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INTERVIEW: the new Freddy Krueger, Jackie Earle Haley!

Feb. 23, 2010by: Eric Walkuski
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READ OUR SET VISIT HERE

Jackie Earle Haley is a trooper... Anyone who sits in a make-up chair for over three hours has to be, although of course he took the role of Freddy Krueger with the understanding that all the latex and goo came with the package. But imagine going through all that and then having to sit at a round-table with a bunch of gawking internet journalists who are examining you like you're some fascinating new species. Give the man credit for not jumping out of his chair (and his own skin) and going to work on us with his glove.

Haley took some time out of his busy - and late - schedule to sit front and center while myself and about 10 others absorbed what we were seeing: the new Freddy Krueger, in all his gnarled, icky glory. We were among the first "outsiders" to behold Haley and the new Krueger design; by now it's most likely well known to everyone what his face is like, but to us it was pretty damn mind-blowing. Especially since it was about 2 A.M., and we were all fairly goofy with exhaustion. (Told you he is a trooper.)

How are you?

Haley: I dont know.

We have to reflect on how this works in the full light now.

Haley: These guys did an amazing job with it. Its incredible.

How hard is it to act through all of that latex?

Haley: Im still kind of trying to figure this stuff out. Its kind of torturous for me. Its just a long time in the chair and then wearing this stuff my ears are killing me and it pulls down on the back of my neck. I have to eat Advil, but, at the same time, its kind of odd, man. Its almost like Im wondering if I can even like play this character if it wasnt on.

Right.

Haley: You know what I mean? I kind of reaches this point where it starts to become the character and without it, especially when they expand its like what they do on top of this too is they throw in contact lenses and theyre huge so its like scratching your eyes. You can barely see out of one. Its kind of a trip so its oddly encumbering and oddly empowering as the character, but its like Ive got fingertips glued on here and then they put the glove on so I cant tie my shoes. I cant pee. Its just a trip.

How much of that did they explain to you up front? Like how much did you know going in and how much did you have to find out when it was happening?

Haley: You know nobody really warned about what to expect. I think, you know, you kind of have an idea. I mean my biggest experience with this is just sympathizing more and more with Jeffery Dean [Morgan]. So much of what he says, its like now Im living it. Its like he said hed come out of that trailer as The Comedian just ready to fucking kill somebody. And its like, the best Freddy research and motivation shit I could do is sit in that torturous chair for 3-1/2 hours and come and Im pretty ready to throw the glove on and start slicing just about anybody.

The glove, we understand, you got to take home just to get kind of feel for it?

Haley: Yeah, Ive got one.

Yeah?

Haley: Yeah, I take it home. I play with it in the trailer and stuff.

Was it about just trying to get adjusted to the weight and feel?

Haley: Yeah, its about kind of letting it become just a little bit more second nature and just getting used to it being on.

Are you trying to bring necessarily a pathos to it that you might to something like Little Children or is this just being full-on viscerally frightening as this character?

Haley: You know I think we want tothis version of Freddy is I think were focusing more on the less camp and a little bit more of the scarier side. More of a serious side. And theres definitely, I think, a little more focus on, you know what makes this guy who he is? And so theres a little bit of a deeper kind of look at him. But at the same time its like in my research I really started to delve into like serial killers and I was looking at all this kind of stuff and I remember I found one on Ed Kemper or I was studying Ed Kemper and looking around. Oh gosh, they did a movie on him. So I went to it and Im looking at it and its like it was a total slasher movie. And it kind of pissed me off. And thats when I realized Im playing a boogeyman, you know? So thats what Im really trying to embrace, but at the same time find out what makes this boogeyman tick. So there is room to kind of look at his past and to see whats happened and to see what makes him who he isto see whats made him the boogey-man that he is.

But I think its really important that Robert Englund and New Line has done such a fine job over the years of creating this world and this character. Its fun to kind of re-envision and do that but at the same time we need to remain true to a point of who Freddy is and what the franchise kind of represents. You know what I mean? Its neat to get to re-envision it but at the same time you dont want to go so far that weve left what makes it so kind of cool and bitching. Ive never been a big horror genre fan, but I did go see Nightmare on Elm Street in the theatres and I dug it. I thought it was cool. Just the concept of it. Also just the idea that there was one of these films in the genre that had a little depth to it. That Freddy, definitely always to me, was always my favorite of that group of classic monsters, you know? Meaning like Jason, Michael Myers and all them.

