How new Nightmare re-invents Freddy

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Early teasers for the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street show Freddy Krueger in his trademark sweater, fedora and razor-fingered glove, but shadows intentionally obscure his face to hide the new burn makeup, said star Jackie Earle Haley, who takes on the iconic role from Robert Englund.

"He's got a new look going," Haley said in a group interview over the weekend in Pasadena, Calif., where he was promoting his upcoming Fox TV series Human Target. "We're still true with the fedora, the sweater and the glove, but the mug is a little bit more based in reality."

Englund played Freddy in eight films and a syndicated TV series. Haley is ready to face comparisons. "Our approach was to make him a little more serious," Haley (Watchmen) said. "He's a little less jokey."

Whether or not it works, Haley thinks it was worth the risk. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," he said. "As an actor, I'm one that's willing to take risks. Especially as a character actor, I've got to be willing to go out and totally mess up. If I try to play it safe, I'm not going to be a very good actor. I would imagine, somewhere along the way—and hopefully it's not this—but even with characterizations and stuff, playing it safe is not what makes us interesting. It's getting in there and really trying to do something with something and hope for the best."

Haley added that it was an easy decision for him to step into the role. "Oh, man, I did need to think about it for [but] a minute and a half," Haley said. "I just kept going, 'Freddy Krueger?' It's such an iconic character. How could I not do that character?"

It took six films to fully explain Freddy's backstory, from being burned alive to getting his dream powers from a set of floating heads. Haley indicated that the new filmmakers pack more Freddy history into the new Nightmare, if not the floating heads.

"I think we get a little bit more than in the original film," he said.

There is room to explore Freddy further in sequels, but Haley avoids jumping the gun. "I've signed on to do a couple more, but it needs to be successful before they do that," he said.

A Nightmare on Elm Street opens April 30, 2010.