Newcomer Rooney Mara plays the ‘Nancy’ role – the part Heather Langenkamp played in Wes Craven’s original film – in director Samuel Bayer’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Moviehole caught up with the young actress on the Chicago set of the film.
Question: Were you a fan of the original film?
Rooney Mara: I was. I saw it when I was 12 years old, I think. I was at a slumber party, and the older sister of the girl I was friends with was watching it with her friends and I saw it, and I really wish I hadn’t seen it when I was 12 because it really scarred me for life. I remember Tina’s death just freaked me out. I had that image in my head for years, her flying across the room.
Q: Is it weird being in the remake now after all that?
RM: Yeah, it is. It definitely is. I’m glad I don’t have to do that, though [laughs].
Q: You get to survive.
Q: Was it overwhelming to take on the role of Nancy, who’s sort of the original “final girl”?
RM: It’s definitely a lot of pressure, but our movie and our Nancy are quite different, so I don’t feel so much like you can compare the two.
Q: Can you tell us something we don’t already know about this version of Nancy?
RM: Um, well she’s described as “goth.” She’s not at all goth, except for the fact that goths are usually coined as disturbed.
Q: You’re sporting some black nail polish…
RM: It’s purple! [laughs] She’s goth in the sense that she’s, quite obviously, disturbed and quite and keeps to herself and can’t really open up to people or connect with people. And she feels really alone in the world because of things that happened to her when she was younger. But throughout the movie you see that change, and you see her grow, so it’s a good arc.
Q: Have you heard any feedback or response from Heather Langenkamp?
RM: No, I have not.
Q: Would you like to meet her?
RM: Yeah, I would definitely like to after we finish, for sure.
Q: What was it about her performance that you liked in the film?
RM: I think everyone liked just how sweet and wholesome she was, but at the same time she was obviously very strong and a survivor and she never gave up. I think that’s what people liked about her, that she was a real girl; she wasn’t like a supermodel or just some pretty face. She was a real person.
Q: Can you tell us what you went through to get all bloodied up like that?
RM: Um, I don’t know. Am I allowed? It happens during a micro-nap. You guys know about the micro-naps, right? I happened during a micro-nap. It’s a really, really cool scene, actually. Happens in the pharmacy.
Q: Talk about working with Jackie and also the first time you saw him in the makeup.
RM: Jackie, Jackie. Jackie’s like the sweetest man ever. When I met him, I was like “Ugh, I have to stay away from him, I can’t talk to him because it’ll just make it too hard.” But that’s impossible because it’s kind of hard to stay away from him because he’s such a nice guy. And the first time I saw in his makeup was on the set, and I actually started crying when I saw him [laughs]. They wouldn’t let me see him until we had to do a scene together. So then he came out, and he had his monk thing so he can hide from everyone. And I was trying so hard not to cry.
Q: What was his reaction?
RM: I was like, “Oh my God, I’m going to cry.” And he was like, “Yeah, so am I.” [laughs] Because it’s quite painful and uncomfortable in all that makeup, which makes me feel really bad for him, which makes it hard do the things I have to do to him.
Q: Can you talk about Nancy’s art and that part of your character?
RM: Her art? Yeah, since Nancy was little–it shows it in the flashbacks–she’s been an artist. I think it’s her only outlet; she just does that, almost to the point of like the way someone with autism does things repeatedly. She’ll just literally paint all night long. And the things she painting are repressed memories that she can’t understand or remember, so her art’s quite dark, and she keeps painting the same things but doesn’t know where they’re coming from or what they mean, and she sort of starts to figure it out throughout the movie.
Q: So do we see her paint throughout the movie, or are they just paintings that were already done?
RM: Um, yeah, you see her painting as a little kid and then throughout the movie, you’ll see her art. But yeah, there’s pretty much just one scene where you actually see me painting. I’m a terrible artist.
Q: Do the dreams or Freddy interact with those paintings in any way, kind of skewed in the dream world?
RM: Um, well a lot of the things that I’m painting are, like, the preschool where everything happened or the boiler room. I’m painting all the things from my dreams.
Q: Did you do any research on your own into dreams or sleep? They talked about the micro-naps and stuff like that.
RM: I did. I did a lot of research on sleep deprivation and the effects of that. And I’ve been trying to sleep deprive myself, which has been less fun.
Q: Any special tricks you do, rubbing your eyes before a shot or stuff like that, that you do to look like you’ve been awake for 70 hours?
RM: The makeup pretty much does that, as you can see right now, I look quite hideous. But no, I just haven’t been letting myself sleep that much. If we have a really intense scene, I try not to let myself get more than three hours of sleeps, and after a few days that’s quite draining.
Q: Does the intensity sort of spill over? Does it get too intense for you at times as a person?
