Jackie Earle Haley & Cast Interview Nightmare on Elm Street

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

Nancy, Kris, Quentin, Jesse and Dean all live on Elm Street. At night, they're all having the same dream--of the same man, wearing a tattered red and green striped sweater, a beaten fedora half-concealing a disfigured face and a gardener's glove with knives for fingers. And they're all hearing the same frightening voice... One by one, he terrorizes them within the curved walls of their dreams, where the rules are his, and the only way out is to wake up.

But when one of their number dies a violent death, they soon realize that what happens in their dreams happens for real, and the only way to stay alive is to stay awake. Turning to each other, the four surviving friends try to uncover how they became part of this dark fairytale, hunted by this dark man. Functioning on little to no sleep, they struggle to understand why them, why now, and what their parents aren't telling them. Buried in their past is a debt that has just come due, and to save themselves, they will have to plunge themselves into the mind of the most twisted nightmare of all... Freddy Krueger.

MoviesOnline sat down with Jackie Earle Haley, Thomas Dekker, Kyle Gallner and Rooney Mara at the Los Angeles press conference for their new movie, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” They talked to us about their characters, their worst nightmares and what it was like to surrender to the genre. Jackie also told us about the challenges of acting underneath all the makeup and the possibility of returning for a sequel.

Q: Can you tell us your worst nightmare?

JEH: I do have this weird recurring dream. I’m sure I’ve had a worse nightmare than this. But, when I was a kid, I remember dreaming that I’m sleeping in the same bed that I’m in, so it seems like I’m really awake, and I’m in the room and all of a sudden this 6-foot tall kind of man-tarantula busts through the door and scares the bejesus out of me. He comes at me. I somehow get around him. I’m racing down the hall in the house that I grew up in as a kid and right as he gets on top of me, I wake up. This happened time and time again. I’m not scared of spiders so I have no idea what this dream meant.

TD: I tend to have half awake, half asleep dreams, those kind of waking dreams where I’ll see my bedroom around me. I’ll see my house. I’ll know I’m in my house, but I’m still sleeping. So, I tend to have night terrors that there are people in my house who want to get me, not friends. You hear little noises and they get magnified. I can’t think of any specific nightmare in that way but that happens a lot to me still.

KG: I’ve had that lucid dream. It’s the same thing. I’ve had surgery twice. I had one at 4. That’s not the dream part. When I was 4, I started to come to in the middle of my surgery. I started waking up. So I had this recurring dream up until I was 13 or 14 where it would be pitch black but I would feel people’s hands all over my body – like inside my chest.

JEH: Wow, we’re all a great group, really normal. (Laughs)

TD: If we do a second movie, that’s got to be in there somehow.

RM: I do have one dream, but it’s too personal to tell. I had it when I was really young. I have recurring dreams. It’s not the same but it’s sort of the same. I always have recurring dreams that I die. I don’t know what that means when you die in your dream. You’re not supposed to, but I always die in my dream and I don’t know what it means. I’m going to have to get into therapy about that.

JEH: Merry Christmas, everybody. I thought you couldn’t beat the tarantula, but I think you just did.

Q: Jackie, I read that you auditioned for the first Wes Craven Nightmare and that you went with Johnny Depp and they chose him and not you.

JEH: That’s a rumor with the auditioning for the original Nightmare. It is possible that I auditioned for Nightmare on Elm Street and don’t remember. It’s also possible that I could have been sitting next to Johnny in the waiting room. That’s the only thing I could figure where that started from.

Q: How did you get involved in this project? Did you watch all the movies? Were you interested in the horror genre?

JEH: I’m not a big horror genre fan. When I saw the Nightmare on Elm Street trailer in the mid-80s, I went to see this one in the movie theater because it kind of turned me on. I was like, “Now that’s cool.” It has a kind of paranormal concept to it in terms of the whole dreamscape of it. I dug it. It was different. At that time, this was part of a group of films and this was my favorite. When I say that, part of, I mean Friday the 13th and the Halloweens and stuff. This one always held more interest for me. I always thought it was developed better. It was more multi-dimensional – not only the monster but also the rest of the characters. So I thought it was an interesting horror film.