As an actor, can or do you have a degree of empathy for this character or does humanizing him sort of undermine how scary he can be?

Haley: I think it makes him scarier.

How so?

Haley: I just think that when you start to get a sense of what somebody tick and you realize that that clock is kind of ticking out of whack, thats scary. That scares me in this world. You know what I mean? Sometimes when you just run across people that seem to be tracking on a different kind of cord and somethings up. To me, that seems more scary. Theres even more uncertainty knowing that whoa, somethings driving this and its real and itsyou know what I mean? But its just not making any real sense. You know it makes sense to him though and thats whats scary about it. Did that make sense?

How did you go about developing the voice for Freddy this timeyour take on it?

Haley: Ill let you know when were done.

You said something similar when you were on Watchmen doing Rorschach.

Haley: Yeah. This, to me, Im kind of a compartmental actor. I mean, this really throws me for a loop sitting with you guys right now, but I mean its cool but its like Im so in the middle of it now. I feel like when were done Ill have been able to process it and then really okay, what did I do? You know? Right now Im just kind of in the middle of it, so Im still kind of

Is there a process though before the day before shooting, the week before shooting, the months before shooting when youre doing makeup tests and youre doing your research. Were you standing in front of mirrors and trying out vocal patterns and postures? Can you talk about the process or is there a process with you of playing around with that?

Haley: Yeah, theres a process. Its kind of like knowing to allow the subconscious to do some of that work. In terms of like posture and voice and things like that its kind of aboutits not about sitting down and lets try voices although sometimes you do that, you know what I mean? But its just about kind of like working with the material, thinking about it and sometimes things will happen while youre just driving your car. Its when youre not thinking about it, all of a sudden stuff bubbles up. I believe strongly in like thinkubation. Its like I recently I went and saw John Cleeses college tour where hes going around talking about creativity and he kind of talks about the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is but a mere oil slick on the top of your brain, I guess. And its all this subconscious thats down here that on the conscious level we do logistical thinking but so much of the creativity just bubbles down in here and kind of pops up because, I mean, how do you describe when just an idea kind of comes out. Thats creative idea. Its, you know, like from input to that conscious level and then your subconscious plays with it and stuff just kind of bubbles up, so part of its that. So the process for me is really making sure Im feeding that conscious level and allowinggiving it time for the subconscious to brew and to put things in front of me. I dont know if that makes any sense or if I sound like a madman.

Has this been an approach that sort of has come to you more recently or have you had this approach going back to your earliest work?

Haley: I think Ive always had the approach. I think Ive just become a little bit more aware of it, especially in listening to Cleeses talk. Just in dealing withmy wife is an art director. So many of our friends are creative directors and art directors and designers and stuff. And one of my friends calls it thinkubation. Its just part of the process. It helps being aware of it, so that you can feed that conscious and then know to give that subconscious time to do its thing with the process.

Was there any apprehensivewe heard that you most likely signed like a 3-picture deal for this. Was there any apprehension for signing onto a picture that you could be playing the same character again and again?

Haley: A little bit. You know I definitely had to think about it. And it just kind of all boiled down to how do you not play Freddy Krueger. You know what I mean? It just like such a cool project. Such an iconic character and such a cool challenge. Clearly I wasnt thinking about all this shit glued to my head, but, yeah, it was like man too cool to not do, man.

Youre also on a new Fox show Human Target.

Haley: Yeah.

And obviously you signed on for TV, thats a multi-year contract. You signed onto thisthis is a multi-picture contract. Its conceivable you could be doing both things for the next little while. Were you a little nervous about that or are you sort of "bring it on"?

