Home Film Nightmare on Elm Street – on set with star Jackie Earle Haley

Nightmare on Elm Street – on set with star Jackie Earle Haley

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A Nightmare on Elm Street - Jackie Earle Haley
Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) © New Line

It’s a pretty odd sight: a man cloaked in a black hood, surrounded by a couple of men further shielding him with umbrellas, zips out of a bookstore in Chicago and disappears into a van. Who is this guy? Why all the covert operations to whisk him out of the store?


Well, it’s actually Jackie Earle Haley, in full Freddy Krueger regalia, and the makers of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was in production last summer in Chicago, were doing everything humanly possible to keep Freddy’s face out of the public eye.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street - Freddy's blade hand © New Line

It’s now almost a year later and with the film’s April 30 release, the cat is out of the bag. Freddy looks a lot like the old Freddy (Robert Englund), just a whole lot more realistic. And in the new iteration of the 1984 Wes Craven classic, blade-fingered Freddy is back killing teens in their sleep. Sitting for an interview in his trailer after his sleek set dodge, Haley says that he’s been sleeping just fine during the Elm Street shoot. “I don’t think I’ve had any remarkable dreams to report,” he explains, still in makeup and sweater, though minus the hat and bladed glove. “Or any even movie dreams, or Elm Street dreams. But I am one of those guys who, unless I wake up and tell you immediately (about a dream), within the first two breaths, it leaves.”

[pullquote]It should be noted that, for the reboot, one of the minor story tweaks involves Freddy being not just a child killer, but a child molester as well
[/pullquote]The elaborate make-up, the actor acknowledges, makes the task of getting into character fairly easy. And it should be noted that, for the reboot, one of the minor story tweaks involves Freddy being not just a child killer, but a child molester as well. “Acting is just this weird process,” Haley says, pointing to the prosthetics on his face. “Sometimes it’s hard to describe it. But, there’s something about… This is very uncomfortable. I don’t even know how to describe it. I’m getting more and more used to it. But it’s very confining and very constricting. It’s very warm, and it gets fuzzy when your head’s encased. Or at least mine does.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Katie Cassidy
Kris (Katie Cassidy) meets Freddy © New Line

How different is it from the mask that Haley wore playing the mysterious, lethal Rorschach in Watchmen? “The mask was just awesome,” he replies right away. “I remember that thing now, and it’s like, ‘Gimme back the mask!’ That thing, we’d put it on and it was kind of inundated, because we kept a raincoat and all that stuff. And I’d put it on and sometimes it would stay on for a while and it’d get hot and fuzzy in there, but all that stuff would come off. Where, here, it goes on and that’s it. And we’ve had days when I’ve been in makeup for four hours and then go shoot for 12-14 hours. Then we’d come back in and do the hour to get out (of makeup). So yeah, it’s kind of like the whole Rorschach experience — except the thing won’t come off.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Jackie Earle Haley
A pre-burn Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) © New Line

Haley, in Elm Street, also spends a good chunk of time sans makeup as a pre-burn Fred Krueger. That time, the actor notes, was important to him in developing the character and important for the film as a whole, as it adds another layer to the story. “It’s this guy before this evolution,” he says. “It’s Freddy in the real world, in his life. It’s much different. They’re definitely related, but it seems to me that once he died and the three demons came and they struck a deal, some weird stuff happened with him.”

[pullquote]Moviegoers can surely expect additional Nightmares. Haley, in fact, is signed for a couple more
[/pullquote]If the new remake is a box office hit, moviegoers can surely expect additional Nightmares. Haley, in fact, is signed for a couple more. If they happen, even though people will already know full well what Freddy looks like, odds are that Haley will once again find himself covered by a hood and hidden by umbrella-bearing crewmen. Asked specifically about the secrecy, Haley shrugs as he searches for words. “It’s very… ambivalent,” he says. “Yeah, it’s fun and it’s secretive and all of that’s exciting, but it gets really old having to add hiding on top of this whole experience. You add all of this [makeup] and then I have to cover myself as well to get to the set. It’s just another thing to throw on.”