Despite what his recent roles might suggest, Jackie Earle Haley is a very nice guy. Since his career-reviving role as a child molester in “Little Children,” he’s skulked the big screen as a misanthropic vigilante in “Watchmen” and mental patient in “Shutter Island.” Now he’s taking over for Robert Englund as iconic horror villain Freddy Krue-ger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot, hitting theaters Friday. But really, again, he’s a nice guy.
“I think it’s probably my physicality,” Haley says as to why he keeps ending up in these roles. “I also am drawn to characters that are kind of zingy. I don’t have a lot [of] interest to show up in stuff where the character’s just kind of laying flat, just kind of there. I like stuff that’s got kind of a real interesting arc.”
While exploring Freddy Krueger’s arc, Haley soon realized it wasn’t like any other character he’d played. “In my research, I started to go down this road of really looking at and getting serious about it,” he says.
That research included studying an encyclopedia of serial killers given to him by director Samuel Bayer. “But then I realized, I’m playing a boogie man! I’m playing a mythical boogie man, a monster,” Haley recalls. “I need to embrace that monster and embrace it inside this genre. It was incredibly freeing.”
Even so, he has no intentions of replacing Englund, who played Krueger in eight films and one television series. “He is synonymous with Freddy. You mention the word, we conjure that up,” Haley says. “For me it’s not a competition. You can’t compete with Robert. You just do your best and accept being second-place Freddy.”