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The Real Reason Betsy Palmer Took Her Iconic Role In Friday The 13th

Looking back on the most influential movies in Hollywood history, it might seem like they were always destined to be smash hits. But to the people actually making those movies, it often didn't seem that way. Film history is full of stories about actors and filmmakers who were just trying to pay their bills but wound up becoming cultural icons.

That's the case with Betsy Palmer, the actress who played Pamela Voorhees in "Friday the 13th." Although the "Friday the 13th" franchise would eventually settle on the hockey mask-wearing Jason as its villain, the first film's big bad was Jason's mother. Pamela Voorhees had been the cook at Camp Crystal Lake when neglectful camp counselors let her young son Jason drown. Years later, now deranged, Pamela seeks bloody vengeance against the current generation of counselors.

Palmer's memorably unhinged performance as a mother scorned made her an icon for horror movie fans. In 2009, nearly 30 years after "Friday the 13th" premiered, she told Movie Web that she was still getting recognized for the role.

But Palmer didn't take the job because she knew she'd become a legend. Her reason was a lot more mundane.

Jason's mom just needed some new wheels

Yes, Betsy Palmer took the job because she wanted to buy a new car. Palmer's old car had broken down shortly before she was offered the role, and the replacement she wanted — a Volkswagen Scirocco — was too expensive. She was offered $1,000 a day to play Pamela, but when she read the script, she was still reluctant to take the job. By her own admission, when she read it, her reaction was, "What a piece of sh*t! Nobody is ever going to see this thing. What an awful thing this is" (via Movie Web).

Of course, many, many people did see "Friday the 13th." The first film grossed nearly $40 million, the franchise has taken in more than $382 million overall (via Box Office Mojo), and Palmer was a fixture at horror conventions until she passed away in 2015 at the age of 88 (via the LA Times).