The Platinum Dunes-ified do-over of A Nightmare on Elm Street is released today in the UK, with perfect timing for a Halloween horror stock-up. To support tis release, Jackie Earle Haley got on the phone and had a chat with me about the film, the iconic lead character and something of his attitudes towards both genre films and playing these blockbuster-y type parts.
Here are Five Things he told me.
1. Fan Casting
I think the very first that I heard A Nightmare on Elm Street was being remade and the very first that I heard they were going to have a new Freddy Krueger was when I was poking around on the internet and people were suggesting me for the role. To be honest that piqued my interest, that people were suggesting that I’d be right for the role. I then called my agent and said “They’re remaking this and people are suggesting me” and my agent said “Don’t worry, I’ve been talking to those guys for a while”. He hooked up a dinner a dinner and I met with Brad and Andrew and these guys offered me the part a couple of weeks later.
I have a certain kind of physicality, and I think people thought “physical-wise” I fit the role. There’s kind of a fanbase out there, from Watchmen and stuff, and people just thought I was right for the role. It was cool that people thought enough me at all that they thought I’d be right for that role.
2. Taking On The Role
I was weighing all this stuff about playing Freddy Kruger, but no matter what I was thinking there was this voice in the back of my head going “How can you not play Freddy Kreuger?” and that voice was so strong and so powerful and so right. How can you not play Freddy Krueger, you know? So I went for it.
It’s cool if the world wants to think there’s some kind of competition but to me, that never made any sense at all. Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger. Even when I think of Freddy Krueger I think of Robert Englund. There’s no way to come in and do one movie and try to compete with somebody who’s been playing this character for a couple of generations. So to me, the honour was just to get to take a stab at the role.
3. These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things
I think my favourite genre is something like the lack of one, meaning thought provoking drama, but at the same time, I also get a kick out of a big action movie or a big comic book movie. I like all the genres but I have to tell you I’ve been really fortunate in getting to act in different genres… I’m just pinching myself.
4. Face to Face
It’s pretty neat getting to play these roles where you’ve got to cover your face. With Rorscach it was a full cloth completely covering my face, with Freddy it was actually appliances glued down so that I could still articulate the face through it. It’s a whole other being, though, a whole other character.
5. Playing The Boogeyman
Sam [Bayer, the director] sent me this book about a thousand serial killers just to start poking through and there was no real direction, he was just saying “Food for thought”. I started poking through it and I keyed into this one guy, Ed Kemper. I was looking at him, looking at his life, trying to work out what made him tick, I’m poking around on the internet and I saw “Look, they made a movie on Ed Kemper” so I clicked on it and I watched the trailer. It was a slasher movie, and it pissed me off but it immediately made me realise “Dude, this is not a character study, you are not playing a serial killer, you don’t need to dissect this guy and see what makes this guy tick, you are playing a Boogieman. You are playing the main character in a campfire story”. When I realised that it was freeing.
I think the main aspect of what makes Freddy worthwhile to me is that he’s one of the most notorious characters in campfire stories. In terms of playing him I was following Sam’s vision, “Let’s make him more dark, more sinister, more serious than he had become”. I just tried to go in there and own that characters darkness.
I was playing him real when he was alive, but I wasn’t going too deep. I think those scenes were kind of sparse and I was just dishing up the boogieman aspect. It wasn’t a character study, I was raising the boogieman to scare everybody, to get everybody to scream and then giggle about it.