Q: Did you follow the whole series or just the first one?

JEH: No, over the years I’ve probably seen bits and pieces of the other ones. I know I’ve seen them. I don’t recall. I wasn’t a big Nightmare on Elm Street fan, sitting and watching every one.

Q: Jackie, you were quite scary in this film. Was there anything you tried to do in your performance to amplify the terror?

JEH: I don’t know that I was really approaching it from that angle as much as just hoping the terror and the horror was present. I think that was more of a Sam (Bayer) function. For me, it was more about embracing this character and what was going on with him and meaning it and then hoping that at the end of the day it’s scary. At this point, when you’re saying, “Hey, wow, it was scary!,” I’m going “Cool!” because I don’t know yet. I sure hope it’s scary. I saw the movie and I liked it a lot, but I’m kind of close to it too. So, from the Freddy aspect of it, I’m sure we’ll hear all sorts of different opinions on that.

Q: Jackie, what’s it like underneath all the makeup? What’s going on in your head when you’re playing your scariest bits of Freddy?

JEH: Wow, what it’s like in the makeup? It’s like the most cumbersome, arduous stuff I’ve ever dealt with. You sit in that chair for 3-1/2 hours while they are painstakingly gluing this thing down -- I mean, it’s this whole process – all the way up to my eyelids, to my eyeballs on the eyelids. It’s just poking and prodding. I remember sitting there and thinking that it’s got to be better going to the dentist. And, since then, I’ve been to the dentist and I was right. It’s a lot easier going to the dentist. I mean, that’s not right. Not only was the stuff uncomfortable when you got it on, but it took me awhile to acclimate to it. I was really agitated for awhile and if I was thinking it, it was just coming out my mouth. So, it took me awhile to get my political filters back in place. Then they’d also put fake fingertips on this hand and the knife on this hand, so now I can’t really get anything out of my pocket. Surprisingly, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the contact lenses. One would go in this eye and it was kind of foggy and I couldn’t see out of it. And this one was bloody. So, everything was blurry. For some reason, that would make me recede internally even more. It would make me feel apart from the group because it was so uncomfortable. The best thing to do was to sit somewhere and wait ‘til they were ready. I would take all of that odd and otherworldly feeling-- or maybe that was just how I was allowing it to feel – because I would give all of that to Freddy between “action” and “cut.” To me, Freddy feels weird. It’s just weird upon weird.

Q: Rooney, we obviously won’t give away exactly what Nancy finds out in the movie, but she has a much more personal connection to Freddy in this version than in the first series. How did that change her character for you and what you wanted to do with it?

RM: I think it completely changed the character because, without giving too much away, I don’t think you can really go through something like that without it really affecting you. We wanted that to be a part of her character. Our Nancy is much darker and she’s disturbed and trying to figure out why she is the way she is and what happened to her. It really affects her.

Q: What is it about Nancy in either version that makes her able to try to deal with Freddy?

RM: I don’t really know. I think because she’s been through so much, she has so much built up in her, and then when she finds out what’s happened, how can you not have so much rage and strength after that? She doesn’t really have a choice I guess.

Q: I’m sure you’ve had the experience of watching a horror movie and saying “Don’t go in that room! It’s dark in there!” As an actor, does that come back to haunt you? Do you ever think “Mine is going to be more realistic” or is there a certain amount of surrendering to the genre?

RM: I think in any horror movie there’s always going to be those moments where you’re like, “Why? No! Don’t go up the stairs!” I don’t think you can really escape that. I don’t think you could escape it in real life if it was really happening to you. You’re not making the best decisions in those moments.

KG: It’s like when you wake up at 3am and hear a noise in your house and you go, “I should probably just leave the house, but I’m going to go see what that was.” It could be something terrible or it could be nothing.

