If you guys listen to the JoBlo podcast (and really, why wouldn't you be?), you know that I recently had an amazing opportunity. In addition to being opinionated about movies, TV and video games, I've been a makeup artist for years. For the past few weeks, I've been doing makeup for NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY, the definitive documentary about the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise. In that time, I've gotten to chat with and paint on cast and crew from all the films, including Tuesday Knight, Jennifer Rubin, Clu Gulager, Brooke Theiss, Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit, who did no less than ten voices in the few minutes I had him in the makeup chair), Rodney Eastman, David J. Schow, Pricilla Pointer, Sara Richer, Jsu Garcia and Jeff Katz.
The guys behind this incredible walk down a very scary memory lane are co-directors Dan Farrands (A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, HIS NAME WAS JASON) and Andrew Kasch (THIRSTY) and producer Thommy Hutson (HIS NAME WAS JASON). In addition to being some of the coolest guys I've ever worked with, each of them is an absolute wiki on the subject. The three of them took time out of their very busy schedules to chat with me about the process, their personal history in the business, their love for the NIGHTMARE films and who has been the hardest actor to find. They also provide me with Pringles, which makes me a very happy woman.
How did you guys get into the business?
Kasch: I started out like every other horror geek of my generation, reading Fangoria and renting videos. I eventually co-directed a surreal backyard horror film called THE FALL which ended up doing some good festival play and that caught the eye of an aspiring horror cable network (which I won't name). I moved to L.A. where I pulled double duties as a filmmaker/journalist for them until the whole network became one giant cluster fuck. But out of the ashes we created Dread Central, a great horror movie website which gave me the opportunity to connect and work with many great filmmakers and actors. Eventually, I met Dan Farrands in the trenches of HIS NAME WAS JASON and we've been creating projects together ever since.
Farrands: I'd like to say I had a famous uncle who was a movie studio chief (or even a second cousin who was the Best Boy on a Keanu Reeves film), but that was not the case. I really knew no one in the industry but had it in my mind from a very young age that I was going to make films -- and by the time the 'tween years were upon me, I became utterly fascinated by horror films. I grew up in the '80s, so it was truly the horror boon -- Michael, Jason and Freddy were my three biggest movie "heroes" so it surprised no one when I attended my high school reunion that I went on to write a HALLOWEEN sequel (a job for which, although the finished film bears little resemblance to my script, I remain eternally grateful), a slew of FRIDAY THE 13TH projects, and now I get to put the final candle on the cake with this retrospective on the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series.
I have to credit two important mentors with giving me my first break, or at least my first inkling that my Hollywood pipe dreams were worth pursuing. The first is Frank Mancuso, Jr. who was the very first movie producer to write to me and give me that proverbial "you've got something here, kid -- don't give up!" sign of encouragement (and Frank's father DID happen to be a big studio president, so to get that kind of reply at 14-years-old, I felt I'd been touched by the hand of God!). Second is the late Moustapha Akkad, who gave me my first big break when he hired me to write HALLOWEEN 6 when I was just 24-years-old. Not a bad way to enter these "hallowed halls" -- and everything I've learned about the business and any job I've ever gotten since I can attribute to Moustapha.
Hutson: For as long as I could remember, I wanted to make movies. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to make movies. That stayed with me and I always told my parents -- who would laugh -- that when I was 18 I was moving to California. And I did. I was fortunate enough to meet the uncle of a friend of mine who won some Emmy's for editing a soap opera. We had lunch when I first got to LA, he took me to some screenings and told me how things worked. I then went to UCLA, interned all over the place to soak up as much as I could and kept working at writing and producing. And here I am, I guess!
What do you guys think it is about NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET that makes fans so loyal?
Kasch: What makes people so obsessed with any boogeyman? Why do we collect action figures of people that scare the shit out of us? I think that's such a deep psychological question that it can't be summed up in a few sentences. If it could be answered that easily, we wouldn't have a need for documentaries like these.
