The Return of Paul Kratka by Owen Keehnen

23 years ago Paul Kratka made had a starring role in ‘Friday the 13th Part 3’ as Rick. Shortly thereafter the young actor switched careers and became a chiropractor. In his practice he may have been out of the spotlight, but not a week went by when some fan didn’t contact him about his part in the film or with an autograph request. Now after a lengthy hiatus the Camp Crystal Lake veteran (and gruesome casualty) has been lured back before the cameras in Scott Goldberg’s newest film ‘The Day They Came Back’…and since then Paul has even lined up a couple more horror movie projects. With his career revival in full swing (and gaining momentum) my gut tells me this chiropractor could be about to make a serious career “adjustment”.


  Owen: Most horror fans are familiar with you as Rick from 'Friday the 13th Part 3' (1982).  Tell me how that classic role came about?

Paul: That great that you call it "classic" - you're too kind.

Owen: At that time I was studying acting in North Hollywood and a friend of mine, Harris Kal (recurring role on Happy Days) had been to a casting interview and told me that I should go and read for the casting directors because they were very nice guys (which isn't always the case; sometimes casting directors can be somewhat inconsiderate or even downright rude). Anyway, I went to meet with them and at the end of the reading they said that I was "perfect" for the leading role and asked me if I could return in a few days for another reading for the director Steve Minor and the producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. On the way out they mentioned that the character (at that point called Derek, later renamed Rick so that Chris' character could scream it easier, with "Rick" being monosyllabic), was a carpenter who lived in the mountains, so they suggested I not dress in city clothes for the next reading.

So, when I showed up for this next reading, I wore blue-jeans, work boots, parka and I walked into the interview carrying a Skill saw and some 2x4's slung over my shoulder. Well, they all ate it up -thought it was perfect. Then I guess my reading was good enough as well. For the next 6-8 weeks, they had me read and screen test with many actresses they were considering for the role of Chris. Of course they wanted Amy Steel, but she was unavailable; then Dana Kimmel, but she also had some scheduling issues. Ultimately, Dana was signed along with myself.

Owen: So tell me about that subject of subjects --- the filming of your death scene on F13th Part 3.

Paul: Actually, that scene started 2 months prior to the start of filming when I was sent to a special effects lab. There, the artists at this lab created a mold of my upper body, including my head and face. It was a very unusual experience to be completely incased in plaster, breathing through two straws in my nose that exited out the plaster - very claustrophobic.

When it came time to film the scene itself, we were working nights, from 7pm to 7am; it was about 3am when they wheeled out this manikin of me! It was so surreal; to be out in the woods, 3 in the morning, and here's a replica of me that was so life-like, so accurate - very creepy, to say the least. It was also designed so that the skull could be crushed repeatedly and resume its shape; this feature was necessitated by having the option of doing multiple takes during the filming of the scene. The eyeball was connected to a nylon filament line, which had to be lined up perfectly with the center axis of the camera lens so that it was not visible (or minimally so).

Later, the scene where my (now dead) body is thrown by Jason through the window was rehearsed using a pneumatic launch ramp. The poor stunt double kept slamming head-first into the window frame (instead of passing through) as the technicians were trying to get the aim right.

Owen: Did you notice any technical challenges when filming the movie since this was the one in 3D?  Were special cameras and lighting involved?

Paul: I don't know a lot about cinematography, but I remember that this was a new 3-D technology where two lenses were utilized simultaneously. I also sensed because this was new 3-D technology that more time was taken to set-up and light each shot; this of course is more costly, so this Friday the 13th was considerably more expensive than parts I & II.

We also used a special camera crane. It created the ability to get camera angles from up high and from unusual perspectives without having to build large scaffolding. However, it was not trouble free. The man in charge of this crane would somedays wear a tee-shirt that said "I hate the luma crane"; a half-joke, half-truth regarding everyone's feelings regarding the use of this crane. Set-ups using this crane were also time consuming, which again stressed everyone somewhat.

Owen: I've heard word that Dana Kimmell's Mormonism made her a bit of a challenge on the set - true or false?

Paul: Absolutely false. I've been asked this question many times but I did not find Dana to be anything but the consummate professional. She was so considerate and polite; and she worked hard. Those chase scenes, etc. were demanding and exhausting for Dana because of the repetition required in filmmaking.

A funny thing though was, being young and silly, when I was signed to be in this film, I thought I'd have this torrid affair with the leading actress. Of course, with Dana being Mormon, that wasn't even a remote possibility - Ha, ha.

Owen: Have you kept in touch with anyone from the film?

