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Jackie Earle Haley on A Nightmare on Elm Street

Published May 4, 2010 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of New Line Cinema
Freddy Krueger has been the hero of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Even though he’s the killer, he’s the start you keep coming back to see in eight films thus far. In the reboot coming out this month, Jackie Earle Haley steps into the burn makeup as the new generation’s dream killer. His new director, Samuel Bayer, asked him to do some research on real serial killers with surprising results.

Jackie Earle Haley on A Nightmare on Elm Street


“Sam Bayer sent me a book on serial killers,” Haley said. “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.”

So the Oscar nominated Haley isn’t doing the intense method acting version of Freddy Krueger. He’s “printing the legend” as it were. “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.”

That doesn’t mean he’s trying to make Freddy sympathetic. “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.”


A Nightmare on Elm Street A Nightmare on Elm Street


The one area Haley didn’t want to retread was the one-liner humor that Nightmare sequels employed. “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.”

Haley admits that putting on that makeup was a bit of torture. That came with the job though. “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. 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.”

A Nightmare on Elm Streetis out in theaters now.

For the trailers, poster, review and more movie info, go to the A Nightmare on Elm Street Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of New Line Cinema
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