Farrands: The NIGHTMARE films were bold and terrifying and pushed the envelope in a way that the FRIDAY series and other horror films of the era did not. Freddy Krueger was unique in that he had more of a personality -- mainly because he had a voice -- whereas Michael and Jason were these faceless enigmas hidden behind their white masks. They each have their place in the pantheon of modern horror -- no disputing that -- but Freddy fans truly love this guy. Which is kind of freaky since he started out as a child molester/killer -- and then cut to a few sequels down the road and kids across America are playing Freddy video games and wearing Freddy pajamas to bed. I guess there's no explaining the appeal of a good villain. Darth Vader certainly has his fans too -- and I am not ashamed to say I had Darth pajamas! (Maybe I still do.)
Hutson: I think there is just so much imagination and horror and fun and fantasy to the NIGHTMARE movies that it creates a sense of wonder in fans. We want to see what Freddy is up to, what he'll do or say next. Also, fans want to see and experience what the filmmakers can -- pardon the pun! -- dream up in the ELM STREET world. It's a canvas where literally anything can happen and fans clamor for that imagination up on screen.
And, of course, the character of Freddy is so dynamic, terrifying and so very powerful, it's like a fascinating attraction. It's also been such a wild ride to see the character of Freddy transform. He's run the gamut. I guess the whole NIGHTMARE loyalty is almost akin to the funhouse at the carnival: you might have been on it a hundred times before, but you know going in it'll be dark and scary and fun...so you keep going back for more. And bringing new people with you.
How do you go about getting talent from the films?
Kasch: A few people are old friends, but our wonderful producer Thommy Hutson and production manager Annette Slomka have been on the phones night and day trying to track down anyone involved with this franchise. They're so damn good at finding these people, it's scary. Heather Langenkamp has also been instrumental in helping put this project together and we feel blessed to be working with her.
Farrands: Thommy Hutson, who also worked on HIS NAME WAS JASON, is one of the biggest NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET fans in the known universe. Fortunately, over the years he's developed close connections with some of the top talent from the NIGHTMARE series, especially Heather Langenkamp, so it's fantastic to have him on board. Several people I've known for many years (such as John Carl Buechler, who did our special FX makeup work on HALLOWEEN and who worked so closely with us on my various FRIDAY THE 13TH projects) crossed over for a time into "Freddy's World."
Andrew Kasch is friendly with several people from the series, including Michael Bailey Smith ("Super Freddy") and David J. Schow, so there is no shortage of relationships and connections to the NIGHTMARE alumni among our team. It's a small town -- and an even smaller genre -- so everyone kind of knows everyone else. And I'd say it's one, maybe two steps removed. Fortunately we've got a great team and we've managed to put together an amazing lineup of people from the NIGHTMARE series that I think the fans are going to absolutely love!
Hutson: On a show like this, it can be both a really easy process and a really (really!) difficult one. Lucky for us, between myself and the rest of our amazing crew, we all have great connections to cast and crew in the NIGHTMARE world. But, it always starts the same way: we make lots and lots of calls. Calls to agents, managers and publicists for those who have them. Calls to SAG and the WGA for those who don't so we can track people down.
Most of the time the response is very positive, "that sounds great," "how cool," stuff like that. From there, it's just a matter of telling them who we are, what we are doing and that we'd love for them to be a part of this definitive look back. Then, we work to put them on the schedule. The whole process is a huge undertaking and it can take weeks to find someone, call them, get the answer and then find time to interview them when they, too, are available. it's like an intricate puzzle and every piece has to fit. Lucky for us, the puzzle looks great so far!
Who has been the most difficult to find?
Kasch: Obviously big A-list stars like Johnny Depp are incredibly hard to get ahold of because they're always busy. But right now we're all obsessed with finding Mark Patton, star of NIGHTMARE 2. The man has literally dropped off the map. Not even SAG knows where he is! We feel like we won't have a complete doc unless we get ol' Jesse in the hot seat.
Farrands: Hands down Mark Patton, the star of NIGHTMARE 2 We currently have an APB out for the guy across every corner of the Internet! At first we heard he was living in Venice, CA; then he apparently moved to Palm Beach, FL; now there's a rumor he may have moved to Mexico! You can run but you can't hide, Jesse! Freddy's coming back for you! But seriously, we really want Mark on the show -- the stories behind NIGHTMARE 2 are legendary and I feel the project will be incomplete without his input. So if anyone reading this knows how to find Mark (and can deliver him to us unharmed!), we will guarantee you a very special place in the credits of the show!
