Today, it’s time for Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), aka, the one where Freddy just really wants to enter a young man’s body. You can see our other Nighmare on Elm Street lists here.
Updated 9-9-15 to reflect Mark Patton’s upcoming documentary
New Line boss Bob Shaye leveraged everything he had to get the first Nightmare on Elm Street made and distributed. As a result, when it came out and turned into a hit it didn’t actually return any profit because New Line had already sunk so much into it. However, it did give them something very valuable: a controllable property with sequel potential. Though Elm Street was conceived and created by Wes Craven, he had to give up the rights to New Line as part of the deal to get the first movie made. New Line didn’t exactly know it had the next Friday the 13th on its hands, but during Elm Street‘s opening weekend the studio’s head of distribution walked into Bob Shaye’s office and said, “We need a sequel.” So, they rushed into production on a sequel which seemed to fundamentally misunderstand what made Craven’s version so terrifying. Plus, maybe it’s because they were in such a rush or just in complete denial, but they ended up making the most unintentionally gay horror film of all time.
1. Why didn’t Wes Craven return?
Wes Craven never intended to create a new horror franchise with an endless string of sequels. His version of Nightmare on Elm Street was supposed to end with Nancy waking up and realizing everything, including Freddy, had been a dream. It was Shaye who overruled him, and added in an ending leaving it open for Freddy for return. It was the culmination of a series of disagreements which had resulted in Craven actually stepping aside to let Shaye shoot a couple of the scenes himself.
As a result, Craven was never a serious candidate to direct the sequel. Looking back on it for the Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy documentary, Elm Street 2‘s production manager Rachel Talalay said, “I don’t think that there was a real conversation about Wes doing Nightmare 2 because he and Bob had such a stressed relationship.” Of course, a stressed relationship could have been ironed out if the money was right, and that was the main stumbling block. Since Wes had signed away the rights to his own creation, he had no ownership over it anymore. If he was going to come back, it was going to be on a better deal, one which offered some profit participation. New Line wasn’t going to do that. Instead, the studio replaced Craven by promoting from within, hiring David Chaskin from their 16mm distribution department to write the script and Jack Sholder from their film trailer department to direct. Sholder had at least previously directed Alone in the Dark (1982) for New Line. Chaskin thought it would be cool if Freddy had some kind of human avatar in the real world, and Sholder just wanted to get away from all that dream nonsense.
While Wes Craven was not invited back, he was reportedly allowed to read the script and offer his notes, notes which went ignored since they carried an unmistakable subtext of, “Please, DO NOT produce this screenplay.”
2. Heather Langenkamp wasn’t asked back
Rather than continue the story of Nightmare‘s sole survivor Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Nightmare 2 focuses on the new residents of Nancy’s old Elm Street house, joining a grand tradition of horror sequels which ignore the survivors of the prior installment for what would appear to be cost-control reasons. Surely, Langenkamp’s agent requested at least a nominal raise, and New Line kicked her butt out the door, right?
Not true. Langenkamp told the Never Sleep Again documentary that she was never actually offered a chance to do Nightmare 2, and the film’s line producer couldn’t recall if there had ever actually been any internal discussions at New Line about bringing her back. The reason might be that Chaskin and Sholder’s new concept of Freddy possessing someone in the real world seemed so different from the first film that bringing Nancy into it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
3. They started filming with Freddy played by an extra, not Robert Englund
Penny-pinching did actually lead to the role of Freddy being re-cast. Robert Englund and his agent realized how crucial he was to the role of Freddy, thus assuming New Line wouldn’t dare re-cast the way Paramount did with Jason after every Friday the 13th film. So, they asked for way more money to return in Nightmare 2, but New Line was having none of it. Bob Shaye didn’t think Englund was all that important to the role, reasoning anyone playing Freddy is just a dude under a rubber mask. They cast an extra to replace him, but he played Freddy like Frankenstein’s monster, with slow, rigid movements. After suffering through this in the early stages of filming, Jack Sholder went straight to Shaye to demand that they give Englund whatever he wanted.
