For a man who has played not one, but two, of pop culture’s most iconic characters in recent years, Jackie Earle Haley is surprisingly unassuming. At the recent San Francisco WonderCon, a casually-dressed Haley chatted with Associated Content and other members of the press about playing Freddy Krueger in a brand-new “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie.
Jackie Earle Haley moves from Rorschach to Freddy Krueger
In 2009, WonderCon attendees were anxious to see Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, the ultimate vigilante, in the movie adaptation of the “Watchmen” graphic novel. Less than a week before “Watchmen” arrived in theaters, fans got a sneak peek of Haley as Rorschach dispatching a prison inmate with boiling hot cooking oil.
One year later, the “Nightmare on Elm Street” fans who braved the wet San Francisco weather saw the man who who has recreated Freddy Krueger for the big screen. During an interview in Press Room 300, Haley said the process of playing Krueger involved looking at the original film with Robert Englund.
“It was darker in tone than the rest (of the movies) that followed. I looked at the stuff that Robert did, but I didn’t want to look at it from the standpoint of ‘What can I copy?’,” Haley said. “I knew I needed to come at this where the character was familiar, but new. If I went too far and changed him to the point where you couldn’t recognize him, it would be taking it too far.”
“We are literally starting over…”
After the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” debuted in theaters in 1985, fans noticed that the sequels became campier and less scary as time went on. “We are literally starting over. The first thing that Sam (director Samuel Bayer) told me is he wanted this movie not to be a comedy,” Haley said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not room for a little levity here and there. Starting over, it was important to get to that serious, darker and scarier tone. I think that’s what is going to be new about it,” he said.
Freddy Krueger as the mythical Boogeyman
While getting a handle on the Freddy Krueger character, director Samuel Bayer sent Jackie Earle Haley a book on serial killers. “It was a big book-there must have been a thousand serial killers in this book. I kind of keyed into Ed Kemper, and I’m starting to wrap myself around this guy’s head,” Haley said.
In the early 1970’s, Edmund “Big Ed” Kemper picked up female college students who were hitchhiking in California. Many reached their destinations in one piece, but Kemper admitted to murdering at least 6 co-eds. “I’m starting to delve into it (Kemper’s story) and I noticed on the Internet that they had done a movie on this guy (2008’s ‘Kemper’). I went and clicked on it and it was a slasher movie. That kind of upset me. There was this serial killer and they turned it into a slasher movie,” Haley said.
Haley said, however, that he realized that he was going down the wrong road at that point in his preparations, that his job was not to get inside and understand the mind of a serial killer. “My job was to embrace the fact that this (Freddy Krueger) was the main character of a campfire story. He was a mythical Boogeyman. When I realized that, it was incredibly freeing to go after this character,” he said.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, April 30
TruTV.com, “Edmund Kemper: The Co-Ed Butcher,” Katherine Ramsland