Joe Mynhardt: I can still recall a very young me hiding behind an oversized pillow as Freddy Krueger walked towards me. As the writer and director for A Nightmare on Elm Street, which elements of the Freddy Krueger character were written by you, and which parts came from Robert Englund’s take on this iconic character?
Wes Craven: I’m pretty sure that all the basic things about Freddy were in the script, but what Robert brought to the table was enormous enthusiasm for the role, a fearlessness that had no hesitation at playing a character that was deeply evil and a predator of children, a fantastic vocal instrument, and endless inventiveness in manner and movement, right down to his use of the glove – how he gestured with it, how he draped it over things, how he brought it to his face. Freddy was written as an evil old man, but beyond that, Robert inhabited Freddy with a stunning interpretation of that, and send chills up and down the spines of a whole generation. In fact, maybe two or three generations.
Joe: When I start watching your movies, I always wonder if you’ll do another appearance. But only after I lose myself in the story do you pop up. Tell us a bit more about your acting experiences.
Wes: I think I’m a lousy actor. For one thing, I can’t remember lines, and I think I look weird, especially now. I secretly thought I’d make a great actor, until I tried it. Then I saw the wisdom of my staying behind the camera except for a very few exceptions.
Joe: I’m certain all the writers out there would love to know who your favorite author is. Or perhaps a specific book that inspired you.
Wes: Endless authors. I was a kid who always had a book in my hand, especially since I wasn’t allowed to see movies for idiotic religious reasons. The names won’t ring many bells to today’s generation. Hemingway, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, Brecht, Terry Southern, Beckett, Roald Dahl’s “Kiss Kiss” short stories, Mailer, Poe, Dickens, Kerouac, Kesey, King, you get the idea. In many, many ways that deep history of reading helped and matured me, and I needed it. It didn’t help me at all with knowing the techniques and concepts of film, though, and when I started making movies, I was starting from absolute scratch. So, I just invented my own version of what a movie should be. It seems to have worked.
Joe: Definitely. Can you recall the funniest story that ever happened on set or during the development of a movie?
Wes: No. My sets are full of laughter and funny things, actually. There’s something about dealing with gore and death and all those forbidden topics that lightens things. We’re like little kids making mud pies, in a way. Doing what would horrify mom and having a hell of a good time doing it. At least until the killing starts. Then things get very, very quiet.
Joe: And what was the scariest moment you’ve ever experienced on set?
Wes: The scariest things are the real things. Making movies is a fairly dangerous thing. Lots of heavy equipment, things hanging overhead that just might fall down on you, like a 50 lb light, for instance, not to mention Grips hanging off rafters or up 80 feet in the air on condors packed with lights in the middle of the night. Then there’s stunts… I have all of those things go bad in the middle of shooting. Those are the truly scary things.
Joe: Another great movie that inspired me personally was Swamp Thing, which you also wrote and directed. Is there anything specific for you that stood out from that experience? The location must’ve been a nightmare, but you really managed to use it effectively in the story.
Wes: I’d never been to that part of the country, and I found it fascinating. The swamps were full of things that wanted to bite you, from alligators to stinging black caterpillars that fell out of the trees and down the neck of your shirt, to water moccasins. The grips all carried side arms, I kid you not.
Joe: Some of my other favorite movies include People under the Stairs, Scream, The Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes. You’ve been creating great films for over 40 years now, as well as equally amazing memories for yourself and your fans. So what are the biggest highlights of your writing and directing career?
Wes: There sure is something terrific about directing something you’ve also written. So Last House, Hills, Swamp Thing, Nightmare, My Soul to Take all have special places in my heart. But every once in a while you get your hands on a terrific script that someone else has written, and that is a very, very good feeling as well, and you don’t have to stay up all night while shooting to do re-writes. So, thanks to Carl Ellsworth and Kevin Williamson and many others for their terrific work on scripts I’ve directed and done very well with.
Joe: I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love to know, but are there any future projects can we look forward to?