What exactly Englund wanted and ultimately got is a question Nightmare 2 leading man Mark Patton promises to answer in his forthcoming documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (due 2016). As he told WithoutYourHead:
“That’s every actor’s dream, right? For them to be like, ‘Oh, we’re five days into filming, and we just figured out we can’t do this without you. How can we get you to be a part of the show?’ If you notice, Nightmare on Elm Street 1 stars Heather Langenkamp, number 2 stars me and number 3 stars Robert Englund. There was a lot of heavy duty negotiating going on during Nightmare on Elm Street 2, but our contracts had already been settled meaning [Robert] couldn’t have top billing. But after that you can see that he slowly but surely took complete control over the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.”
4. Brad Pitt, Christian Slater and John Stamos all auditioned to play Jesse
Speaking of Mark Patton, here’s what he looked like as Jesse in Elm Street 2:
As with the famous actresses Heather Langenkamp beat out for the role of Nancy in the first Nightmare, most of the famous guys Patton beat were unknowns at the time. Patton had actually auditioned for the first Nightmare on Elm Street as well, and he was most known at the time for Robert Altman’s Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). Recalling the casting process, Patton recently told AlternativeNation, “I was told later that I had been rejected by the casting director and only the fact that one of the producers found my publicity photo on the floor and read my credits with Robert Altman did they say, ‘What about him!?”
5. No, that’s not Meryl Streep as the girlfriend
Looking back at it today, the Nightmare 2 filmmakers are quick to joke that while Kim Myers was cast as Lisa because she was the best actress for the part it sure as heck didn’t hurt that she also happened to look a lot like Meryl Streep. However, Mark Patton is quick to applaud his former co-star and explain the truth behind how she was cast, telling Fangoria that in order of casting Robert Russler (Jesse’s friend/Freddy’s victim Ron) went first, then Pattton and then Myers. As he further explained in a recent AlternativeNation interview:
“Kim was a dream, it was her first movie. She was chosen by myself, Jack Sholder, Michael Murphy and Robert Russler. There were three girls at the end of the casting, but for me it was always going to be Kim. Many people have stated she looks like Meryl Streep, and Kim has even said that she was hired because of that reason, but that is false. Kim was hired because she is very talented, she has a dignity about her in the work place and in her life, and that shows up on the big screen.”
6. The homoeroticism was only supposed to be subtext
Please forgive the crudeness of the above video, but I needed video evidence here because if you have not seen Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in a while you might not understand why it’s become known as the Top Gun of the horror genre, i.e., that hilariously yet unintentionally gay film. You could actually do an entire list covering just homoerotic elements of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and, in fact, several others have (like freddyinspace.com and cracked.com.)
Here’s what happened: David Chaskin conceived of the idea of Freddy needing to enter Jesse’s body to interact with the real world as a metaphor for repressed homosexuality. Basically, Jesse is a gay kid in denial about his sexuality, and his homosexual urges manifest themselves via Freddy. So, you have Jesse clearly attracted to his male friend Ron, and the female love interest is really just his unwitting beard. Plus, there are some heavy S&M elements when Jesse, now taken over by Freddy, ties his gym teacher up in the showers and proceeds to slap his ass with a towel until its bright red.
That was all supposed to be subtext, yet, whether consciously or not, it rapidly became text during filming. Compounding matters is the fact that Mark Patton is actually gay, which is not something everyone knew when they were making the movie since, as he told HIV+ magazine, his Los Angeles-based management at the time wanted him to stay in the closet.
David Chaskin was aware of the film’s homoerotic content from the very beginning. Most everyone else claims ignorance on the matter, even if it is all ridiculously obvious when you watch the film today. Some of the other pieces of evidence everyone points to, like oddly penis-shaped art hanging on a kitchen wall, a sign outside Jesse’s door reading “NO [something in small text] CHICKS,” and a fake board game named “Probe” in Jesse’s closet, were reportedly inside jokes added by the set designer.
7. New Line’s President Bob Shaye played the bartender at the gay bar
Bob Shaye founded New Line Cinema as a distributor of art-house fare in 1967, but he always harbored slight acting aspirations. As such, he wanted to play Ron’s dad in Nightmare on Elm Street 2, but the director actually said no, claiming he needed a real actor for that part. Shaye almost fired him on the spot. They reached a compromise by letting Shaye cameo as the bartender of the S&M bar the gym coach attends, even sending Shaye to a local S&M clothing store to buy his own costume. For some reason, he brought his two young daughters with him. Shaye’s cameo was officially uncredited, but many at New Line never let him live it down.