Paul: I stay in contact Larry Zerner, and to a lesser degree, Richard Brooker and Dana Kimmel. I had a wonderful "reunion" with them when we got together to do the audio commentary for the DVD Boxed set.

Owen: So why did you go into being a practicing chiropractor after such a flashy (or slashy) beginning.  Wasn't acting all you thought it was cracked up to be or did the path prove too daunting or did you just enjoy chiropractic more?

Paul: I was concerned about dedicating my professional career to something as unpredictable as acting. You know, an actor can languish in poverty their entire career, and not because they lack talent.

Also, I made the mistake of changing agents after F-13 and this agent, I feel, made some inappropriate decisions regarding my next step after F-13. So, I was getting frustrated with not moving forward with my acting career.

Now, looking back, I have no regrets; that being said, I have missed acting so much. There has been such a void in my heart and soul from not acting. I am so grateful for the opportunities now being given to me by directors like Scott Goldberg and D.T. Carney, enabling me to resume my career - it's truly a blessing.

Owen: So after being out of the horror world for 23 years are you sort of surprised at the legion of all us 'Friday the 13th' fans out here who almost worship the cast members?

Paul: It is truly heartwarming how dedicated and how kind the F-13 fans are - nobody compares to a F-13 fan! And yes, I am surprised; but I have come to truly respect the entire horror industry, which of course, is fueled by the amazing fans. Hardly a day or week goes by that I am not contacted by a fan requesting an autograph. I'm flattered and honored by their requests. [Due to the volume, I've actually had to become a PayPal merchant and charge for the photos & postage that I supply myself. Of course when fans send me their own collectibles to be signed, there is no charge.]

Owen: Speaking of that what is the convention experience like?  What is the strangest thing a fan ever asked you?

Paul: Nobody has ever asked me anything particularly strange. I really enjoy the conventions - the fans are the coolest, sweetest people, I really like them. And they seem to truly appreciate my being there for them. Most recently, I attended Fangoria in Secaucus, NJ and then just a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the launch party for the release of Peter Brake's incredible book, Crystal Lake Memories. For all you fans, this is a must - the book is a HUGE coffee-table style book that is just beautiful. And, it's very comprehensive in its coverage of the F-13 legacy.

Owen: And now you're back in front of the cameras.  How did you come to be in Scott Goldberg's zombie flick 'The Day They Came Back'?

Paul: As I mentioned earlier, I get contacted by many people throughout each week. About eighteen months ago, I received an e-mail from Scott Goldberg; he said he was a horror fan in general and a F-13 fan in particular. He also said he was a filmmaker starting his career and asked if I would consider acting in one of his upcoming films. My first thought was, "yeah, right, blah, blah, blah". About 6 months later, he contacted me again, saying they were planning the shooting schedule for his next film, The Day They Came Back, and would I be interested in being in it. So I checked him out and it appeared that he was what he said he was and so one thing led to another and I flew back to New York and had a great time working with Scott.

Owen: So was your work as Detective Jason Ronner in the film a challenge after being away from the screen for so long or is it a bit like riding a bike?

Paul: I was a bit nervous when we first started, but the nervousness quickly went away once we started rehearsing. I just love acting so much that it was like riding a bike - I immediately got right into character and rhythm. Part of that was due to the character was an awesome one for me; it was perfectly suited for me and my style of acting. And, Scott is a very good director who is calm and focused and respectful of actors.

Owen: You're also slated to be in Scott's new film - 'Danielle's Revenge' - about a vengeful spirit who returns to terrorize a summer camp - sounds a bit familiar.  And it costars queen of summer camps - 'Sleepaway Camp' icon Felissa Rose.  Tell me a bit more about the production.

Paul: Well, there's not much to say at this point, other than we are going to film a short "prequel" for marketing purposes sometime in April. I'm really looking forward to working with Scott and his crew again. One of the actors is Chiko Mendez, a fun, but intense actor who I am really looking forward to filming scenes together with. He was also one of the leads in The Day They Came Back, but I didn't have any scenes with him, so that will be exciting for me.

Owen: So now you have worked with/against zombies, psychos, and a vengeful spirit.  When it comes to horror what does it for you?  One of the above -- vampires, werewolves, aliens, ghosts, witches, creatures... 

Paul: I'm really not a horror film buff as you and your awesome readers/fans are. I do love working in the horror genre because the people involved, both in production and the fans, are so passionate about their horror. I think I prefer more realistic horror (i.e. evil people) versus vampires, ghosts, etc.

Owen: What scares you in real life?

Paul: Big surf and not living up to the potential that God has blessed me with. Thank you so much for being interested in my career and my life - HORROR FANS ARE THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!