By William Goss
Several journalists were invited to the Chicago-based set of Platinum Dunes' remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street last June, and at this point, we're all standing in the trailer where an uncomfortable Jackie Earle Haley has been sitting for the better part of what will take more than three hours.
"We've gotten [the process] down to three hours and twenty [minutes]," said make-up artist Andrew Clement. "Every day, we shave a couple minutes off of it. It had started at six hours; we were working it all out, didn't have the coloring and all of our choices done, so it was just seeing what it was all about."
When asked if he ever wanted to just run around the neighborhood with the make-up on, the future Freddy Krueger said no. "There is a strong temptation to just rip it off my face, though."
We were then given a tour of the various sound-stages and production offices, we watched a few scenes being filmed involving a very young girl with some very red scratches along her back (this seemed like a flashback in the making) and a very dirty Katie Cassidy as she crawled for take after take through a makeshift tunnel and away from the likes of Kruger, and we were joined a few hours later by a still-uncomfortable Haley for a brief chat.
"It's kind of torturous for me. It's just a long time in the chair and then, wearing this stuff, my ears are killing me and it pulls down on the back of my neck. I have to eat Advil, but, at the same time, it's kind of odd, man. It's almost like I'm wondering if I can even like play this character if it wasn't on. ... It's like the best Freddy research and motivation shit I could do is sit in that torturous chair for 3-1/2 hours and come and I'm pretty ready to throw the glove on and start slicing just about anybody."
Haley is interested in making his Freddy a bit more than your average slasher villain.
"We're focusing more on the less camp and a little bit more of the scarier side. More of a serious side. And there's definitely, I think, a little more focus on, you know what makes this guy who he is? And so there's a little bit of a deeper kind of look at him. But at the same time, in my research, I really started to delve into serial killers and I was looking at all this kind of stuff and I remember... I was studying Ed Kemper and looking around. Oh gosh, they did a movie on him. So I went to it and I'm looking at it and it's like... and it was a total slasher movie. And it kind of pissed me off. And that's when I realized I'm playing a boogeyman, you know? So that's what I'm really trying to embrace, but at the same time find out what makes this boogeyman tick."
He still acknowledges and respects the foundation of the franchise and the original Freddy himself.
"I think it's really important that Robert Englund and New Line has done such a fine job over the years of creating this world and this character. It's fun to kind of re-envision and do that but at the same time we need to remain true to a point of who Freddy is and what the franchise kind of represents. You know what I mean? It's neat to get to re-envision it but at the same time you don't' want to go so far that we've left what makes it so kind of cool and bitching. I've never been a big horror genre fan, but I did go see Nightmare on Elm Street in theaters and I dug it. I thought it was cool, just the concept of it, and also the idea that there was one of these films in the genre that had a little depth to it."
In an earlier conversation, producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller addressed similar concerns about their approach to this property in particular.
"This one's more like [The Texas Chainsaw Massacre]," explained Form. It's not like Friday the 13th, where we picked through a whole bunch of movies. I think this one holds truer to the original Nightmare."
"We've never been attracted to a jokey antagonist because it feels less scary and less real," said Fuller. "As you guys will see tonight, Freddy Kruger looks very different. He looks like a real burn victim and that's what's important to us and he's not witty. He's a f**ked-up guy."
Form: "I mean his backstory is very dark... You know, a five-year-old girl with scratch marks on her back. There's a lot of that in this movie."
Fuller: "I'll say this: we're starting over from the very beginning, and I think that when parents are confronted with the notion that their child might or might not have been molested, that's an interesting part of the story for us. As you saw in the scene that we just shot, a kid can't really say yes or no and how is it happening. Our Freddy is definitely -- and I don't think I'm letting the cat out of the bag -- not a child killer. He probably has killed, but that's not our angle. Our angle is more of the molestation, and that makes it different and more horrifying, I think."
And of course, any critical part of the Nightmare series are the dreams themselves.
Fuller: "I think that our dreams are much closer to the first film than anything else. Again, you saw these sets and they're dark and they're dreary, and there's not a sense of wonder or fun in any way shape or form. That's not the movie Sam [Bayer, the director] wanted to tell, that's not what we wanted and that's not what New Line was looking for. So these nightmares are truly nightmares, and that's one of the things that Sam is so great about. We all have nightmares, but it's a difficult thing to communicate what they feel like, and I think that that's what Sam is really doing an amazing job with is, when I'm watching it, I've had nightmares that feel this horrible and he's bringing that to film, which is a really hard thing to do."
So far as Freddy's make-up was concerned, the Platinum Dunes guys were concerned with making his signature burns look even more real, but not too real...
Form: "We had reference photos that we were going off of, and you start with a bunch of pictures about how far you want to go. Even with skin color of a burn victim, how white the face looks or the pigmentation you have in it. I mean, there was definitely too far where I don't think you would even look at Freddy. You would turn away when he came on the screen."
Fuller: "It's just so grisly that it's hard to look at. And it still is, it's just little things we tried to do. We wanted to make it so you could see Jackie's eyes a little bit better. I think some of the earlier versions had the skin so burnt you couldn't really see his eyes and see him emoting. We did some work with that."
Form: "And choices like, do you have eyelids or no eyelids..."
Fuller: "Or ears..."
The two were asked if they felt the look of Two-Face in The Dark Knight had any bearing on their approach. Fuller responded:
"I thought that was pretty amazing what they did. Some people thought it was so amazing like it pulled you out of the movie because you were trying to figure out how they did it. So we did pull back a little bit in terms of what we were doing, because we didn't want the audience to stop and think how he got that way, but we did certainly want to push what they did in the original because we have better materials."
Form added, "It did show us that we could take it that other step. It showed us that it doesn't just have to be appliances on a face."
One of us asked Haley if he was apprehensive about possibly reprising this character in any sequels, and what it meant to play a character that was already so beloved by genre fans.
"You know I definitely had to think about it, and it just kind of all boiled down to, how do you not play Freddy Krueger? You know what I mean? It's just like such a cool project, such an iconic character and such a cool challenge. Clearly, I wasn't thinking about all this s**t glued to my head, but, yeah, it was too cool to not do, man. ... One thing I'll say and I'll probably keep saying this forever is that me and Robert aren't competing with one another. The man is, like I said, he's played this part just awesomely over the years, and I've got nothing but respect for the guy. And it's a thrill to be able to get to step up and to be allowed to get to play this character, because it's such an iconic character, like Rorschach, but the difference is, one guy has played this character. It's not even like Frankenstein, where it's like you've got 20 guys playing Frankenstein over the years, and so it makes it a little daunting, but it also makes it exciting and scary in its own right, too."
A Nightmare on Elm Street is scheduled to open on April 30th. For more from Form and Fuller about their upcoming sequel to Friday the 13th and what remakes they've had to pass on, click here.