They’ve bought Leatherface back to the big screen, The Hitcher and Jason Voorhees too, now producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form reintroduce cinemagoers to the most iconic horror villain of all, Freddy Krueger. Adam Frazier talks to the prolific directing duo on the Chicago set of “A Nightmare On Elm Street”.
Q: So why Freddy this time?
Brad Fuller: We always loved the character. We wanted it for a long time. We pursued it for a really long time. Our company, for the most part, has been making these remakes, and we find ourselves always attracted to a very charismatic antagonist; charismatic either in their weaponry or their personality. I feel like Freddy is the jewel in the ground, really. Personally growing up, I loved those movies, and Michael loved those movies, and Drew loved those movies. You want to take a shot?
Andrew “Drew” Form: It seems like this one’s more real.
Q: More real, you mean, in tone?
Q: You mean versus Friday the 13th?
Form: Even the make-up and the one-liners.
Fuller: We went for that on Chainsaw also to try and keep that as real as possible. Even when Marcus came on to our first movie, the Chainsaw movie, he always said, “I want to make it like a snuff film, make it feel real, kind of like the original.” I think you’re right in what you’re saying in what we are trying to do with Nightmare. Sam came on and a lot of things we had heard early were, “How can you make Nightmare on Elm Street without Robert England?” That was the first thing. We hear everything out there, you know, the Internet. Obviously, we had to change the make-up. We had to change everything. We wanted Freddy to look like a real burn victim, and it started there.
Form: Also I think that if we’re going to try and restart this franchise or at least bring our take to the franchise, it had to be different from what the other one was. It felt like the first Nightmare on Elm Street was kind of a scary, straight ahead horror movie, and then as they went on, they became more funny. In an effort to differentiate ours from what it had become, we wanted ours to feel much more real. Is that right?
Q: One of the trademarks of your films, and I don’t think it’s any secret that you guys get some flack for it sometimes, is the back story idea. Where do these people come from as children or wherever they come from? Why do you guys think that’s necessary or what do you like about that aspect of these stories?
Fuller: I think when we’re making a movie, one of the first questions we ask ourselves is who’s our audience? For the most part we felt, whether we’re right or wrong, that our audience is really two groups of people. They’re the people who are going to go see the movie because they are fans of the original, and then there are groups of people who’ve heard of the title, but have never seen the films and who are not familiar with the legacy necessarily. When you have to balance those two groups and attempt to satiate both which I don’t know that we’re ever successful in doing it, but you can’t turn your back on either of those two groups. So we try to figure out a way to get the back story in there so that everyone’s up to speed by about ten to fifteen minutes into the movie. Everyone has the same amount of back story knowledge going forward. Does that make sense?
Q: I understand the plan, yeah.
Fuller: So what’s your problem with it?
Q: No, no. No problem. I’m just asking what do you like about it? Why do you think that’s a necessary element?
Form: I don’t think he was trying to necessarily tell a back story for everyone of these monsters
Fuller: I’ll tell you a story. On Friday the 13th when we tested the movie, there was no back story really in it necessarily. The first time we tested the movie it didn’t have that in it. We all felt that the movie would benefit story wise from having that there.
Form: The audience told us they wanted it.
Q: Is that a product of this generation, though, cause you look at the original Nightmare, and I mean, it starts. It’s Freddy, and you kind of find out about him along with Nancy. I think there’s something to be said about that type of horror movie. Why do we need to know everything?
Fuller: I don’t know that you need to know everything, but we feel in telling the story that in order to understand how scary he is, you have to understand some of the back ground. It’s a creative choice. We didn’t necessarily go into the back story on the first Chainsaw.
Form: We didn’t think we needed it there.
Fuller: No we didn’t, and we didn’t front load the Nightmare either with back story. On this movie you go on a journey with Nancy also. We don’t open the movie with here’s everything you need to know about Freddy and here you go. It’s throughout the film. You learn about him.
Q: How did you come to enlist Sam Bayer as a first-time feature director?