TD: I think it was a collaboration when you guys say as far as the actors, the producers, writers, director of trying to avoid a lot of those moments that were embarrassingly idiotic in terms of why any of us would put ourselves in that situation. There was a lot of deliberation and writing and thought as to how obviously can we deliver the goods dramatically and through the story without it making us look like idiots. And I think that did end up working. I mean, I would have told Katie (Cassidy) to not go into the attic. That maybe would not be smart because I wouldn’t go into a creepy attic in Nightmare on Elm Street. But, these things had to happen as well. It’s like a teeter totter. You’ve got to have those moments and yet you don’t want them to be silly.

RM: Also, the good thing about Nightmare on Elm Street is that it’s happening in your dream. You don’t really have control. So, you sort of have an out for those moments. “Well I was dreaming, what was I supposed to do? (Laughs) I had no control.”

JEH: (Laughing) It was a genre dream.

Q: Rooney, can you talk about the scene where you go down the hall and wade through water or syrup? Was it as gross as it looked on screen?

RM: Yeah, it was gross. That was really the longest day of my life. I don’t even know how many hours we shot that day.

TD: Didn’t you collapse?

RM: Yeah, at the end of that night, I actually fainted. It was fun at first. I got in there and said, “This is great.” Kyle was going to get in. (Laughs) We were all going to get in that little party. But, at the end of the night, it was freezing. I was hypothermic. Especially when I had to go under, it was really scary because it was so thick. It was really thick and my clothes soaked it all up and were so heavy.

JEH: That was a brutal night for Rooney.

Q: Did they tell you what it was?

RM: I know it was edible, but I don’t know what it was. I didn’t ask for the recipe. I didn’t want to make it. (Laughs)

Q: Jackie, did you have any hesitation about taking on this role? After playing Little Children, did you want to play another character that potentially has that same background?

JEH: There was a big pause for thought on that. After playing Ronnie, I was fairly certain I was done with that. But, at the same time, this was Freddy Krueger. When I was considering this, this voice in my head kept saying “How can you not play Freddy Krueger?!” The reason why I was able to embrace this was because what I embraced was the boogey man. To me, Freddy has always been this molesting serial killer. That’s what he’s always represented to me. It’s such a completely different genre. It’s a different world. In one, I was truly trying to examine the human condition in a thought-provoking drama, and in this, I was just truly embracing the boogey man in a campfire story. That’s why I felt I was able to do it. I don’t even know how much crossover there will be from those audiences. I have a feeling that most of the people that see this probably will have never seen and never will see Little Children.

Q: Kyle, can you talk about your character and his background?

KG: Quentin, Quentin, Quentin. (Laughs) He’s a confused kid. In the movie, they don’t touch on the fact that he has a mom and he obviously doesn’t get along with his dad and he’s been on medication since he was a kid, so he’s just high strung and kind of a typical ADD ADHD kid with a bad family and possibly there are some anger issues. When all this starts to happen, he looks for an out and he goes towards the speed and the drugs to stay awake and because he doesn’t know what to do and he’s clouding his mind to cope with what’s going on. I think the religion comes through, and like he says, you’ve got to believe in something. It’s just one of those things where he’s looking for anything to make this okay and anything to help himself get over this, and he and Nancy team up and try to survive.

Q: Rooney, what was it like playing Nancy and the magnitude that comes with that character?

RM: I try not to think about it but it’s extremely difficult because people love that Nancy. I mean, people are so protective of that character. So, it’s hard not to think about that. The character that was written on the page and the character that we created are just so different that I really don’t know that we can be compared. But, of course, there is a lot of pressure because people feel the way they do about her. There’s no father. He left when my character was a child.

Q: Jackie, have you signed on to make additional Nightmare films? Are you concerned about being associated too much with this one character?

