Jackie Earle Haley has played some of the most tortured souls in cinematic history – in “Little Children”, in “Watchmen”, and recently, in “Shutter Island”. In “A Nightmare On Elm Street”, he plays the one torturing the souls! Adam Frazier meets the Oscar Nominated actor on the Chicago set of director Samuel Bayer’s remake.
Q. Robert Englund once said that the hero glove for Freddy Krueger was the instant circumcision kit. Have you ever had any mishaps?
JEH: That’s a good line. Yeah, I constantly worry about that, but so far there’s only been one time where I had to call Andrew, the designer of this make-up, so that I could ask, ‘Did I just cut into this appliance?’ But aside from that, it is always on and, you know, I worry about, oops.
Q. How does it feel under there right now?
JEH: It’s pretty encumbering. All of this stuff is just glued, from here all the way to the back, every square inch of my back has got appliances glued to it. It feels like crap when you’re sitting around, but it’s kind of oddly motivating for the character between action and cut because it’s just such a weird feeling. You know, I’ve got fake fingertips over here and the glove over here. I’ve got a cloudy contact and I can’t see out of this eye at all and this one’s bloody and I can kind of see out of it and of course I don’t have my glasses so the whole experience is just this weird thing, but it oddly helps for Freddy once we’re moving. Whenever I perform Freddy, all of this is going on so I’m able to, I don’t know, it’s part of the experience; I don’t even know how to describe it.
Q. Are you a fan of the original films?
JEH: I remember the, I wasn’t like a huge horror fan growing up. Certain ones I really loved and I do remember being very intrigued by this one. I actually saw the first one in the theater and I dug it. The whole concept was just really neat. Of this group of monsters from the mid-80s, he was always the most interesting to me because there was some depth to him that drew me in. It made me curious what made this guy tick, as opposed to the other one’s where it was just kind of masks and people running at you.
Q. Did you go back to it before this?
JEH: Yeah, I re-watched the first one and I’ve seen bits and pieces of the other ones. I was kind of, the process is like, ‘Wow, should I pour through every bit of this?’ For a while I was even like, ‘Should I even watch any of it.’ Then I decided it was probably a good idea to watch the first one and I’m glad I did. It really got me back into everything that was going on and I think that’s the one that we’re mostly paying homage to and redoing.
Q. Freddy is one of the few monsters that actually talks. How long did you work on the voice?
JEH: There’s kind of a voice. It’s me. A lot. Trying different things, just providing information to my conscious level so that the subconscious could kind of brew on it. You know, while I’m driving around different sounds would come out. I really found it motivating to go with this face into the mirror and just kind of play around a little bit.
Q. What was the deciding factor to take this because in ”Watchmen” your face is also obliterated?
JEH: I’m trying to become Lon Chaney. I’ve got 998 more roles to go. You know, I first heard about it on the internet. People were suggesting me for the part and it immediately grabbed my attention because the character was so iconic. The more I thought about it, I was like, ‘Well how could you not play Freddy Krueger?’ Its just such an incredible opportunity. Fun and different, to get to do this kind of genre film is neat. I haven’t done of of these.
Q. Do you worry about being locked into playing Freddy Krueger for years?
JEH: Well, you know, I’m signed on for a few of them, so I think it could be great. Aside from the few I’m signed on to do, we’ll have to see where we’re at.
Q. Obviously the plan would be to keep it dark it would seem as opposed to say, hosting MTV specials in makeup like Robert Englund did.
JEH: No but it’s certainly fun playing the part and working on the film. It’s a kick.
Q. How long does the makeup take?
JEH: I think we’ve got it down to like three hours and twenty minutes. Today was about four and a half hours because we added the top. A lot of times this doesn’t need to be here because I’m wearing the hat. It’s great when this isn’t here because I can get a little air into my brain.
Q. Can you talk about the process of it? What do they do first?
JEH: It’s a bunch of different appliance pieces that were designed by Andrew Clement – you know the whole look. And then they break it down into several pieces and they kind of put it on one at a time, these various pieces, and then they blend all of the edges together and slowly blend it into this one piece. At the end of the night it takes about 50 minutes, so still an hour to go when everybody’s done. At the end of the day, it literally looks like it’s all one piece just because it’s all melded together. It’s really fascinating what they’ve done.
