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 donít know.
We have to reflect on how this works in the full light now.
Haley: These guys did an amazing job with it. Itís incredible.
How hard is it to act through all of that latex?
Haley: Iím still kind of trying to figure this stuff out. Itís kind of torturous for me. Itís 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, itís kind of odd, man. Itís almost like Iím wondering if I can even like play this character if it wasnít on.
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 itís like what they do on top of this too is they throw in contact lenses and theyíre huge so itís like scratching your eyes. You can barely see out of one. Itís kind of a trip so itís oddly encumbering and oddly empowering as the character, but itís like Iíve got fingertips glued on here and then they put the glove on so I canít tie my shoes. I canít pee. Itís 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, itís like now Iím living it. Itís like he said heíd come out of that trailer as The Comedian just ready to fucking kill somebody. And itís 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 Iím 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, Iíve got one.
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, itís 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 toÖthis version of Freddy is I think weíre focusing more on the less camp and a little bit more of the scarier side. More of a serious side. And thereís definitely, I think, a little more focus on, you know what makes this guy who he is? And so thereís a little bit of a deeper kind of look at him. But at the same time itís 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 Iím looking at it and itís likeÖ it was a total slasher movie. And it kind of pissed me off. And thatís when I realized Iím playing a boogeyman, you know? So thatís what Iím 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 whatís happened and to see what makes him who he isóto see whatís made him the boogey-man that he is.
But I think itís really important that Robert Englund and New Line has done such a fine job over the years of creating this world and this character. Itís 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? Itís neat to get to re-envision it but at the same time you donít want to go so far that weíve left what makes it so kind of cool and bitching. Iíve never been a big horror genre fan, but I did go see ďNightmare on Elm StreetĒ 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.
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, thatís 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 somethingís up. To me, that seems more scary. Thereís even more uncertainty knowing that whoa, somethingís driving this and itís real and itísÖyou know what I mean? But itís just not making any real sense. You know it makes sense to him though and thatís whatís scary about it. Did that make sense?
How did you go about developing the voice for Freddy this timeóyour take on it?
Haley: Iíll let you know when weíre done.
You said something similar when you were on ďWatchmenĒ doing Rorschach.
Haley: Yeah. This, to me, Iím kind of a compartmental actor. I mean, this really throws me for a loop sitting with you guys right now, but I mean itís cool but itís like Iím so in the middle of it now. I feel like when weíre done Iíll have been able to process it and then really okay, what did I do? You know? Right now Iím just kind of in the middle of it, so Iím still kind ofÖ
Is there a process though before the day before shooting, the week before shooting, the months before shooting when youíre doing makeup tests and youíre 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, thereís a process. Itís 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 itís kind of aboutÖitís not about sitting down and letís try voices although sometimes you do that, you know what I mean? But itís just about kind of like working with the material, thinking about it and sometimes things will happen while youíre just driving your car. Itís when youíre not thinking about it, all of a sudden stuff bubbles up. I believe strongly in like thinkubation. Itís like I recently I went and saw John Cleeseís college tour where heís 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 itís all this subconscious thatís 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. Thatís creative idea. Itís, 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 itís that. So the process for me is really making sure Iím feeding that conscious level and allowingÖgiving it time for the subconscious to brew and to put things in front of me. I donít 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 Iíve always had the approach. I think Iíve just become a little bit more aware of it, especially in listening to Cleeseís talk. Just in dealing withómy 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. Itís 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 itís thing with the process.
Was there any apprehensiveÖwe 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 wasnít thinking about all this shit glued to my head, but, yeah, it was like man too cool to not do, man.
Youíre also on a new Fox show ďHuman TargetĒ.
And obviously you signed on for TV, thatís a multi-year contract. You signed onto thisóthis is a multi-picture contract. Itís 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 seriesÖIím real excited about that. It should be a real fun kind of throw back to the 80ís action type of films like ďDie HardĒ and stuff and kind of like the weekly action show of the week. Whatís kind of cool about it is itís a different type of character and Iím also kind of really looking forward to acting every day for a period of I think it mightÖas 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 youíre playing a character, like Rorschach, I mean a lot of fans are looking to you now. I mean, youíre 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 ďWatchmenĒ you were like I donít 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 wasnít. I think itís just weíre re-envisioning this thing. Robert Englundís done an amazing job over the years playing Freddy. Everybodyís thatís a fan of ďNightmareĒ loves Robert and you know so thatís a challenge when youíve got to step in a big manís shoes like that, so itís scary but itís also exciting. You canít 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 havenít. But one thing Iíll say and Iíll probably keep saying this forever is that me and Robert arenít competing with one another. The man is, like I said, heís played this part just awesomely over the years and Iíve got nothing but respect for the guy and itís a thrill to be able to get to step up and to be allowed to get to play this character, because itís such an iconic character, like Rorschach, but the difference is one guy has played this character. Itís not even like Frankenstein where itís like youíve 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 itís me playing it, yeah not really.
I mean there werenít 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 donít 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.