DESIGNING THE NIGHTMARE … Seven, eight, gonna stay up late...
Essential to the mythology of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" are a number of indelible hallmarks from the original film that Bayer wanted to incorporate while creating an all new vision of Elm Street.
Freddy himself informs the world into which he draws his victims. Having died a violent death after being set ablaze, Fred Krueger, a mild-mannered gardener and caretaker at Badham Preschool, transforms into Freddy Krueger, the stalker of dreams.
To create the film's central image--Freddy's disfigured face--the filmmakers began with the reality of burn victims and took it into the realm of nightmares. Fuller remembers hours of discussion about what would be the scariest skin texture, and describes what they ultimately chose as "profoundly disturbing."
Once the design was in place, the filmmakers turned to veteran special effects makeup artist and designer Andrew Clement. "I wanted this to be textural and real," Clement reveals. "And, in keeping with horror makeup traditions, we really went for a terrifying, macabre design."
"Freddy now has a bit of a different look that's grounded more in reality," Haley observes. "Though his burned skin is very realistic, at the same time they put in undertones of a boogeyman on top of that, so he does not look anything like an actual burn victim. Andrew absolutely nailed the design."
For Haley, having hours every day to study himself in the mirror became part of his process for finding his way into the psyche of Freddy Krueger. "There's something about the process of building a character that I really find in working with the makeup, wardrobe and hair people," he says. "Looking in the mirror, it can become very motivating in the portrayal of the character. You start to get a sense of a whole other entity. It's very informative in playing the guy."
Prior to filming, a silicone life mask of Haley's head was molded so Clement could sculpt and modify Freddy's face. Early in production, the actor would sit in the makeup chair for up to six hours as Clement and his collaborator, Bart Mixon, adhered the layers of makeup appliances to Haley's head, neck and hands, with acrylic or silicone base materials, but once the rhythm became routine, the makeup time was cut in half. In addition, the makeup team needed to have a new set of appliances for each day's filming, and each piece had to be painted the afternoon before filming, a process that took up to eight hours every day.
In addition to all the on-set physical makeup effects, at times visual effects were incorporated to embellish the damage to Freddy Krueger's face, but in a subtle way. "We incorporated some digital green paint to Freddy's cheek that allowed Method, the visual effects company, the ability to create depth that could not be done with prosthetics alone," explains executive producer Mike Drake.
Beyond the face are Freddy's trademark torn red and green striped wool sweater and battered fedora. The process of creating these pieces began with the screenplay. "We looked at all of the things that we knew about him just on the surface and tried to find a deeper mythology, a deeper reason for why they become so such an indelible part of Freddy," says screenwriter Heisserer. "Why the fedora? Why the sweater? Why the glove? And in looking at that and placing him as a caretaker at a preschool, furthermore a gardener, we applied some base logic to why he became the character he is now. The gardening hand claws that he used in the landscaping of the preschool suddenly turned into the glove and blades."
Creating the pieces was costume designer Mari-An Ceo, who is a veteran of previous Platinum Dunes titles "Friday the 13th" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." "I wanted to do the 'Big Three,' and since I'd already done Jason and Leatherface, I figure that now, with Freddy, I've got the three horror jewels," Ceo smiles.
Ceo says that the mandate for the new "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was to create something that was at once fresh and familiar. "We decided to stay true to the fan base and what had already been created. I don't know how many people know this, but the red and green are two colors that, optically, the brain can't register properly. So that was something we took into consideration when designing the sweater."
Director of photography Jeff Cutter recalls, "Mari-An, Sam and I must have tested eight different sweaters under multiple lightings to pick the perfect one for the movie. It's surprising how dark the sweater is and how much more light we needed than we thought we would."
To fabricate Freddy's sweater, Ceo brought on Judy Graham, who actually knitted the original sweater worn by Robert Englund in Craven's 1984 film. "Judy has done work for me before," Ceo, relates, "but I hadn't realized she did the original Freddy sweater. So, we brought Judy back and she was meticulous and fabulous. It was great."
Ceo worked likewise closely with Haley and Bayer to find the perfect fedora. They chose a brown beaver fedora from Chicago's Optimo Fine Hats, which was then redesigned and aged to give the hat its battered look. "The hat went through a lot of changes. It was definitely an evolving process," Ceo notes.
Perhaps the most striking accoutrement of Freddy is his four-bladed glove, with which he leaves his signature mark of four bloody slashes upon his victims. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" prop master, William Dambra, oversaw the lengthy process of creating the glove--a standard gardening glove fitted with a set of four razor-sharp blades welded onto the back of the hand--working in collaboration with the filmmakers and production designer Patrick Lumb.
"It took us three or four weeks of picking apart drawings until we finally came up with a final concept," says Dambra, the Chicago native who had previously worked with Platinum Dunes on "The Unborn."
Utilizing the final illustration and molds made from Haley's right hand, different versions of the glove were then hand-fabricated by the special effects department rigger and welder Joe Mack, who hammered and welded them out of brass, copper and hardened steel. Several versions were assembled, including a rubber model for close-up stunt slashing work, one that sparked, and Freddy's "hero glove," all with blades ranging from five to seven-and-a-half inches.
Mack details, "Knowing that this is a glove that Krueger would have made, I made each individual piece hand cut and jagged, so that it looks like it was done in a garage." Mack says that each of Freddy's hero gloves are comprised of 39 individual handmade pieces.
