Set Visit Interview: A Nightmare On Elm Street Special Effects Make-Up Artist Andrew Clement

Back in June, I had a chance to visit the set of Platinum Dunes remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street with a group of online journalists. This week we will be publishing the interviews we conducted on the set of the movie. After the jump you can read our interview with special effects make-up artist Andrew Clement, whose 24-year career in Hollywood spans The Princess Bride to Army of Darkness to Blade to Spider-Man 3 to Cloverfield to Star Trek. In Nightmare, Clement's job was to reinvent Freddy's appearance as a less cartoonish, more real-life burn victim. Read the interview, after the jump.

Andrew Clement: Well, thanks for coming.

Question: Thank you.

AC: So. Anything you guys want to know?

Q: Can you talk about your inspiration? Did you go back to the original films for the Freddy makeup or you just went on your own, more reality?

AC: Well, I kind of did two things. You know when they first started talking about it I knew everyone had really specific ideas about what they wanted, well, I knew everybody would have a specific opinion on this so I knew I wanted to go into it with a really open mind. So I started off sending out different designs — there are such a wide range of things you can do to somebody if they're burned: is it a healed burn, a fresh burn, is it dry and flaky and ashy, that sort of thing or – so, you know, I just started doing all different kinds of things based on all kinds of different references and I also posted up on a bulletin board pictures of every Freddy they'd ever done just to get a sense of the arc of Freddy and what people would accept as Freddy. Just to see how much leeway I really had. You know it's pretty broad. You start from the first film and then you go into how the second, third, fourth seem to look, you know, then it jumps into something really stylized, the old man, the really stylized one and everybody really accepted that as Freddy, so there's room to play.

Q: Once you started on the design, can you talk about how it evolved, what made the transition, what didn't, any ideas early on that you might have thought were great but just didn't click without everyone else?

AC: Well, like I said, I mean there were a lot of things I liked. I liked some of the things that I don't know that people would have had a really easy time accepting as Freddy like crusty and flaky skin coming off, all sorts of things. You know, I just, it was myself and I brought in two other concept artists to work with me and we knocked around a lot of designs and we just sort of saw what resonated — taking the old makeup and doing variations of that, I mean I started back when Jackie wasn't even considered for the roll, and I had seen online somebody was talking about somebody else so I started doing concepts on [that person] and then Jackie came in and I started doing concepts on his face. I knew we wanted to have a CG component to it and right as we began filming actually we were still thinking there was going to be a larger CG component, but we started getting feedback on how the design actually looked [great without it] even from our first test and I think that the results and the feedback were so strong that we didn't really need to go digital. This is plenty scary as it is just as the makeup so we pulled back on that, but we still have a digital component and it's going to look really cool.

Q: What is [the digital component]?

AC: Can I say?

Q: Is it the left side, cheek area?

AC: Yeah. There was going to be more of that, but we just decided to keep it down to that and I don't think you're going to see it in every shot, it's just going to be layers of skin working over one another. We're using silicon appliances this time as opposed to foam so there's a sort of mushiness to it. So I think what we're going to do is just have a more of a tendon-ness, more detail, a lot more depth than we could get from the silicon alone. It doesn't make sense that some of his face just wouldn't go away. Have you guys seen him yet?

Q: Oh yeah! He definitely has the smoother quality of a burn victim than the old film does which had deeper wrinkles, more of a monstrous quality — this is much more real.

AC: Thank you. We had an actual woman who worked with burn patients who came in just to wrap him for a scene where he's in a burn ward which was actually written after I finished the makeup design — which had I known there was going to be a burn ward, I would have had something to actually start from, but that was a later addition. But she said that it looked like a well-healed burn victim. It's funny, as subtle as it is, some of the lighting really kicks up a lot of the [detail], I really tried to keep it close to his face, keep the detail subtle, but the lighting really pops up some of the forms and it looks a lot more starkly sculpted than it really is.

Q: The left side of the face looks considerably more damaged than the right side. Is there a reason behind that?

AC: I like, I think, you know, I've always wanted to get an asymmetry going on. I think that's really scary. You know, you see, unfortunately we did have to do some research into some tragic burn victims — and there's a lot of asymmetry going on there — and I just think that's interesting. A design that just makes you want to look.

Q: Is this Freddy's makeup the most complicated?

Yeah. Out of any of the Freddys that there've been. It takes two of us [to put it on Jackie] and we've got it down to three hours for the two of us. It used to be about that long, but there was only one person. The design was evolving as we were working so I wound up making more pieces than were necessary. There's just a lot of application, and we're using silicon, which is a lot more difficult to put on somebody.

Q: Can you talk about that [head] right there?

That's the zipper head of Quentin. We're going to shoot that later today and Freddy's actually going to be inside. It's a riff on something that Sam had done previously for a Rolling Stones video that he really liked. We actually had to scale this whole thing up so Freddy could fit inside. We took a life-cast and, well, we did two things: we did a CG scan and we did a traditional life-cast and the traditional life-cast worked out great.

Q: What scale is [the zipper head]?

AC: Everybody is asking me that, and I lost the figure for that. I think it's about twenty percent bigger. We scaled up the clothes and everything for it. We have a hand double, too. It'll be fun.

Q: Speaking of hands, I was looking at Freddy's hands with the burns and the tapered tips. Is that a prosthetic that you added on top of his hands?

AC: They're really small. He's a burn victim, for his character I knew I was going to be adding a back-of-the-hand appliance and I thought it would be really nice, really creepy to have a tapered hand and I didn't want his fingers to get fat. So all I wanted to do, I thought it would be nice if the tips were burned away a little bit. I wanted to counteract anything I would be adding so it still looked nice and spidery. They're just little rubber fingertips, all silicon. This is a really straightforward horror film, there aren't a whole lot of gags — Freddy doesn't turn into anything, there are no Freddy pizzas–

Q: No soul boils?

AC: You know, those are fun — I can't say I wouldn't like to do something, you know... If this winds up going in a different direction after this one. But this is flat-out horror. It's going to be fun.

A Nightmare on Elm Street hits theaters on April 30th 2010.