Fuller: Every one of our features we’ve gone with the first. That’s the mandate of our company: to give commercial and video directors the opportunity to direct their first film. When that’s the talent pool that you’re looking at for your films, Sam Bayer’s name always comes to the top of the list cause he is one of the best that there is and has been for a long time. Us going to Sam Bayer for this movie is nothing new. We’ve gone to him on a lot of other movies, and he’s passed on all of them. This was the first time that Michael actually convinced him to say yes. Drew and I went to his office and begged him, and he said no, and then Michael said, “Would you get involved?” Really, this was the first time in a long time…I don’t remember that with Andrew Douglas and with Marcus on the first movie…
Form: Those guys wanted those movies badly.
Fuller: I guess that’s true, but Michael really wanted Sam to do this movie, and I think that when Sam realized that, that made a big difference to him.
Q: Why did Michael really want him?
Fuller: Sam is a really talented director, and visually he’s as good as it gets. This movie, because so much of it is about dreaming and creating a visual landscape where people are going to get scared, he feels like he is the perfect guy to do it.
Q: I’m sure you guys have heard the stories that Wes Craven says he hasn’t been approached about the project and he was slightly offended by that. Do you have any reaction to that? Have you thought about actually contacting him for his blessing?
Fuller: As some of you know, we were not involved in the movie when New Line started writing its script, so they had already hired a writer. By the time we came onto the movie, the Wes Craven component of the dealings was already being decided, and we weren’t privy to any of that. Are we unhappy that he is not blessing the movie? Yeah. I’m a huge Wes Craven fan. I’m sitting here today because of the films that he made.
Fuller: Yes, but more than that, we got into this business because we love those movies, so is that an upsetting thing? Well, yeah, but I think there had to be some dealings that happened before we got involved in order to extricate the material so that they could bring on other producers. New Line didn’t include us in any of that, so we don’t really have a say in that. In this movie more than any movie we’ve ever made, we are truly producers-for-hire that they brought on. Like I said, they started developing the script. They had a draft of the script before we came on. We’ve never had that situation before. We’re guns-for-hire on this one. That doesn’t that mean we don’t feel as passionately about it as we do. We pursued it for two years to get it. This is New Line. This is one of their most valuable assets. You all know it as The House that Freddy Built, so they’re very protective about everything on this movie.
Q: How much has the script changed from when you guys came on board? Is it still pretty close to that?
Q: So it’s changed quite a bit?
Fuller: Yes. When you say “you guys” I want to be very clear that we have partners in New Line, so we’re all in it together, but yes, the script that was distributed on-line is a far cry from what it is now. It’s very different.
Q: I’m wondering how prevalent the dreamscapes and the nightmares will be. Will it be very [9:26?] or like David Goyer’s…I mean, will you have a lot of that other worldly aspect to it because I know that you do like to ground things in reality so much, but with Freddy Krueger, it’s about the dreams?
Fuller: I think that’s what drew us to the project in the first place. To us, it’s one of the best concepts for a horror film we’ve heard. You fall asleep, you die. All you have to do is stay awake. All the stuff you can do with your characters while they’re trying to stay awake and while they’re dosing off, and how you can blend the lines of reality and dream, and the audience never knowing until it’s too late if you’re in a nightmare or not. That’s what we talked with Sam about early is doing those transitions and how important those transitions are which are done very well in the original Nightmare when you’re not sure if someone fell asleep. Did they fall asleep? No they’re still awake. Tricking the audience – it’s a dream; no it’s not a dream, and then taking them all the way through until you’re truly in the nightmare, and it’s way too late, and he’s right there. Then bringing Sam in to elevate those nightmares with his visual style to a level that we never thought they could get to and they have. So yes, the nightmares are completely elevated in the movie.
Q: How early was Jackie on the radar, and can you talk about the process of finding your Freddy?
