A Nightmare on Elm Street Set Visit – Part 1
Rusted tools sit atop an aging workbench, glimmering in the light of an eerie green backdrop. Makeshift gloves with metal blades attached to the fingers can be seen nailed to the nearby wall, their shadows looming over the decayed woodwork. Boiler pipes and wet concrete surround the area, and give way into darkness. Movie audiences would instantly recognize this setting from a horror film, and they’d be right! The Nightmare on Elm Street Companion, along with a group of select press, is on the set of Platinum Dunes’ upcoming reboot of the horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, originally released by New Line Cinema in 1984, introduced audiences to villain Freddy Krueger, the dream demon who stalked and killed teens in their dreams. Nightmare proved a success at the box office and ushered in seven popular sequels, making the diabolical Freddy Krueger a household name (seemingly) overnight. New Line Cinema, often referred to as “the house that Freddy built,” announced in 2008 that they partnered with production company Platinum Dunes to give audiences a fresh look at the terrifying world of Nightmare.
Reboot territory is certainty not new to Platinum Dunes—the production team of Brad Fuller, Andrew Form, and Michael Bay—known for their successful horror “re-imaginings” of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, and most recently, Friday the 13th. For this film, experienced music video director Samuel Bayer (David Bowie, Nirvana, Green Day) was brought on to head the picture, working from a script written by Wesley Strick (Cape Fear, Doom). Academy Award-Nominee Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) will star as Freddy Krueger, along with relative newcomers Rooney Mara (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary) as Nancy Holbrook and Kyle Gallner (Smallville) as Quentin.
The date is June 25, 2009, and it is a mild summer day in Chicago, Illinois where the cast and crew of Nightmare have been filming since mid-April. Crews busily attend to prepping a dream scene, as Mara and Gallner wait to be called on set. Producers Fuller and Form monitor crew progress, while Bayer assists with camera setup and positioning. Excitement is definitely in the air for this project and the Platinum Dunes team seems to be in good spirits:
“To us, it’s one of the best concepts for a horror film,” comments Fuller, on what attracted Platinum Dunes to Nightmare. “You fall asleep, you die. All you have to do is stay awake [to survive]. We find ourselves attracted to a very charismatic antagonist; charismatic either in their weaponry or their personality. I feel like Freddy is the jewel in the horror crown.”
As the crew continues to move props into place, Patrick Lumb, head of production design, briefly explains the scene’s look and what inspired the film’s visual design. “The inspiration for the film really came from the script,” says Lumb. “With all films, when I design them, it normally starts from script, which was kind of fun on this project because the script was good, but it’s been quite fluid, there’s been a few changes throughout. [With] this basement set, we could have made it all gray, concrete, dripping walls and, you know, loads of rust all over the place—so we’ve tried to do something a little different. It’s still a spooky, scary environment. The walls are fluorescent green—they’re not now because we’ve aged it down—but you try to make things slightly different. The closer things are to reality, I think the scarier they are.”
It isn’t long before movement winds down and everyone is told to take their places, the set is now ready. Mara is called in first and takes her position on an old dirty mattress, while Gallner follows and takes his position in a chair across the room. The two rehearse their scene a few times before Bayer shouts, “action!”
“Wake up, Quentin!” Mara yells, as she jumps up and struggles to awaken the sleeping Gallner. After filming multiple shots of this sequence, Bayer excuses the two and requests “the mold.” The film’s FX team brings in a slightly-larger-than-life mold of Gallner’s head and arranges it for the camera. After some testing, the FX team is ready and pushes an eyeball out of the mold’s right socket. Bayer, pleased, films multiple takes of the eyeball effect and later calls for the crew to prepare for the next shot.
Crew rush past us as we are led away from the basement set and meet up with William Dambra, property master, who asks in a sheepish tone, “Wanna see it?” Dambra opens a metal box and unveils Freddy Krueger’s iconic weapon of choice: the bladed glove. The redesigned glove’s workmanship is truly impressive here, paying homage to the original, but still retaining its own unique look. Gone is the backing metal plate of old, replaced with four vein-like metal pieces, which stretch from the wrist to the main four finger pieces. Each finger piece also has a blade affixed to the end of the fingertip, like the original glove, but the blades differ slightly in length, reflecting the difference in finger measurement. No acting is required with this prop either, as it is fully functional. The fingers, with blades attached, bend accordingly and give the wearer free range of “slashing” motion.
“It’s custom made,” explains Dambra. “We made a mold of [Jackie’s] hand, ‘cause I got a chance to see him when we were designing and making it. Then, we made some adjustments once he got here.”
Dambra elaborated upon the glove’s design, answering questions about the materials used to create Freddy’s trademark weapon. “It’s all copper,” clarifies Dambra. “We didn’t paint it, just the heat transfer [used] on the copper [made a] purple tint to it. It came out really well. That’s just a gardening glove – a regular leather gardening glove.”
Surprisingly, it isn’t the functionality one initially notices when trying the glove on, but rather its weight. It makes you wonder just how practical a weapon like this would be for a serial killer. “[The glove weighs] three or four pounds,” mentions Dambra about the glove’s surprising heft. “After awhile, it gets a little heavy.”
We receive word just as Dambra finishes that it is time to meet with the star of the film, Jackie Earle Haley. As Dambra places the branded glove back in its box, we are led away from the set and to the maze of trailers parked outside. After some maneuvering, we approach the star’s trailer, where Haley beckons for us to “come in.”
As we step inside, we see Haley is in full Freddy makeup, having just finished the application process. “It gets a little fuzzy in all of this makeup,” apologizes the actor. “So, hopefully I’ll make some sense.” The face of the new Freddy Krueger is noticeably different from the incarnation(s) audiences are used to. Haley, in the applied makeup, resembles a real burn victim—the detail amazing. A noticeable area of the makeup has also been painted green, for a CGI tissue/muscle effect, which will be added in post production.
“It’s pretty encumbering,” says Haley of the makeup, his pleasant demeanor betraying the sinister visual. “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 oddly motivating for the character between action and cut because it’s just such a weird feeling.”
It is clear from Haley’s makeup that this version of Freddy Krueger is going to be darker and more realistic than the character audiences have grown to love/fear. “I think he’s a bit more serious than what we’ve seen before,” teases Haley. “I’ll leave it at he’s probably a little darker.” As for what this version of Nightmare is all about, Haley adds, “I think we delve in a little bit more and we learn a little bit more [about Freddy].”
So, what are Haley’s thoughts about reinventing the character made famous by Robert Englund? “Well, how could you not play Freddy Krueger?” Haley muses aloud. “It’s such an incredible opportunity. Certainly fun playing the part and working on the film; it’s a kick.”
Click here to read A Nightmare on Elm Street Set Visit – Part 2!
Also, look for follow-up interviews with the cast, crew, producers and director of Platinum Dunes’ upcoming film “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
A Nightmare on Elm Street opens April 30, 2010.
All photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.