Playing an iconic supernatural killer such as “Friday the 13th’s” Jason or “Halloween’s” Michael Myers is a huge responsibility for whoever is under the villain’s mask. Stepping into the iconic black and red sweater, black fedora and razor-tipped glove Robert Englund made famous as Freddy Krueger? Only a truly brave actor would be willing to go there. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jackie Earle Haley.
Hollywood’s comeback kid after his surprise Best Supporting Actor Oscar-nomination for his role in “Little Children,” Earle Haley made one of the biggest gambles of his career replacing fan favorite Englund in Samuel Bayer’s reboot of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” The highly-anticipated horror flick brings the avenging dream killer back to his favorite haunt to try and kill sweet Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her not-so innocent friends. The lowdown on this new “Nightmare? A lot of high school students die so that one (or maybe more) can live.
Speaking to the press Monday as he prepared for “Nightmare’s” opening this week, Earle Haley was first asked one of the most obvious questions you can ask after playing Freddy Krueger: Any tips for scaring the heck out of people?
“Yeah, I got four of them,” Earle Haley deadpans referring to Krueger’s deadly sharp glove.
The 48-year-old actor can joke about it now, but the makeup he endured to play the iconic Freddy Krueger was anything but fun. Earle Haley, who also stars on FOX’s new series “The Human Target,” described the three-hour application process (which initially took six hours) as “the most cumbersome, arduous stuff I’ve ever dealt with.”
“They are painstakingly gluing this [stuff] down. It’s all the way up to my eyes and on my eyelids. I mean poking and prodding,” Earle Haley says. “I remember sitting there and thinking ‘It has to be better going to the dentist.’ Since then I have been to the dentist and I was right.”
It wasn’t just the facial makeup that Earle Haley had problems getting acclimated to. Artists would also apply “burned skin” to his fingertips on one hand and the other hand was outfitted with Freddy’s signature four-razor sharp glove which made it difficult to do the most menial of tasks such as taking things out of his pocket. But even that wasn’t the worst of it.
Earle Haley admits, “Surprisingly, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the contacts. One would go in this eye and I couldn’t see and it was kind of foggy and I couldn’t see out of the other one because it was bloody and for some reason that would make me recede even more internally. I would just feel apart from the group and everything. The best thing to do was just sit somewhere and wait until they were ready. I would just take all of that odd [or] otherworldly feeling and I would give it all to Freddy between action and cut. It was just weird upon on weird.”
One of the reasons the “Watchmen” star endured the transformational process was because of the fond memories he had of Wes Craven’s original 1984 thriller.
“I am not a big horror genre fan and when I saw the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ trailer in the mid ’80s [it made me see] this one in the movie theater because it kind of turned me on,” Earle Haley recalls. “It’s kind of has a paranormal concept to it in terms of the whole dreamscape aspect. I dug it. This was kind of a part of a group of films, the ‘Friday the 13th’s,’ the ‘Halloweens,’ and stuff this one always held more interest to me. I always thought it was developed better and more multi-dimensional. Not just the monster, but the rest of the characters.”
And as for the urban legend he auditioned for the original movie but buddy Johnny Depp got the breakout part instead (here played by Thomas Dekker), Earle Haley makes it clear that’s just a rumor. He notes, “It is possible that I auditioned for ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and don’t remember. It is possible that I could have been sitting next to Johnny in the waiting room. That’s the only thing I can figure where that started from.”
After months of hard work on this new “Nightmare,” however, Haley is just pleased his portrayal is initially receiving positive reaction.
“At this point when you say it’s scary I’m going ‘Cool!’ because I don’t know yet. I sure hope it’s scary! I saw the movie and I liked it a lot, but I’m kind of close to it too,” Earle Haley says. “So, from the Freddy aspect I’m sure we’ll hear all sorts of different opinions.”
He will indeed.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” opens nationwide this Friday, April 30.