8. The production was micromanaged, rushed and strenuous
If Nightmare 2 had failed, New Line might not have survived. As it is, the movie hit big enough to finally give the studio some cashflow, and in the following years New Line rode the Elm Street train, hit on another horror franchise with Critters, cranked out John Waters movies, and turned into a respectable and profitable mini-major throughout the 90s. However, all of that was uncertain back when Nightmare 2 was being made, and Shaye micromanaged the heck out of the production, regularly confusing crew members by stepping over the line and offering orders which should have come from the director, not the head of the studio. That led to an understandably uneasy relationship between Shaye and Jack Sholder. On top of that, the production was already remarkably rushed, pegged to a November 1, 1985 release date when the first Elm Street had just come out on November 9, 1984.
As a result, tensions were high, the hours were long, and the work was hard. There was no real time to stop and second guess if the direction they were steering the franchise was really the right direction. In the Never Sleep Again documentary, Robert England recalls several moments during filming, such as the pool sequence where Freddy appears to teenagers outside of their dreams, where he struggled with playing the part because so much of it felt wrong, like the type of things the Freddy from the first Nightmare wouldn’t do.
9. The “You’ve got the body…I’ve got the brains” line was Bob Shaye’s idea
Nightmare 2 has historically been treated as the Halloween 3 of the Elm Street franchise, i.e., the odd one existing outside of continuity, but it has a cult following and is at least responsible for some of the iconic lines in franchise history, such as “You are all my children now” and “You’ve got the body…I’ve got the brains.” That last one, David Chaskin now admits, was not completely his idea, as he told the Never Sleep Again documentary, “I have to admit that the body and brain line and peeling back his brain like that was Bob Shaye’s idea. Bob had some really good visual ideas.”
10. They had the honor of actually naming the town where Elm Street is on
How well you remember the first Nightmare on Elm Street? At any point in the movie, do we actually learn the name of the town Nancy and her friends live in? If you know your franchise history you know that the movies are usually set in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio, but is that town ever referenced in the first movie? According to Elm Street 2 director Jack Sholder, it is not. The task of naming the town fell to them on the sequel, and Sholder picked “Springwood,” which is a town name he had previously used in Alone in the Dark.
11. The dance scene was meant as an homage to Risky Business
If Tom Cruise can get away with dancing and lip-singing in his living room in Risky Business in 1983 why can’t Mark Patton do it in his bedroom in Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in 1985? That was the general idea, at least. Sensing impending embarrassment, Patton didn’t actually want to do it, forcing the production to repeatedly postpone the filming of the scene. It’s argued in the Never Sleep Again documentary that Patton figured out his his own choreography, and just told them to roll the camera and he’d give it his best. However, since then Patton told WithoutYourHead, “There’s nothing I do in that movie that’s not written in the script […] If you look in the script, it says, ‘Jesse bumps his ass against he door three times, and gets on the bed and pretends to masturbate.’ It’s all written in the script. I didn’t make that stuff up.” While the scene has haunted some of the involved parties for years, Patton says it enjoyed an extended popularity at gay clubs at the time, and he no longer finds it embarrassing.
12. Freddy’s eye was played by the effects designer’s girlfriend
As Jesse transforms into Freddy, we see a quick shot of Freddy’s eye staring out of Jesse’s opened mouth. To accomplish that shot, they made a dummy of Mark Patton’s head with a hole where Freddy’s eye would look through. They then affixed this head to a flat surface, and had someone put their head into the opening created on the other side. However, the only person whose head could fit into the area was the girlfriend of the special effects designer, Kevin Yagher. So, in that moment Freddy was technically played by a woman.
13. Freddy only appears in 13 minutes of the film
It seems like most of the major horror franchises have that one oddball entry where the villain barely appears at all, and for Nightmare on Elm Street that’s Freddy’s Revenge in which Freddy’s only on-screen for 13 minutes.
- Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was made for $2.2 million and grossed $29.9 million, which would be like making $68.1 million at current ticket prices. This was an improvement over the first Nightmare which ended with $25 million. At that time, sequels didn’t normally outgross their predecessors. Case in point: Friday the 13th Part 2 was nowhere as big of a hit as the first Friday the 13th. So, it was only after the success of Freddy’s Revenge that New Line truly realized it had a new horror franchise on its hands.
Next time, we’ll tell you why they decided to kill off [Spoiler] in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.