An interview from the site First Scream to the Last with screenwriter Eric Heisserer whose movie credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing as well as writing his directorial debut Hours.
Were you a fan of the original Elm Street, and what did (and didn’t) you want to achieve with the remake?
The original remains one of my all-time favorites, although I think of the series Dream Warriors is the best.
The reboot was tricky for a number of reasons, not the first of which was that I was inheriting a few bits of story from the Wesley Strick draft. (Strick had been hired to write a draft of the film long before I was brought in, and the studio decided to go in a new direction.) In that version, the studio and producers liked the idea that Freddy Krueger should be initially seen as some innocent man wronged by the town, and the dream murders are h is acts of vengeance. Strick had explored this a little in his draft, and they wanted to keep that in play.
The other piece I inherited was the idea that Krueger was a molester, not just a murderer – harkening back to the early versions of Craven’s first movie, before the spate of real-life cases in California made that too politically charged.
My own aim in the reboot was to build something that honored what Wes Craven built, but also introduced one or two new ideas to the character. Otherwise, it would feel too redundant. That’s a pitfall I told the studio I wanted to avoid.
Did the end product remain loyal to your screenplay, and what are your thoughts on the completed movie?
Oof. Maybe, oh… five percent? Ten? A rough skeletal structure of what I wrote remained in the final cut, but most of the dialogue and entire groups of scenes were changed, added, or removed. Now and then I recognize a line I wrote, or a horror sequence. Actually, this is not unusual when it comes to studio franchises. I’m relieved that the microsleep idea went the distance, along with the line about the brain still being active for a few minutes even after the heart stops. There were extensive reshoots, as this was such a tricky project for everyone involved.
Part of the reason it became so complicated is that everyone’s idea of Krueger was a little different. Some preferred the jokester version; the Krueger with a dark sense of humor. Others were sold on the pure evil version. In general, it seems that franchise films of the 1980s got sillier as they progressed through the films. I had an opinion on the Krueger that would work for us, but the top execs at the studio ultimately make that kind of call when it comes to tone, and thus if you see an early development draft of mine on this project, you’ll discover it bears little resemblance to the final version. That’s not shirking blame or anything, that’s just the reality of screenwriting.
As Eric notes in the interview, he writes outside the horror genre, so I’m excited to see what happens with another project he has in development: Story of Your Life. You can read about that in my April 2013 interview with Eric.
For the rest of the interview, go here.