"The guys did a great job on the glove," states Haley, who had to undergo multiple fittings over several weeks of all the wardrobe pieces in the film before everything fit perfectly. "There were a lot of times on set where I had to be very careful not to get it too close to the other actors or to fall on it."
For the Elm Street kids, Ceo had fun creating new looks while also paying homage to the original film. Katie Cassidy's character, Kris, for example, wears a T-shirt that marks one of the nods to the earlier film. "Johnny Depp began his career in the original 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' and he had the fabulous cut-off football '10' jersey on, so we did this modern version of it for Katie Cassidy," says the costume designer.
For the character of Nancy, who is an artist, Ceo had her wear clothes that she could have made herself.
A NEW ELM STREET .. Nine, ten, never sleep again…
Working with production designer Patrick Lumb, Bayer sought to use the locations to create a familiar suburban world so safe that Freddy's intrusion is all the more jarring. By contrast, Freddy's world was in part inspired by the dark, fantastical paintings of late 18th/early 19th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya. "What we tried to do was to base the dream world on the real world, and craft rich and exciting transitions between them," Lumb states. "Working on dreamscapes and inventing a world around Freddy was one of the great joys of this project for me."
The filmmakers found their classic Midwestern town in Chicago, Illinois, and surrounding suburbs, as well as neighboring Gary, Indiana.
With all the principal characters being students at Springwood High School, the production utilized two local high schools: John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, a northwest suburb of Chicago, for interiors; and Elk Grove High School in nearby Elk Grove Village, for exteriors and establishing shots.
The filmmakers shot during school hours, and enlisted hundreds of students and teachers to become background extras for the various sequences shot at the high schools.
In addition to exteriors, Elk Grove also offered a cavernous indoor swimming pool, where Quentin is a swim team member of the Springwood Mustangs, with his fellow swim team members being played by Elk Grove's water polo and swim teams.
The second week of filming took place entirely in the historic neighborhood of Jewel Park, a circa 1920s upper middle class suburb in the village of Barrington, Illinois. Linden Road, a winding street lined with large two-story homes, portrays the film's iconic Elm Street, where Nancy and Kris's homes are located across the street from each other. In homage to the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street," Nancy's home was numbered 1428 Elm Street, the same address Nancy had in the original.
One of the most cinematic and creepy locations was the historic City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana, an abandoned nine-story tall English gothic church, which now sits in picturesque ruins. This became the setting for one of Quentin's encounters with Freddy Krueger.
Freddy's most personal space is the steamy, fiery boiler room, a specter of the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" mythology. These sequences were filmed over four nights at a power station in South Chicago. The multi-level industrial facility was outfitted by the film's art and special effects departments to feature vintage boiler room equipment as well as steaming pipes, smoke, fire, dripping water, and big chains where Freddy could hang his victims.
The production also utilized the historic former ACME Steel plant (now the Beemsterboer Steel Plant) and nearby training center in Chicago, which the art department transformed into the Badham preschool, where Fred Krueger worked as a caretaker 15 years earlier. "The steel plant was very industrial and down and out, but it was perfect for us," Lumb remarks. "We did an extensive amount of work on the exterior and the interior. The classrooms were all fabricated from the doors, to the color on the walls, to the flooring, and everything else. One of the nice things about the preschool set is you feel a little bit enclosed. It's kind of ominous in a way because it's similar to a jail cell, but at the same time you can 'friendly it up' to give the illusion of safety, even though it's anything but safe."
Other notable Chicago area locations included Bluff City Cemetery, a late 19th century gothic cemetery in Elgin; Powell's Bookstores in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood; Michael Reece Hospital in Chicago; Hawthorne Pharmacy in Cicerop; and the ultra-modern Orland Park Police Station in Orland Park, the first LEED (Leadership in Environmental Design) Gold Certified Police Station in the U.S.
Many of the film's interiors, along with some green-screen sets, were erected on two soundstages at Chicago Studio City, an independent studio and production services facility. Over the course of three weeks of filming on stage, some of the prominent sets included the charred and water-filled classroom sets from Kris's nightmare; Kris's bedroom sets; Nancy's art-filled bedroom where Freddy stretches out from the wallpaper above her bed, and the bathroom where his bladed hand emerges from under the water.
The burnt classroom and water-filled classroom sets were among Lumb's favorite, and most challenging, sets to design. For the water-logged classroom, Lumb referenced a book of photographs from the New Orleans flood from Hurricane Katrina to give these nightmarish images a solid basis in what could be.
Producer Bay credits Bayer for creating a film that seamlessly juxtaposes the physical world and the dream world that is Freddy's domain. "In many ways, they're dark mirror images of each other," he asserts. "Both are very real, very visceral, but the safety and security of this comfortable and suburban town and high school become the lie, because the dream world is where these kids have to fight for their lives. They have to believe in it completely, and the audience also has to believe in it completely. Sam did an incredible job creating this jarring dichotomy."
Bayer reflects, "It's an urban fairytale. It's what scares you. As the kids in the movie fight so hard to stay awake, the switch between the real world and the dream world happens even more quickly, so it's a ride. But we wanted to create a situation in which this nightmare scenario is grounded in truth, to the point that you wonder, 'Can someone actually kill you in your sleep?'"