Hutson: Mark Patton, where are you!? By far, he has been the most difficult to track down, but I won't give up. The most fascinating thing about it is it makes me ask myself: even with all of the technology and social networking sites, and people who know people who know people, etc...is it really possible to disappear? I still have faith the answer is "no." Which means one thing: Jesse Walsh, you will be found!
Can you tell me some good “where are they now” stories?
Farrands: I think the best "where are they now" stories have to be the long list of huge stars that came out of the NIGHTMARE series. I mean, what other horror series can boast it gave a start to such a long roster of A-list talent? To name a few, you have Patricia Arquette, Lawrence Fishburne ... and even Johnny-Freakin'-Depp! Then just look at the incredible pool of behind-the-scenes people who got their feet wet in the world of Freddy Krueger: Wes Craven, Renny Harlin, Oscar winners like Brian Helgeland and Peter Jackson, who actually tried his hand at an ill-fated draft of NIGHTMARE 5.
As the story goes, at the time Jackson was so broke, he was sleeping on the couch of New Line topper Mike DeLuca when he wrote it! We also learned during one of our recent interviews that Renny Harlin was so poor at the time he interviewed for the job to direct NIGHTMARE 4 that he was living out of his car -- and that the first thing he did when he got the gig was to go to IHOP and treat himself to the biggest breakfast of his life! It's those kinds of "rags to riches" stories that always amaze me, especially when they relate to people who have gone on to become some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
I almost know the answer to this after doing his makeup, but do you have anyone particular who was a challenge to interview?
Kasch: Interviews are usually easy to do, but when you're working ten hour days and conducting one after the other after the other, your brain slowly turns to jello. Charles Fleischer, one of the greatest voice actors alive, came in at the end of one very long day and became a verbal kaleidoscope of cartoon voices. I was so worn out, I had no idea how to interact with him. He was nice and absolutely hysterical, but he KO'd me pretty quick as an interviewer. At the same time, you welcome people like that because they help break up the mood (and give you a great outtakes reel for the DVD). We've been blessed in that everyone has been really cool so far.
Is there another horror film franchise you'd like to tackle?
Kasch: At this point, I feel like I've worked on every major horror franchise there is, so I'd like to move out of documentaries and do more work on original narrative projects. But if I could tackle any other documentary, I would love to do one on Japan's RING franchise or maybe J-horror in general.
Farrands: After this one, I really don't know what else there is left to do. There is already an incredible documentary on JAWS called "The Shark is Still Working" which I hope against hope finds a distributor soon -- it's truly the most comprehensive and compulsively-watchable documentary on the making of a classic film that I've ever seen. But does anyone really care about a Pinhead or Leprechaun documentary? I doubt there's anybody out there (except for a select few -- and you know who you are!) pining for retrospectives on PROM NIGHT, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE or SWEET SIXTEEN.
Out of all of them, I'd say CHAINSAW deserves its props (even though so much has already been done on the franchise with all of the Special Edition DVDs), but at this point I think we should give it some time, let the current franchises like SAW and SCREAM play themselves out and develop their own sense of nostalgia, and then let the generation that was inspired by those films pay tribute to them in their own documentaries 20 years from now. I think this final tip of Freddy's hat is the best way to say "thank you and good night." After this is done, I have a slew of new projects to write, produce and one to even direct. It's been fun -- and a true honor -- to have had my hand in the Big Three horror franchises of the past 30 years. And I hope that the fans of the original NIGHTMARE "octilogy" -- if there is such a word -- will appreciate the level of respect and admiration we have for those films.
Hutson: After we all wake up from being inside this amazing "nightmare" -- which has turned out to be on of the best experiences ever, thanks to an amazing, talented and gracious crew, I think my primary focus will go back to the narrative projects I am writing and producing. But, twist my arm and I'll tell you there is something I'd love to tackle. Now, I know there have been lots of bonus features, but I'd love to one day do a comprehensive, really fun and cool look back at the SCREAM franchise. I absolutely love the films. They are fresh and fun and scary. The characters were people you not only wanted to watch, but you really liked them. And, the mystery of the killer was always something you wanted to figure out. Everyone involved made those films a great reason to go to the movies: laugh, scream and have a blast. I'd love to really get behind the scenes with all of the cast and crew and take that ultimate look back -- and now, a look forward since a new one is being prepped. (Dimension, Wes...are you listening?)