RM: It does. Last night when I went home I was like a wreck. I was really spent, because yesterday was really intense, because it was all day one of the most intense scenes in the movie, crying the whole day. Seventy-five takes of just bawling my eyes out. So yeah, it’s hard to get there and then get home and to leave it. So it has been hard because there are a lot of those scenes in the movie. Tomorrow, especially, is going to be really hard.
Q: So you’ve signed on to multiple ELM STREETs?
RM: I have one sequel in my contract.
Q: So the news story today that said you’d signed on for three films?
RM: I heard that, yeah, that’s not right. [laughs] I mean, there’s only so long you can stay awake, right? You gotta die sometime.
Q: Well, in the original, she reappears in the third film. The second film has nothing to do with anything.
RM: Right. We’ll see what happens. Me and Jackie always joke that we want the sequel to be THE BRIDE OF FREDDY–that me and Freddy run off together. [laughs] She gives into it: “I wanna be your girlfriend, Freddy.”
Q: Did you revisit all the movies before?
RM: No I didn’t. I didn’t want to. Kyle’s actually never seen the first one, so we’re going to watch them when we’re finished. I didn’t want to have that in my head, because it’s so different. I didn’t want that to affect my performance. But we’re definitely going to watch them when we’re finished.
Q: What about some of the Platinum Dunes films. Did you kind of bone up on them?
RM: No, I’ve never seen any of them. I can’t go to horror movies. I watched every horror movie when I was 12 to 16, every horror movie. Then something just…I couldn’t any more, especially, I really don’t like slaughter movies, like SAW. I can’t watch those. They’re just too…
Q: So how would you describe this one though? They’re saying it’s not quite as comedic as the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, so will people be traumatized? Is it kind of like that, torture?
RM: Yeah, but it’s not a slasher film. There’s a lot of story in this, and there’s a lot of story between each person’s death. You actually get to know the characters and you actually care about them before they die, which I think is different than the mindless gore that’s out there.
Q: Is that what drew you to it, because so many horror movies skip over the character development?
RM: Yeah, I wouldn’t have done it if it didn’t have that. I like psychological horror movies.
Q: Can you speak a little about to how Nancy’s strength in this one is different than how you remember it from the other ones?
RM: I think because this Nancy is coming from such a weak place to begin with, she’s just so alone in the world; the other Nancy was just a regular girl. This Nancy is very disturbed, so her growth is more. You get to see this girl come out of her shell, form a relationship with Quentin, and in the end she finally figures out why she is the way she is, and she’s able to do something about it.
Q: She embraces that?
Q: Can you talk about her relationship with her mother, because that’s such a big part in the original?
RM: Yeah, we still have a lot to do with the mother. I think her relationship with her mother in this is…they don’t really have much of a relationship, because I don’t think Nancy has much of a relationship with anyone. It’s really hard for her to get close or open up to anyone, including her mother.
Q: And the father?
RM: No father.
Q: No where to be seen? No police officer father?
RM: Nope. Daddy issues all the way–no dad.
Q: Is the reason that Nancy is the way she is when we first meet her–can I go out on a limb and guess that maybe it’s tied to Freddy?
RM: Definitely is tied to Freddy. [laughs] That’s why the payoff at the end is so good.
Q: I’ve heard some things about them changing Freddy’s backstory, so that he could definitely be interacting with your character as much younger children.
RM: Yeah, there’s a lot of backstory in this one. A lot. And yes, there’s a lot with the children that I’m not really allowed to talk about, but it’s really good.
Q: Can you talk about this scene and what’s leading up to it, and where we are in the story?
RM: This scene is way at the end of the movie. We’ve found the preschool that we’ve been looking for. WE go into basement, and where I just was is Freddy’s old bedroom. I don’t know how much I can reveal. Basically at the end, there are so many micro-naps, you never know what’s real and what’s a nap, a micro-nap. And you’ll see the second part of the scene. What I just shot isn’t real; it’s still a part of a dream. And you’ll see that when we film the second half of it.
Q: Do you have any ideas in your head where you’d like to see Nancy go in a sequel?
RM: Besides being the Bride of Freddy? No. I mean, where can she possibly go? She need to be in a white padded room. I don’t know. That’s a good question; I haven’t really thought about that yet.
Q: In the sequels, she’s a therapist for kids. It’s years later.
RM: Yeah. Nancy could definitely be a therapist. She’s definitely been through enough where she could understand people. I’m just trying to get through this. I haven’t really thought about the future of Nancy.
Q: What do you have going on after this?
RM: Nothing. I’m going to do some traveling.
Q: You’re in YOUTH IN REVOLT, right?
RM: Yeah, that’s coming out…we don’t know when that’s coming out. It keeps changing.
Q: I just started seeing posters for it.
RM: Yeah, they just came out with the poster. I can’t wait to see it, but I haven’t seen it yet. I think it’s going to be really good. I love the book, so I’m excited to see it. It was nice to meet you all.