Wondercon ’10: ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ cast discusses reviving Freddy Krueger
BY TODD GILCHRIST
Although the back of each talent name placard reminded them that many of the people in Wondercon’s audiences were under 18, that didn’t stop the storied San Francisco comic book and pop culture convention from booking some decidedly more mature participants. Specifically, on Saturday afternoon the cast and crew of the upcoming “A Nightmare on Elm Street” remake appeared before a capacity crowd in Esplanade Hall before retiring to a smaller room to speak directly to press about the process of resuscitating Freddy Krueger, one of horror’s most iconic killers. Hollywood News was among the outlets that spoke to Jackie Earle Haley, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy, Kyle Gallner, and Rooney Mara about creating a new version of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which opens nationwide in theaters on April 30, 2010.
[Note: Although “Hollywood News” is used to distinguish questions from answers in the text below, our journalist was just one of many reporters asking questions of the filmmakers.]
Hollywood News: Jackie, how do you develop your version of Freddy?
Jackie Earle Haley: It was a process of looking at the first film, which was the one I was looking at to get a sense of tone, it was the film that I think we’re mostly re-envisioning. It was darker in tone than the rest of them that followed. But you know, I watched the stuff that Robert [Englund] did; I didn’t want to look at it from the standpoint of, ‘What can I copy?’ It’s more, what Is the feeling and the sense of this? I knew that I needed to come at this where this character was familiar, yet new. If I went too far and changed him so that you couldn’t recognize him, that it would be taking it too far. We had to dish up something that the hardcore fans would still recognize, but something that was fresh and something I could make my own.
Hollywood News: What would you say to someone who’s turned off by the original iterations of these films? What about this version is compelling?
Haley: I think the fact that we’re literally starting over… the first thing Sam told me was that his vision was that he wanted this movie to not be a comedy. That didn’t mean there wasn’t some room for some levity here and there, but not like where it had gone, into camp. Fun in its own way, but starting over I think it was important to get back to that more serious, darker, scarier… and I think that’s what’s going to be new about it. It’s a darker film.
Thomas Dekker: I think this movie is made for the generation that the original films aren’t working for anymore. That’s the bottom line. The people who loved this film and hold the original film, especially at the beginning of the series, they hold it in their hearts with a lot of love — regardless of the camp, or the comedy, or the humor. But the kids of today watch the original and find it funny, it doesn’t scare them. And that’s a shame because the idea is still terrifying and the idea, maybe, exceeds the execution that this generation is used to. So I think this remake’s purpose is to reinvent this idea, and still terrify a generation that the original isn’t working for anymore.
Katie Cassidy: Obviously there was more than one that my character had gone through. The sequence of me in the bedroom, Kris being tossed around this room — shooting it was physically draining, but after seeing it it’s definitely well worth it. It’s going to look incredible. Jackie, scaring the sh*t out of me in all of these dream sequences was fun…
Hollywood News: Were you able to talk to any of the people who shot the original version of your classic scene?
Cassidy: You know, I hadn’t… but I also wanted to keep it fresh and make it my own interpretation of Kris as a character. I invented her, so I kind of wanted to keep that and live with that.
Kyle Gallner: One of the cool things we did, too – you have your classic dream sequences and you have a lot of things from the original movie, and we’ve also made a lot of things our own, but one of the really interesting things you’re going to see in this movie are the micro-naps; essentially it’s a complete blend of reality with the dream world, where sometimes you don’t know if we’re dreaming or if we’re awake, which will make it a lot scarier for the viewer and it makes it a lot scarier for the characters in themselves and what they’re going through. Because you could be walking down the street and suddenly [Freddy’s] in your face, and seeing him can wake you up and you haven’t moved, but in this 30 seconds of being asleep you’ve gone through this complete and total hell. So I think the micro-naps add a very unique and different kind of dream sequence.
Hollywood News: What is your interpretation of the character?
Haley: Sam Bayer sent me a book on serial killers. It wasn’t anything specific, just a big book, there must have been a thousand serial killers in this book. I kind of keyed into Ed Kemper; I’m starting to wrap my head around this guy’s head, and I notice on the internet that they’ve done a movie on this guy. I clicked on it, and it was a slasher movie — and that kind of upset me. Here it was, this serial killer, and they turned it into a slasher movie? Then I realized, I’m going down the wrong road here; my job wasn’t to really get into the mind and understand a serial killer, it was to embrace the fact that this was the main character of a campfire story. He was a mythical Boogeyman. When I realized that it was incredibly freeing and it allowed me to go after this character. That’s what he is to me, this dream demon that represents this unstoppable fear. I’ve always felt that one of the most vulnerable places you are is when you’re lying in your bed asleep. This is a dangerous world we live in. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been awakened at night by horrific nightmares. So to me, it represents those fears but it mostly represents that culture of the campfire story. For some reason, we love to embrace it in the right genre — this sick, horrific, telling of stories so that we can giggle while we scare the shit out of one another. It’s a funny genre, it’s a part of our culture.
Hollywood News: It does seem like this film seeks to humanize Freddy a little bit more.
Haley: I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘humanity.’ I think it just delves a little bit more into his back story; it’s a little bit more of an origin. I think the first Nightmare on Elm Street was an origin story, and in this one you get a little bit more but it’s still [got] a lot of the same kinds of points that we see in the first film. I always kind of thought we were remaking the first one — there’s a lot of new and different things going on in it, but a lot of the same points occur.
Hollywood News: What was involved in the design and the look of the make-up for the new Freddy?
Haley: There was one night, we’d been going for a week straight. When we’re in that stuff, consecutive days start to take a toll. On the fifth day I remember lying in bed, this is after the wrap, and it suddenly dawns on me that all the make-up is still on my face. It wasn’t. I had to keep reminding myself, it’s not on! That was weird, this total phantom make-up that feels like it’s still there but it’s not. [But] Andrew Clement designed the heck out of this thing. I think Freddy’s new look is more grounded in reality, and obviously his process was huge. When I became part of it, where they’re actually applying it to me, the process was six and a half hours long, and that’s because a lot of it is art. They’re getting on there and making decisions, moving things around, taking pictures, showing them to Sam, getting approvals on things, making changes… but we finally got it down, once all the decisions had been made, to three and a half hours. Which is still kind of arduous, it was like a little torture session. And it took about an hour just to get out of it. Pretty gruesome.
I do lots of wigs, I [and] I’m always getting used to looking at a different character in the mirror. And at the end of the day, they take it off and there’s this funky looking guy that I go home with. But there have been times where I’ve walked past a mirror or some reflective surface, looked over, and first saw Freddy. And that sh*t ain’t cool, man. Seriously, I did a double take — no, no, it’s me. That’s not right (laughs).
Hollywood News: Jackie, the original films went on for multiple sequels. Are you ready to play this role for a long time like Robert Englund did?
Haley: I’m so ready to deal with that one at a time. First, the movie needs to come out and we need to see what it does, and if it’s wildly successful, I’m signed on to do a couple more. It would be awesome to do that.
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