th anniversary of Friday the 13th Part 3 next year, and the cast is itching to come to the UK to celebrate. That would be one hell of a line-up.
A massive thanks to Mr Larry Zerner for taking the time to talk with us. We greatly enjoyed firing our questions at you.