Q. Does sitting in the chair all those hours make you reconsider the part or are you getting used to it?
JEH: You know, I’m getting used to it now. At first, the first few times I was kind of thinking, ‘Oh man, what have I done?’ But then when I saw the pictures, because you know I can see in the mirror but I wear glasses and everything’s a little fuzzy. The next day I had my glasses on and Andrew brought his computer and showed me some pictures and it’s like, that’s worth it. It’s such an incredible new look. You just kind of picture this with all of the Freddy elements that we know – the hat and the sweater and the glove and the whole thing. This is just grounded in a little more reality I think. It’s bad-ass. It really made it worth it. Slowly over time I’ve been getting a little more acclimated. At first I had no filter. They’d throw all this makeup on and I’d go out and I’d lost my political filter. So I slowly got used to this and I’m more of a normal human being.
Q. Did you shoot in the makeup first before the scenes of Freddy out of makeup pre-accident?
JEH: I think one of the first things we shot was pre-burn Fred just coincidentally. I mean, they are kind of oddly separate. They are kind of related. In a sense, it’s kind of a, it’s the same guy but it’s before the transition, before the metamorphosis. So I think, a lot of what Fred was drove who Freddy is, but there are still different beings in there.
Q. You mentioned becoming the new Lon Chaney, but you are actually carving out a niche as these psychologically damaged characters. Are these fun for you to play?
JEH: I think what I was playing before was tortured souls, so I figured in this one I’d play the torturing soul.
Q. What is Freddy’s demeanor like?
JEH: I think he’s a bit more serious than what we’ve seen before.
Q. So he’s not as gleefully evil? What’s his intent as he’s stalking these people?
JEH: Well, I’ll leave it at, it’s probably a little darker, a little more seriousness. There’s some of that gleefulness, but it’s probably a little more serious. A little more pissed.
JEH: Perhaps, yeah.
Q. How much more do we get to know Freddy as opposed to the original series?
JEH: I think everything we’re doing is definitely related. But I do think we delve in a little bit more and we learn a little bit more. But it’s very based on stuff that we’ve learned prior.
Q. Can you talk a little about ”Shutter Island”?
JEH: Oh man, I had a blast working on Shutter Island. Imagine getting to act this far away from Leo and Marty is the guy coming up between takes directing. That was a little bit of a dream there. And it’s just a wonderful book and the screenplay adaptation kicked butt. Leo’s incredible. Being on the set working with Marty, everything he’s doing has some kind of story. ‘The first guy that did this was in 1922 and then the guy that picked up in 1937.’ (Laughs) He’d go through this whole litany of the very first shadow that was cast in a movie and how he did it effectively. It was just cool. I recently saw the trailer and I was like, ‘Wow, that looks badass. I can’t wait to see the movie.
Q. Are you signed up for anything else after this?
JEH: I’m going to start a television series called Human Target. That looks pretty exciting, so I’ll be working. That’s what I’ve got in the works right now. It’s gonna keep me pretty busy if the people love it and it gets good ratings and stuff. I’m going to be a busy camper for a while.
[On set before a throat slashing scene]
JEH: They look great. The ones with the real blades on, they rock. Very cool.
Q. Is that one more comfortable? The one they were passing around felt pretty heavy.
JEH: This is a little lighter, but I’ve kind of gotten used to the ones with blades. They’ve kind of gotten second nature. Like I said, on that one time, I was like, ‘Andrew, did I just cut that…’
[pointing to green paint on face] I guess this is for the computer guy to track. Cool stuff. We get these scenes where we dig into them as actors and then there are the scenes that are all about film. Snippety stuff, just like we did earlier. This little moment, two or three seconds of it. Of course, in the sense of the whole scene it ends up cutting in really great. In the filmmaking process, it’s kind of weird because you do this, just these little shots.
Q. Have you gotten some looks at what will fill in the neon green?
JEH: Ah, yeah, I think it’s gonna be kind of like what you guys saw earlier, just with a little more depth and stuff moving around a little, I hope. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a little vein jumping here or there.