When Fred Krueger - Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs - invites you over for a play date, It’s hard to imagine saying no...despite the razor glove. So when we were invited to Chicago to spend a day on the set of Platinum Dunes A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, I packed my bags and got on a plane as quickly as I could.
We spent the day in a Chicago steel factory being repurposed as a Hollywood soundstage. The 'zipper' scene being shot offers major spoilage, so I'm not going to go too deep into detail on what we witnessed. We did however have the opportunity to speak to actors, producers, makeup artists and Freddy himself, Jackie Earle Haley. Hit the jump for a taste of what we experienced on set and read what cast and crew had to say about being a part of Platinum Dunes' latest horror reboot before A Nightmare on Elm Street hits theaters April 30th.
Music video director Sam Bayer (Nirvana, Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden and many more) makes his feature directorial debut with Platinum Dunes A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot. When we quizzed Bayer on how his Nightmare differs visually from he original he told us, "I look at the old movies and I think the dream sequences aren't that interesting. I think they feel like bad Broadway musicals or something, like with steam and smoke and they're not scary, they're not beautiful, they're not interesting. You know I've looked at everything from German expressionistic film to Tim Burton movies to all kinds of disparate influences and the one thing [I think] this movie is going to have [is] a vision when it comes to the dream sequences. And I think they're beautiful and macabre and scary."
We asked if any of his music video work will sneak into the film, and it does, particularly in the scene they were shooting this day. Bayer tells us, "I did a Rolling Stones video in 1997 with Angelina Jolie and Angelina Jolie came out of somebody's head. I ripped off a bunch of my stuff."
We snuck away for a few minutes to chat with Jackie Earle Haley in full Krueger makeup, 13 of us, crowded in his air conditioned trailer, and it was slightly unnerving. Not because of the heat or my fellow journo nerds, it was the makeup that was really freaking me out. The question was bound to come up, how the hell is he adjusting to being under that makeup every day? Haley tells us, 'You know, I’m getting used to it now. At first, the first few times I was kind of thinking, ‘Oh man, what have I done?’ But then when I saw the pictures and it’s like, that’s worth it. It’s such an incredible new look." Haley continues, "I’m trying to become Lon Chaney. I’ve got 998 more roles to go." Haley jokes, "You know, I first heard about it [the role] on the internet. People were suggesting me for the part and it immediately grabbed my attention because the character was so iconic. The more I thought about it, I was like, ‘Well how could you not play Freddy Krueger?’ Its just such an incredible opportunity. Fun and different, to get to do this kind of genre film is neat."
With rumors swirling that the reboot showcases a darker more serious, less jokey Krueger, Haley says, "It’s probably a little darker, a little more seriousness. There’s some of that gleefulness, but it’s probably a little more serious. A little more pissed."
Back on set and in between takes we have the opportunity to chat with Kyle Gallner (Quentin) and Rooney Mara (Nancy), we start by asking Kyle how Quentin differs from Glen, the character made famous by Johnny Depp in the original Nightmare.
"Quentin is different from Johnny’s character. It’s the same kind of story but different people, and I didn’t want to be influenced in any way. I kind of wanted to make Quentin my own. So I will watch it when this is over, but until then I’m gonna kind of stay away from it." Gallner continues, "Quentin is not like the super-popular kid, but everybody kind of knows him a little bit. We don’t touch on
the fact that Quentin has a mom, he doesn’t really have a mom in the movie, so he’s got like the mom issues on top of the dreams and his dad. I don’t think he gets along very well with his dad. I think he has a little bit of a high stress home life, so he’s kind of got a little bit of anger issues, I feel."
Rooney is eager to talk about playing Nancy, but is quick to point out that her character is not Goth after one of my fellow journos points out her black nail polish.
"It's purple!” she laughs, "She's Goth in the sense that she's quite obviously disturbed and keeps to herself and can't really open up to people or connect with people. And she feels really alone in the world because of things that happened to her when she was younger. But throughout the movie you see that change, and you see her grow, so it's a good arc." Rooney continues, [We're shown] in flashbacks [that] she's been an artist. I think it's her only outlet; she just does that, almost to the point of like the way someone with autism does things repeatedly. She'll just literally paint all night long. And the things she's painting are repressed memories that she can't understand or remember, so her art's quite dark, and she keeps painting the same things but doesn't know where they're coming from or what they mean, and she sort of starts to figure it out throughout the movie."