JEH: Well I’m not planning on wearing the makeup out. I’m hoping that people won’t look at me and think I’m actually Freddy. Obviously we need to see how this movie does, but I’m signed on to do a couple more. I hope when it comes out that people aren’t scared of me being this monster guy, but I don’t foresee that.

TD: I mean this in a good way, but I actually find you scarier in the movie in the scenes without the makeup because the character is suddenly this very believable real boogey man as opposed to a kind of dream boogey man and it does disturb me. You did a very good job in those scenes.

Q: Rooney, can you talk about the Facebook movie and what it was like being part of the story of the creation of Facebook?

RM: It’s a very interesting story of how it was created and the events that took place after it blew up into this huge thing and all the lawsuits that happened. My character is the instigator for Mark Zuckerberg starting Facebook and making it more global. I’m dating him at the beginning of the film. He’s an impossible person to figure out or to understand and he’s always saying the wrong thing. I end up breaking up with him and then he goes off on his tirade and that’s how he starts Facebook.

Q: Do you use Facebook now?

RM: (Laughs) I do have a Facebook account. I don’t use it for my own personal use. I use it for my charity mostly. My charity is called Faces of Kibera. It helps support orphans in Kibera which is the largest slum in Eastern Africa. It’s in Kenya. I was traveling there. I was volunteering. I fell in love with the kids there and that’s how it happened.

Q: For Thomas, Kyle and Rooney, what was your first reaction to seeing Jackie in full makeup?

RM: I was really scared. I think we had built it up so much that we didn’t want to see him until the day we were supposed to be shooting with him in the makeup. There was a lot of build up and anticipation and then he came. He would wear this cloak with a hood to hide him so people wouldn’t see him and that was even more traumatizing. The cloak made it so much scarier. And, when he took the cloak off, I really was shocked. I was just shaking and I started tearing up. He really looked like a real burn victim. I felt so bad for him. It was really shocking.

KG: It’s really unnerving. Like she said, you see him and it is kind of shocking. There’s that aspect too of seeing and knowing who’s under there and having seen Jackie the day before and all of a sudden you see him in this makeup. That’s almost why the sympathy comes because you’re not thinking of him as Freddy Krueger at that point. For the first second you see him, it’s like “Oh my God, Jackie, what the hell happened!?” It’s terrible. But then, as soon as he puts the glove on and gets in the scenes and starts doing his thing, that’s when it starts getting pretty freaky.

TD: My reaction was actually very unemotional and certainly wasn’t in fear. It was more so in interest because I’d been such a fan of all the original films and knew the original Freddy look so well that all I was doing was really checking it out and seeing all the differences and how vastly different the makeup was. When I first saw you, I remember it was a good indicator for me of what this movie was going to be -- like what you were going to do with the character and how it was such a shift in tone from the original movies. Because as much as I love the original Freddy, it went from a pizza face to a real burn victim. By doing that, I think it immediately visually brought a level of reality and gravity and darkness to the movie that was different from the original films. I felt that your makeup was a great indicator of the direction we were going in. They didn’t want you to just look like a face that was really scary. You looked scary but even the little details like the way your eye -- there’s that skin that come down here-- it’s very realistic and off putting and I just felt terrible for you as the actor in that makeup.

Q: Kyle, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, there’s a certain catharsis to the fantasy element. You know that the kills and the horror are not real and it’s just a movie. How is it different acting in your upcoming film, Beautiful Boy?

KG: It’s different because it’s happened and it’s something I’ve been around to witness on the news and see stories about. You see people on the news and you see parents crying and you see kids crying and everyone completely distraught and destroyed over what happened. It’s such a terrible thing because it’s something so horrible. But, at the same time, you have to play it as real as you possibly can. You have to be respectful even though it’s such a terrible thing. You have to do it as real as you can to prove the point and get the character across and not water it down because it is such a horrible thing. If you downplay something like that, it’s almost insulting to families and to people who have really experienced this. When it’s something like that, you have to be as truthful as possible so the story holds weight when you tell the rest of the story.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” opens in theaters on April 30th.

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