Coming of Age on Elm Street

Posted on: September/1/1989 12:01 AM

Proclaiming herself Freddy’s first equal, Lisa Wilcox vows: “Wimp, no more!”
By: Marc Shapiro

Published in Fanorgia #86.

Lisa Wilcox was stocking up on munchies at a local Stop ‘n’ Shop not too long after A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master hit the bricks, when a crazed Valley girl rushed up and gasped “Ohmygawd! It’s you!” right in the actress’ face. This recognition did not so much annoy her as it did surprise her. “It was strange,” shrugs Wilcox as she prepares to leave her trailer for another day on Freddy’s turf. “Up until that point, I hadn’t really been recognized much, because I look nothing like Alice. See?”

To illustrate the point, the actress tugs on her natural blonde hair. It’s a color that reflects the more upbeat overall attitude and appearance taking Wilcox’s alter ego Alice on her second trip down Nightmare alley. “Yeah,” chuckles Wilcox, “in the last film I was rinsed out and wimpy. Now that I get to look so much like I actually do, maybe I’ll sign a few more autographs and start landing better tables in restaurants.”

Wilcox had a sense that she would get a second chance to butt heads with America’s favorite dream killer while still working on The Dream Master. “It all became official at the wrap party when the producers came up to me and said they were already starting on the Nightmare 5 script and wanted to know if I would be interested in playing Alice again. I said sure!” Her eagerness to once again trip the Elm Street fantastic was rewarded with a Nightmare 5 screenplay that allows the actress room to move. “This script has more acting moments for Alice than Nightmare 4 did,” smiles Wilcox. “I’ve got more dialogue, and there’s more of a sense of reality about my character. I’m not just playing off special effects in this movie, I get to relate to real people in real situations.”

“My character has definitely changed between these two films,” she goes on. “Alice started out very introverted, and even though she beat Freddy and became more confident, she still ended up pretty fearful. In this film, she’s still got that confidence but also a sense of outrage that makes her almost a madwoman. She’s stronger, more aggressive and more willing to fight for her loved ones, more willing to put herself on the line. My character’s definitely in control now, especially when it comes to dealing with her pregnancy. Alice’s motherly instincts are popping out all over the place, and that’s what drives this character.”

The character’s pregnancy and Freddy’s attempts to corrupt the unborn child are pivotal to Nightmare 5’s story, but Wilcox found the gravity of teen pregnancy was largely ignored in early drafts. “The first few versions of the script completely ignored things like abortion and adoption, things that teenagers have to contemplate,” she frowns. “Fortunately, the writers and producers realized that even though this is a horror film and a fantasy, teen pregnancy is an important issue that must be dealt with in a realistic manner. They added certain elements to the Alice character to explore the situation.”

More than merely waxing dramatic, Wilcox has her share of FX and physical challenges to face in this film. “I never work out,” jests Wilcox. “I just do Nightmare on Elm Street movies.” For a sequence in which Freddy attempts to take over her body from within, Wilcox got “Freddyized.” She also had the opportunity to develop her deltoids in the Freddy death sequence. “I impale Freddy with a baby stroller,” she enthuses. “They had the stroller weighted down with heavy bags to keep it in line with the camera angle. The stroller and bags together must have weighed 400 pounds. To push this thing into Freddy in a believable manner, I had to get a running start from the other side of the set.”

At the mention of Freddy, Wilcox adds that her relationship with Robert Englund remains a good one… as long as she keeps her eyes closed . “I was really nervous around Robert on Nightmare 4 until I got used to his makeup,” she shudders. “I just couldn’t look at him. In this, he’s a little bit easier to look at.”

Interestingly, Lisa Wilcox landed the part in The Dream Master after receiving total rejection on Nightmare 3. “I had tried for a part in Nightmare 3 and didn’t get it,” the actress recounts. “When I was set to audition for the Alice role in Nightmare 4, the casting director told me to forget it because I looked too much like a cheerleader. They were looking for a real wimpy girl for the part. They auditioned about 500 actresses and couldn’t find anybody they liked, so at the last minute, I was given a shot. I remembered what the casting director said, so on the day of my audition, I basically wimped myself out. I wore no makeup, wore my worst color (which is yellow) and just showed up looking like hell. Their reaction was, ‘Is that Lisa Wilcox? ‘ After they got over their shock, they gave me the role.”

Before Wilcox went before the Nightmare 4 cameras, the good folks at New Line sent her to a hairdresser and a karate instructor. “That ‘s right,” she beams. “I did my own martial arts bits and also trained to use the numchuks. The hair people really did a job on me. I would get my hair rinsed out every day to get that ‘Alice’ look.”

Born and raised in Missouri, Wilcox did not opt into acting so much as she fell into it. “I was a freshman at UCLA,” she nods. “One day I went along with a friend of mine who was auditioning for a play. She kept bugging me to try out, so I did. I ended up getting the lead in the play Hot L Baltimore.” The student went on to garner a Theater Arts degree at UCLA and subsequent work in such plays as Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, Buried Child and Stage Door. Wilcox’s resume also includes recurring roles on the daytime soap opera Gen era l Hospital and the nighttime soap Falcon Crest, as well as guest star credits in episodes of Hotel, McGyver and It’s a Living.

As is the case with most horror heroines, Wilcox found herself deluged with further t error offers after her appearance in Nightmare 4. “I was offered Phantom of the Mall, Friday the 13th Part VIII and just about every horror script floating around at the time,” she lists. “I turned them all down: I feel the Nightmare films are the classiest of the genre, and I don’t want to do anything less than the best.” Especially when the best has required such emotional demands from the actress. “This movie is really a tough one to unwind from, once I’m finished for the day,” Wilcox divulges. “I’ll go home and thrash around for three hours before I can relax again. I also went through a few weeks where my husband was complaining about the late hours when we were s hooting on location. Now that we’re back on the soundstage. I’m getting home at a reasonable hour, so everybody’s happy.”

Wilcox, a horror film fan from way back, has seen all the Nightmare films. Consequently, she’s in a good position to assess how Alice stands up to Freddy ‘s previous horror combatants. “Alice is different from the other Nightmare girls in that she’s fighting Freddy on essentially even terms,” she points out. “The others ultimately gave Freddy a hard time but never because their powers were equal to those of Freddy Krueger. Alice’s are.” Wilcox’s character survives this latest Elm Street encounter with Freddy. Should eager Freddyphiles infer that she will become the first actress to do a third Nightmare film? “Let me put it to you this way,” Lisa Wilcox decides. “I survive and so does the Dream Child. So if they bring back the baby in the sixth film, I guess they have to bring back the mother.”