Haley: A little bit from the standpoint because it kind of takes me out of the game, but it takes me out of the game by being in the game, right? The TV seriesIm real excited about that. It should be a real fun kind of throw back to the 80s action type of films like Die Hard and stuff and kind of like the weekly action show of the week. Whats kind of cool about it is its a different type of character and Im also kind of really looking forward to acting every day for a period of I think it mightas an actor to grow to become a better actor is to work in that environment and to work every day for months. I think it would be a really good experience as an actor.

Where does the fearlessness come from? Where does the reserve come from because once again youre playing a character, like Rorschach, I mean a lot of fans are looking to you now. I mean, youre taking on a character that fans have followed Robert Englund for 8 or 9 films. Where does that come from and did you think about that at all--the fan reaction at all--or by the time you were done with Watchmen you were like I dont care?

Haley: Not sure. What are you asking?

Well, just asking in terms of were you afraid of the fan reaction once they see you?

Haley: Oh, in this?

Yeah, in this.

Haley: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. I think it would be kind of unhealthy if I wasnt. I think its just were re-envisioning this thing. Robert Englunds done an amazing job over the years playing Freddy. Everybodys thats a fan of Nightmare loves Robert and you know so thats a challenge when youve got to step in a big mans shoes like that, so its scary but its also exciting. You cant please everybody. All I can do is really just try to work from the heart and do the best job at playing Freddy that I can and hope for the best.

Have you met Robert?

Haley: No, I havent. But one thing Ill say and Ill probably keep saying this forever is that me and Robert arent competing with one another. The man is, like I said, hes played this part just awesomely over the years and Ive got nothing but respect for the guy and its a thrill to be able to get to step up and to be allowed to get to play this character, because its such an iconic character, like Rorschach, but the difference is one guy has played this character. Its not even like Frankenstein where its like youve got 20 guys playing Frankenstein over the years and so it makes it a little daunting, but it also makes it exciting and scary in its own right, too.

Was there anything specific that you drew upon or sort of borrowed from any of your earlier films that you wanted to bring to this or was it all sort of your own invention?

Haley: Well, besides the fact that its me playing it, yeah not really.

I mean there werent any like moments from the films that you were like I really like this detail and I want to sort of borrow this or something like that?

Haley: I dont think so.

(At that point we're told we have to wrap up the interview).

Haley: Thank you guys very much. I really appreciate it. Good seeing you guys.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET hits theaters on APRIL 30, 2010.

READ OUR SET VISIT HERE

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12:26PM on 02/23/2010
Jackie Earle Haley is the man.. i'm glad he's back in business
Jackie Earle Haley is the man.. i'm glad he's back in business
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1:48PM on 02/23/2010
The only redeeming quality to Human Target is Jackie Earl Haley's character. I wish they give him more screen time. About NMOES, I am calling it now that Jackie will be better than R.Englund.
The only redeeming quality to Human Target is Jackie Earl Haley's character. I wish they give him more screen time. About NMOES, I am calling it now that Jackie will be better than R.Englund.
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3:06PM on 02/23/2010
This guy's well on his way to some real success IMO. Anxious for this film's release for months now...2 months yet.
This guy's well on his way to some real success IMO. Anxious for this film's release for months now...2 months yet.
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8:47PM on 02/23/2010
I think this film will rock mainly because casting Jackie was a tremendous step in the right direction. I pray they figured out a way to get past his height issues though...
I think this film will rock mainly because casting Jackie was a tremendous step in the right direction. I pray they figured out a way to get past his height issues though...
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8:48PM on 02/23/2010
I think this film will rock mainly because casting Jackie was a tremendous step in the right direction. I pray they figured out a way to get past his height issues though...
I think this film will rock mainly because casting Jackie was a tremendous step in the right direction. I pray they figured out a way to get past his height issues though...
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6:59AM on 02/24/2010
Were you totally starstruck Eric?
Were you totally starstruck Eric?
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+0
11:42AM on 02/24/2010
In a way I was starstruck, but not because of Jackie (who is really cool though) but because of FREDDY! I mean, he was sitting right there, we were talking to f*ckin' Freddy Krueger! :)
In a way I was starstruck, but not because of Jackie (who is really cool though) but because of FREDDY! I mean, he was sitting right there, we were talking to f*ckin' Freddy Krueger! :)
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