It's worth noting that both Haley and Rooney have signed on for at least one more film in the franchise. We asked Rooney where she'd like to see Nancy in a sequel, "Besides being the Bride of Freddy? She needs to be in a white padded room."
We settle in to watch a few more takes of the zipper gag and there is suddenly a flurry of activity on set. Has a shot gone wrong? Is somebody hurt? Well yes, maybe, but nobody here. Rumors are swirling that Michael Jackson is dead. That's right, the day I spent on the set of A Nightmare on Elm Street is also the day that Michael Jackson died. Before we sit down with makeup artist Andrew Clement and William Dambra who was tasked with designing the new glove we chat about our Michael Jackson memories and a few rumors pass including one about Jeff Goldblum dying (?!?) after a tragic skiing accident.
Dambra opens a briefcase, asking if we're ready to check it out before he pulls out the new glove and passes it around. I have to ask him if you can you really hurt someone with this thing? "Oh absolutely," Dambra tells us. "They are very pointy. We actually made another set out of rubber in case [Freddy] was close to the actors face, we also made one out of aluminum, it’s lighter. But for the most part we’ve gone with the real glove. It’s all copper. We didn’t paint it, we didn’t do anything just the heat transfer made the different colors on the copper, when it heated up, it’s got that purple tint to it."
When asked if we find out how Freddy makes his glove in the film like in the original Dambra offers a solid no. "We don’t, we see remnants, I’ve made fingertips and blades, you see them on a work table. You kind of get the idea that this was his workshop. We did that. But we never actually see him making the glove." When asked how the glove differs from the original Nightmare Dambra doesn't have a solid answer for us but he tells us that the top part of the glove that looks like veins was Director Samuel Bayer's idea.
On this set visit we were lucky enough to be some of the first people to see the new Freddy makeup. while we still haven't had a clear look at the makeup on Haley on the web, images of the new Freddy action figures offer a really solid peek into what the makeup looks like. Less cartoony, more like a real burn victim. Imagine Haley having survived a brutal burn in a fire and you've got the idea.
Makeup artist Andrew Clement talks about how he designed Freddy's new look, "There are such a wide range of things you can do to somebody if they're burned: is it a healed burn, a fresh burn, is it dry and flaky and ashy, that sort of thing. I just started doing all different kinds of things based on all kinds of different references and I also posted up on a bulletin board pictures of every Freddy they'd ever done just to get a sense of the arc of Freddy and what people would accept. Just to see how much leeway I really had. You know it's pretty broad. You start from the first film and then you go into how the second, third, fourth seem to look. Then it jumps into something really stylized, the old man, the really stylized one and everybody really accepted that as Freddy, so there's room to play."
When asked how CG plays into the new makeup Clement tells us, "I knew we wanted to have a CG component to it and right as we began filming we were still thinking there was going to be a larger CG component, but we started getting feedback on how the design actually looked great without [CG] even from our first test and I think that the results and the feedback were so strong that we didn’t really need to go digital. This is plenty scary as it is, just as the makeup so we pulled back on that, but we still have a digital component and it's going to look really cool."
Set designer Patrick Lumb details the creative process by explaining where his inspiration came from, "We didn’t take any inspiration from [the original]. There were a few little places where we’ve pulled little bits [like] Nancy’s front door is the same color and the same number. A few little things like that, I won’t tell you all of them, we just kind of tipped our hat to the original just so that people can have a relationship to the first one. But that’s the only one I really watched."
When asked which set piece was his favorite he tells us, "I think one that’s visually really exciting is the classroom scene where one of the characters is in the classroom at the very start of the film and she falls asleep and when she wakes up she’s in the same classroom but the classroom is now burned, smoldering, and she sees Freddy there and tries to escape and goes into another classroom, which is a mirror image of the burnt classroom but this time the classroom is water-logged, it’s actually under water. Everything’s dripping and all the pipes are broken, so that’s quite cool."