Fuller: Jackie was the man at the Platinum in our offices. That was the guy, from the get-go. That was it for us. Let’s dispense with the Robert England part of it first, and then I’ll get to the Jackie part. With Robert England, that was the decision that we made that we were going to try and start a new version of the Nightmare on Elm Street story. We felt in doing that it was important to have someone else play Freddy Krueger because if we didn’t, it would just feel like a sequel movie, and we didn’t want that to happen. Then you’re confronted with these huge shoes that you need to fill to play Freddy Krueger, and you know from the get-go half of your audience, maybe more, is gonna outright dismiss the choice cause they feel that Robert England should be the guy. We hear that loud and clear every day. What we tried to do to ameliorate some of that was to get the best actor that we could find and someone who can be creepy and who is an amazing actor because unlike our other movies, our bad guy needs to act. You can’t just chase someone. You have to act. When you look at the landscape, and at the time, we were hearing such amazing things about Watchmen, and we loved Little Children and it all kind of fell into place at least conceptually very quickly. Sam and I went out for drinks with Jackie early on in the process, and he was gun-ho and we really wanted him, and it just becomes a process when you’re casting that roll. You have all of New Line, all of Warner Brothers and everyone, and it just took a little while to get everyone on the exact same page, not just with him as the actor, but also he’s…I haven’t seen his deal necessarily or I’m claiming that I have, but there has to be an element to a second and third. I don’t know. It takes a long time to negotiate that deal, but the short answer he was the only guy who really worked for us. The fact that we have a guy who was nominated for an Academy Award playing Freddy Krueger is very exciting to us. It feels like it elevates our movie. In addition, the actors that we got to play all the other rolls, that list changed once we got Jackie, so there are even some actors potentially on set today who passed on the movie, and then when they saw that Jackie was involved, they changed their mind. It felt like getting him also elevated all the other rolls also.
Q: What is your slate for the next year?
Fuller: Our company is a tiny company. It’s Michael, Drew and myself, and we have an assistant. There’s no development person, and as some of you know, Drew and I are on set every day or at least we try to be on set. Drew has been on set for every movie, every frame shot, and I think I’ve been there for about 90% of it. There’s not an ongoing development process at Platinum Dunes where we’re getting new material and developing it while we’re shooting a movie. It kind of starts when we start a movie and then when this movie’s over, we lift our heads up and we say, “What are we going to do now?” Now having said that, we’re very excited about the prospect of making another Friday the 13th. We had a great time making that movie. It was a blast. We loved those kids and being outside. So many of our movies are contained and dismembering bodies in a basement and finally we’re outside running around, and that was a blast, and we’d love to go back and do another one of those. We’re getting a script in within the next couple of weeks, and hopefully if that script meets everyone’s expectations that would be our next movie. Beyond that, there are projects that we’re getting in that are kind of being developed and you know all of them. There’s nothing that you don’t know about, but frankly, beyond Friday the 13th Part 2, I don’t have any plans. Do you?
Form: I don’t.
Q: Do you have any special plans for Comic Con?
Fuller: We’re working on that now. We do. I don’t know what we’re going to show, but we want to show something. Hopefully, it’s footage. It might be still photos. I don’t know what it’s going to be. The unfortunate thing for us is that when we did Comic Con last year, we had so much time to look at our footage and cut some stuff together. Comic Con is two weeks after we wrap this movie, and it’s not like when we go home after this movie there’s a lot of time to go in the edit room or for Sam to be cutting. There’s not. On the weekends, we’re meeting and dealing with stuff. I mean, this has been a very intense process, the making of this film, so we’re not going to have the luxury of time to cut together this huge piece and present it there. That’s why I can’t be very clear on what it is because actually I don’t know yet.
Q: There have been some comments saying that ”Birds” isn’t happening. Do you think that’s still a viable project for you guys?
Form: The Birds is a really hard one for us. We have been developing it for years, and we have not been able to crack that story. We certainly have not given up on that one. We are right now looking for another writer, and we’ll see. It doesn’t feel like it’s on the horizon for us.
Q: Have you been offered any remakes that you guys didn’t want to touch?
Form: There have been things that we have been offered that we didn’t want to touch.
Q: And they are…
Fuller: We have our list. I don’t want to say what they were because other people took them, and I don’t want to make them feel bad. For us, we like the sexy titles, the really sexy titles. There are obscure titles that are great movies to remake, but that’s not something that we like to do necessarily. The Hitcher was not a mainstream horror title, and it feels like after Nightmare on Elm Street, I’m not sure what’s out there; what’s left for us. If we are able to make another Friday the 13th after that, Michael, Drew and I will sit in a room and lock ourselves in that room and figure out what we’re going to be doing after that and whether or not our company continues remaking horror movies or if we start focusing much more on original material or if we go into a totally different genre all together.