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 Krueger in the new Nightmare on Elm Street reboot. But really, he’s a nice guy.
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“I think it’s probably my physicality,” Haley tells Metro as to why he keeps ending up in these sorts of roles.
“I also am drawn to characters that are kind of zingy. I don’t have a lot 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.
“The thing about him is he’s not real. It’s fiction,” he says. “I embraced the fact that this guy is that character in a campfire story. For some reason we like to sit around in the dark around the campfire when you’re out in the woods and stuff and hold the flashlight up to your face and giggle while we try to scare each other. That’s what makes this genre fun.”
Less fun was the idea of taking over for 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.”
Of course, taking on the role also included more practical challenges, like the six-hour sessions in the makeup chair to capture Freddy’s frightening countenance. “
You just kind of sit there. There’s not a lot to do,” Haley says of the morning ritual. “You can’t move much, not at all. I can’t read because I don’t have glasses. If I had really good eyesight, I could probably. It’s a lot of just sitting there zoning, learning how to meditate.”
But, he wants to make it clear, he is not complaining.