The Movie God works in mysterious ways. Every now and again one of us puny humans will get an idea for a great movie and then proceed to try and screw it up through all sorts of bad decisions, bickering, and other typical people stuff. The Movie God steps in at various points along the way and steers the boat, so to speak. To most of us they seem like strange coincidences or just pure luck. To me, they're proof a Movie God. I realize that many of you reading this may be skeptical. This feature will attempt to convert you non-believers.
In 1978, John Carpenter's Halloween created the modern slasher flick. Six years later, it underwent something of an evolution with the release of Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. Michael Myers, the icy antagonist of Halloween and his clones such as Jason of the Friday the 13th franchise were faceless boogeyman who tapped into our fear of what's out there, some evil entity stalking us through the neighborhood streets where we live or in the places we go to escape our mundane lives and have a little fun. They were amalgamations of all those serial killers who rose to infamy during the 60s and 70s. Craven's film made our fear internal. It asks a question that is frightening all by itself. What if the thing that will kill us resides in our head and emerges every night we lie down to sleep? Is it possible to escape an intangible murderer?
Oddly enough, the idea for such a surreal concept was implanted in Craven by Movie God through the most tangible of means, newspaper articles. Craven read about some Khmer refugees who suffered from nightmares so bad some refused to sleep. A number of them even died while they slumbered. For the man soon to be known as The Master of Horror, it was a short jump from that reality to the film which would help him earn that title.
Like all scary movies, this one needed a bad guy. Movie God gave Craven the wisdom to look back into his own childhood and tap into his own fears. He took the name of his villain from a kid who bullied him as a boy, Fred Krueger. The character's signature fedora is similar to the one worn by a homeless guy who terrified him during those same years. He moved forward a bit in life and decided to use the name of a street in Wheaton, Illinois where he attended Wheaton College - Elm Street. Movie God then planted one more seed. He had Craven do a bit of research. Craven read an article in Scientific American that said that red and green were the two most clashing colors to the human eye. Freddy's iconic sweater was born. To flesh out the character a bit, Freddy was made a child murderer who had been burned to death by the parents of his victims.
Shortly after wrapping production on Swamp Thing, Craven penned a screenplay, called it A Nightmare on Elm Street, and started shopping it around. Paramount, Universal, and whoever else he could get to listen turned him down. However, there was one studio that showed genuine interest in his tale, Disney. That's right, the home of Mickey Mouse was ready to hand over some money to Wes Craven to bring Freddy Krueger to life. As you might imagine, there was a catch. He had to tone it down to make it kid-friendly...little kids. Yup. I'm not sure how that's even possible. Neither was Craven. Neither was Movie God. Movie God granted Craven the wisdom to turn down Disney's offer. and continue shopping his movie. Eventually, an upstart company named New Line Cinema decided to let Craven make his film as a true-blue horror flick, the way he intended.
|Just wrong, ain't it?|
Of course, movies have to be cast. In slasher flicks, the most important role is usually that of the final girl. For that, the call was put out and actresses came pouring in to audition for the role of Nancy. Some of the young women who did not get the part include Demi Moore, Jennifer Grey, and Courteney Cox. Craven would later use Cox as a supporting player in the Scream franchise. However, she wasn't quite right for this part. Movie God granted Craven the power of discernment and the role was given to an unknown by the name of Heather Langenkamp. Her three turns as Nancy in the franchise remain the only memorable parts of her filmography.
The killer can be kind of an afterthought. It usually just requires someone large who can lumber along. They'll be made more menacing through camera angles and the use of a creepy score. Craven had someone with a little more personality in mind. As such, he cast vet David Warner to play Freddy. Looking at pictures of Warner, it's easy to see why. However, it was a silly human mistake. It was almost time to start filming when Movie God ensured Warner had to drop out due to "scheduling conflicts." As only the Movie God could he dropped the perfect Krueger into the director's lap, Robert Englund.
Movie God had one more casting trick up his sleeve. Well, actually two. A young man named Jackie Earle Haley came in to audition for the part of Glen. He was not cast, but his buddy who came along just to lend moral support was given the role. It was a part a number of other young hotshots were considered for including Charlie Sheen, Brad Pitt, Nicholas Cage, John Cusack, and Keifer Sutherland. However, there was something special about this young guy who would make A Nightmare on Elm Street his feature film debut. Or at least, he was lucky to be in the good graces of Movie God...and Wes Craven's daughters. They picked his head shot out of the lot because they thought he was gorgeous. The young man's name was Johnny Depp. For being somewhat responsible for bringing Depp to Craven's attention, and more proof that the Movie God works in mysterious ways, Jackie Earle Haley was rewarded twenty-six years later when he was given the role of Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake.
Craven and crew would go on to shoot A Nightmare on Elm Street in a mere thirty-two days for a budget of $1.8 million. It easily made that back over its opening weekend and would go on to earn nearly fourteen times that amount at the box office. As you know, Freddy became a horror icon and the film spawned five sequels of varying artistic and commercial success, plus the spin-off Freddy vs. Jason. The very existence of A Nightmare on Elm Street stands as a testament to the existence of a Movie God.
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