When we sat down with Platinum Dunes producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller we discussed how Platinum Dunes' reboots seem to take on a darker, more serious tone, Brad Fuller tells us, "We went for that on Chainsaw also to try and keep that as real as possible. Even when Marcus came on to our first movie, the Chainsaw movie, he always said, “I want to make it like a snuff film, make it feel real, kind of like the original.” [For A Nightmare on Elm Street] Obviously, we had to change the make-up. We had to change everything. We wanted Freddy to look like a real burn victim and it started there."
Platinum Dunes pride themselves on working with first time feature directors, Fuller tells us 'That’s the mandate of our company: to give commercial and video directors the opportunity to direct their first film."
Unfortunately Wes Craven is not involved with the reboot, something fans of the series have been in an uproar about. when asked why Craven isn't involved, Fuller explains, "We got into this business because we love those movies, so is that an upsetting thing? Well, yeah, but I think there had to be some dealings that happened before we got involved in order to extricate the material so that they could bring on other producers. New Line didn’t include us in any of that, so we don’t really have a say in that. In this movie more than any movie we’ve ever made, we are truly producers-for-hire that they brought on. They started developing the script. They had a draft of the script before we came on. We’ve never had that situation before. We’re guns-for-hire on this one. That doesn’t that mean we don’t feel as passionately about it. We pursued it for two years to get it. This is New Line. This is one of their most valuable assets. You all know it as The House that Freddy Built, so they’re very protective about everything on this movie."
Another thing that has fans in a tizzy was replacing Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, Fuller explains, "Jackie, that was the guy, from the get-go. That was it for us. Let’s dispense with the Robert England part of it first, and then I’ll get to the Jackie part. With Robert England, that was the decision that we made that we were going to try and start a new version of the A Nightmare on Elm Street story. We felt in doing that it was important to have someone else play Freddy Krueger because if we didn’t, it would just feel like a sequel, and we didn’t want that to happen. Then you’re confronted with these huge shoes that you need to fill to play Freddy Krueger, and you know from the get-go half of your audience, maybe more, is gonna outright dismiss the choice cause they feel that Robert England should be the guy. We hear that loud and clear every day."
When it comes to casting Nancy Thompson, Fuller explains how careful they were in casting someone to fill Heather Langenkamp's shoes, "I think the worst possible thing we could have done for Nancy was to get a girl who was big boobs and blonde hair. We would have been annihilated for doing that. I think one of the things that made the character of Nancy so great in the original films is that she feels like a real person. It’s amazing how difficult it is to find that in Hollywood now a days. Rooney was someone who, to us, embodied that kind of natural, real
girl thing that Nancy had in the original."
If there's one thing that Dunes is known for, it's creating a back story for the vile villains we all know and love. This has been a sore spot for the naysayer and fan favorite for others. So what's the deal, why?
When asked about how the back story factors in Fuller tells us, "We didn’t front load Nightmare with back story. On this movie you go on a journey with Nancy. We don’t open the movie with here’s everything you need to know about Freddy and here you go. It’s throughout the film. You learn about him." Fuller continues, 'I think when we’re making a movie; one of the first questions we ask ourselves is who’s our audience? For the most part we felt, whether we’re right or wrong, that our audience is really two groups of people. They’re the people who are going to go see the movie because they are fans of the original, and then there are groups of people who’ve heard of the title, but have never seen the films and who are not familiar with the legacy necessarily. When you have to balance those two groups and attempt to satiate both which I don’t know that we’re ever successful in doing it, but you can’t turn your back on either of those two groups. So we try to figure out a way to get the back story in there so that everyone’s up to speed by about ten to fifteen minutes into the movie. Everyone has the same amount of back story knowledge going forward.' Needless to say that was enough of an explanation for some, but not nearly enough for others."
Keep it here for more on Platinum Dunes A Nightmare on Elm Street in theaters April 30th 2010. Now it's your turn to tell us what your thoughts on the reboot are.