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A Nightmare on Elm Street – How stars Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner and Thomas Dekker coped with the horror

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A Nightmare of Elm Street - Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner
Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner) © New Line

In the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street the young cast who must face and fight off Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) in their dreams includes Rooney Mara as Nancy, Thomas Dekker as Jesse and Kyle Gallner who plays Quentin.

The three actors, who obviously became pals during the shooting, got together for a press conference for the movie, which opens today, April 30th, 2010.

Rooney, can you talk a little bit about your approach to the Nancy character as compared to the original Nancy?

A Nightmare of Elm Street - Rooney Mara
Nancy (Rooney Mara) © New Line

Rooney Mara: Sure. I had to not forget the original Nancy, but put her in the back of my mind because the Nancy that was written in our script was completely different, just night and day.

So, I had to just keep the old Nancy far away from what we were trying to do. I think I have maybe some similarities to the (old) Nancy, so it wasn’t that difficult of an approach.

Our Nancy is quiet and disturbed and sort of a loner and has a difficult time connecting with people.

Thomas, you are the ‘doubting Jesse’ in this. Why do you think he takes so long to get onboard with this belief that Freddy is supernaturally real?

A Nightmare On Elm Street - Thomas Dekker
Jesse (Thomas Dekker) © New Line

Tom Dekker: I think that he’s the last to accept it because, in my head, he was actually the one who remembered the most and really didn’t want to. I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t believe it or doesn’t know it.

I think that there is this reticence to believe it because he has already worked up in his head what’s going on and he’s so scared of it and terrified of it. I didn’t want to be a horror movie guy in the sense that they never show fear, they never show anguish.

They’re always the protector. I think, when you’ve got this guy who is burned and with knives on his fingers, I don’t care what your sex is, you’re peeing your pants so that was my goal.

So I think that’s why he’s the last to fully accept it, because he’s been really terrified of it for a long time.

Kyle, your character starts out a little strung out. How did you balance that intensity for different scenes? By the time he pops the pills in the car, he’s way out there.

A Nightmare On Elm Street - Kyle Gallner
Quentin (Kyle Gallner) © New Line

Kyle Gallner: I just did drugs all the time! (he laughs) No, it’s just understanding where you are (in the story) and time-lining everything out. It’s the preparation you do before you get there. You have to understand where you’re at in what moment and how strung out you are. Are you coming down, are you amped up. I’m also a kind of high strung individual.

Tom Dekker: Let me say something about you. I remember some of those scenes, near the end where he’s on the stuff and it would kind of be easy for an actor to just be crazy and strung out.

I think you were in my room for about three hours and we just kept doing the same scene over and over and that’s how specific Kyle is, so it was really calculated and thought out by Kyle which is why it’s so good.

Kyle Gallner: I also drove him nuts because he’s like, ‘I’ve gotta go to bed’! I’m like ‘I’m not ready yet!’

Tom Dekker: And I’m like, ‘Get the hell out of my room. It’s fine. You’re doing a good job!’

Did anybody have any trouble sleeping while filming this movie?

A Nightmare of Elm Street - Rooney Mara and Thomas Dekker
Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Jesse (Thomas Dekker) © New Line

Tom Dekker: I slept like a baby.

Rooney Mara: I had trouble sleeping because these two (pointing to Thomas and Kyle) wouldn’t allow me to sleep.

Were you all in the same hotel?

All: Yes.

Tom Dekker: We were all in my room most of the time hanging out.

Kyle Gallner: But that’s a whole other story.

Did any of you have recurring dreams when you were younger?

Tom Dekker: I’ve always had three or four recurring dreams and they’re all bad which is maybe scary but that’s the truth. Anybody else?

Kyle Gallner: I’ve had two. I have one good one, one bad one. One was I used to hang out with the dogs from All Dogs Go To Heaven.

Rooney Mara: Aww, that’s so Kyle.

Kyle Gallner: And I had surgery when I was four, I actually started to come to during the surgery, my anesthesia started to wear off so I had a recurring dream until I was about 13 where it was pitch black but I would feel hands all over me.

Have all of you seen the finished product [they indicate yes]. Was there any particular scene that made you jump?

A Nightmare of Elm Street - Kyle Gallner and Thomas Dekker
Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Jesse (Thomas Dekker) © New Line

Tom Dekker: We saw it together, we were in the little screening room and I jumped a couple of times.

Kyle Gallner: It’s tough when you film a movie and you watch a movie, because you know everything that’s coming, you’ve lived it for so long that you’re almost more excited to be like (whispering), ‘I wonder what that’s gonna look like?’ when it comes up.

Tom Dekker: I have to add to that, because I was cast last, but one, for this movie. Because I’m a big horror fan, a big fan of the original movie and I can be quite opinionated and bitter [he laughs].

I really literally only wanted to do this movie when I heard these two and Jackie Earle Haley were in it because they’re all so good. If they were gonna put idiots in this movie as the kids that really would have been bad. These guys are so good.

Was there ever a time in those scenes with Jackie where they were really tense?

Rooney Mara: I think, for me, any time when I had to be chased. I hate being chased and I have the worst reaction to it. My reaction isn’t to run, it’s to curl up. It’s a terrible reaction.

So, any time when on, ‘Action’ I had to be chased by him, I was so scared because my reaction to that, normally, is not the correct one. But, I wouldn’t say it was a very tense set.

Tom Dekker: There’s actually a sense of, ‘Man, if anything goes wrong here….’

Kyle Gallner: Not just tense in terms of you’re filming a scary scene, it’s that thing of reality. It’s like, ‘I could be really hurt right now for real.’ (he laughs) But, it’s one of those things where you work together long enough and you build a trust. I’d seen Jackie work with the glove and I worked with the glove with him before our scene, but he did cut me across the stomach once.

A Nightmare of Elm Street - Rooney Mara
Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Freddy's hand © New Line

Were the glove knives that sharp?

Kyle Gallner: It was real metal. His finger came off. So, when he went to go like this (folds up his fingers) and hide his gloves, his finger was still swinging and it caught me across my stomach.

Rooney Mara: I would say the most scared I ever was, was the day of the blood hallway. That was really scary.

Tom Dekker: I didn’t like hanging upside down.

Thomas, you were in The Sarah Conner Chronicles, now this. Do these films or shows based on franchises give you much freedom to develop your own character?

Tom Dekker: I’ve done even more of those since I was a kid (Village of the Damned). Obviously, there’s a huge amount of pressure when you step into the shoes of something that’s really beloved but I think, as an actor, once you are in it, once you’ve got it and once you’re doing it, you kind of push it out of your mind.

I didn’t do Terminator going, ‘What would Edward Furlong or Nick Stahl do in this moment?’ I would just say, ‘What would my John (Connor) do in this moment?’ The great thing about doing a TV show for that long too is I got to start in one place, playing the same character, and end in a totally different one and it was a big acting lesson for me really.

The only thing I think is really palpable in a remake is the pressure and the worry of wanting to do a good job to please the old fans and the new fans. But, as far as the acting goes, it’s much more just about the character than the reboot.