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What Jason Voorhees From The Original Friday The 13th Looks Like Today

There are few characters more synonymous with the slasher genre than Jason Voorhees of the "Friday the 13th" film series. The films are non-stop scare fests, often keeping the audience on their toes right until the very end of each movie, and the disturbing image of the franchise's central killer Jason Voorhees — wearing his trademark hockey mask, and brandishing his machete — is nothing short of iconic. Of course, most casual fans are surprised when they learn that not only was Jason not the first main villain of the saga, but that he didn't even wear a hockey mask until two movies later.

Back in the original "Friday the 13th" movie from 1980, the killer who initially terrorized Camp Crystal Lake was revealed to be Mrs. Voorhees, Jason's mother. Jason himself only plays a minor role in the first movie, albeit one that's impossible to forget: in the final moments, he rises up from the lake as a reanimated corpse, a scene purposely left ambiguous as to whether it was a dream or not. In this first outing, Jason was portrayed by actor and musician Ari Lehman. 

"Friday the 13th" was Lehman's second professional acting role ever, with his first being "Manny's Orphans" just two years prior in 1978. Lehman landed the role, in part, due to director Sean Cunningham overseeing both movies. In a 2016 interview with Horror Geek Life, Lehman recalled the exchange that landed him the role. Cunningham called Lehman and simply asked if he could swim, and when Lehman replied that he could, the director offered him the part of Jason.

Ari Lehman still loves being the First Jason

Today, Ari Lehman continues to keep his roots in the horror genre close to his heart. He recently played Doctor Stratton in the 2019 horror flick "The Lurker," which heavily paid homage to classic slasher films. Lehman has also starred in other horror films, such as the 2017 film "Rock Paper Dead," in which he plays a character who is rather conspicuously named Jason.

Since 2004, Lehman has also led his own heavy metal band First Jason, an obvious reference to his unique status as the first to play the iconic killer. He has also made numerous appearances at fan-focused celebrations of the franchise, having recently cut the ceremonial ribbon for the opening of the "Friday the 13th" exhibit at the Blairstown Museum in New Jersey. In a 2020 interview with Rewind It Magazine, Lehman expressed his enduring appreciation for the role. "I will never take it for granted that I was lucky enough to get cast in a role that fans love so much that they continue to demand more and more Jason and 'Friday The 13th' each and every day worldwide," Lehman said.

The role of Jason Voorhees has become a legendary mantle in cinema, with many talented performers donning the hockey mask, and one actor even holding the status of playing both Jason and Freddy Krueger at different times. But only Ari Lehman can claim to be the one that started the legacy of this iconic horror villain.