At CT Horrorfest 2023 I had the pleasure of speaking to Jonathan Breck who portrayed The Creeper in the ‘Jeepers Creepers’ film franchise for a Q&A panel. He spoke of his intense method for the role, his audition and how the film series had an impact on the genre of horror.
When the part of The Creeper was described to Breck he said it was of a character who is very old, generations old and that it eats people. He only had that much to go on but knew there was actually quite a bit that could be done with that.
To Breck, he said that actors are always communicating, every emotion, even without words, helps tell the story through their character. He had a week to prepare for his audition and in that time he looked into the animal world for research.
He thought about how the character of The Creeper is a powerful predator and he looked over some of the best animal predators in the world. How they move, how they behave and stitch these characteristics together to help form this character.
The night before his audition Breck said an idea came to him, the missing piece that would be the most defining characteristic, he needed to shave his head. When he auditioned he came in calm but then ran right up and threw the casting director against the wall, the whole panel of people there were instantly blown away. He owned the audition and got the part.
Breck described director Victor Salva’s vision as he wanted to make an original, fresh monster movie. This would be using more prosthetics, less CGI and not revealing too much about what The Creeper is.
Instead, he would be revealed in layers a little bit at a time. That way it keeps the audience surprised and not know what’s coming next.
At the time when the first movie was made, Breck said producer Francis Ford Coppola had a film fund to invest in several smaller movie projects. The thought process being if nine out of 10 of the movies made with the film fund flopped and one succeeded it would still be a win for them.
Breck said the original ‘Creepers’ film was the seventh of 10 and it was the one that achieved success. This was a precursor to micro-budget filmmaking where low-budget movies would get wide releases and make several million dollars in profit.
With the first and second films coming out only two years apart, and the third releasing 14 years after that, it had come down to budgetary reasons as to why there was such a gap of time between them. ‘Jeepers Creepers 3’ had to be scaled down quite a bit compared to the earlier entries, Breck said.
The fourth film, ‘Jeepers Creepers: Reborn’ was made with an even smaller budget with no returning cast or crew from the first three. Breck had not gotten an official call about ‘Reborn’ and instead found out from a friend who congratulated him on being in the new movie. He was sure to let his friend know that wasn’t true. Breck talked about being upset because the makers of that one didn’t even call for consulting on the Creeper character at all. For him, Breck said the series’ fans deserve a good movie and when a film like ‘Reborn’ was made cutting so many corners, there are no redeeming qualities.
There were several deleted scenes included as Special Features on the DVD’s of Parts 1 and 2 that showed more of the Creeper and his backstory.
Breck said there was so much they wanted to do that would have been explored in more sequels.
There was especially one scene from Part 1 in which The Creeper speaks. Francis Ford Coppola as the producer stepped in and said the character would not talk in the movie.
When asked by a fan about the makeup process, Breck explained the Creeper’s face is not a mask. It was all genuine prosthetics that took five hours to apply, a process he was not prepared for initially.
The look began with the film’s creators putting together ideas over what The Creeper should look like. It went to a team of sculptors to craft their concept into a realistic shape and finally it went to make up and effects.
After doing a mold of Breck’s face, they wanted the makeup to look like skin and move the way real flesh would. For Breck as the actor he would see himself disappear layer by layer and sink deeper into the character. This process followed by seven hours of filming and all together a 20-hour work day.
Another fan asked of the three films he portrayed The Creeper which his favorite is. He answered it is the first one as a fan and for fun to work on is Part 2. More so because he had more screen time in the sequel and showed more of what The Creeper could do.
On whether he’d return to the role of The Creeper, Breck said he would do it tomorrow and for next to nothing because it’s just so much fun to do.