After watching “Never Sleep Again”, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Turns out, there are even more wild and crazy stories yet to be told.
While it may look as if New Line Cinema had spent bucko bucks on Wes Craven‘s slasher and the several sequels, it was actually a low(er) budget franchise that was delivered in the same vein as Lionsgate’s SAW. Sequels were being pumped out as quickly as one-per-year, with the studio working at lightning speed to cash in on Freddy Krueger’s break into pop culture. In fact, they were working so quickly, that it’s being alleged that they started production on A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master before they had even hired a director!
In an interview with Midnight’s Edge, director Tom McLoughlin shared this shocking anecdote: after completing Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, New Line offered him the job on Dream Warriors. His one caveat was that he wanted creative control. The studio couldn’t adhere to the demand, specifically because they had already begun filming…without a director.
“When I finished Friday, I was offered Nightmare 4 and went to New Line, met with them, and I said, ‘I love Freddy, I would love to do one of these, but I really want to do what I just did, where I had creative control’,” he explained. “And they go, ‘Well, we’re already shooting.’ ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, we’re already shooting, we’re shooting like two different units for the visual effects’ and something else, puppets or something. And I said, ‘Without a director?’ ‘Yeah, we kind of know how we’re going to make these things.’ And I went, ‘That’s not the way I work.’ So I turned it down, which of course made (Nightmare 4 director) Renny Harlin‘s career.”
As he notes, Harlin came aboard to direct the follow-up to Dream Warriors and would go on to direct Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea, before returning to the genre with Exorcist: The Beginning and The Covenant. And as a bit of added irony, McLoughlin was initially attached to Exorcist: The Beginning when it was in development under the title Dominion. What a small world we live in.
Digressing, as shocking as this story is, I actually sort of love it. While many projects can suffer from over-development, it’s exciting and refreshing to see films pushed forward with nothing more than psychotic creative energy. New Line knew what the franchise was, just like Lionsgate knew was SAW was, and by keeping the pedal to the metal they were able to drive home one of the greatest horror franchises of all time.