A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge has had a fascinating journey. The sequel to Wes Craven’s original horror classic paved the way for what would blossom into one of the longest-running horror franchises ever. Yet, it also, over time, gained the reputation of not just being one of the lesser entries, but also the “gayest horror movie ever made.” Much of that journey is covered in a new documentary, Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.
Mark Patton was cast in the lead role in the sequel as Jesse, who has since been embraced by the horror community as horror’s first male scream queen. But Patton, as a closeted gay actor at the time, didn’t have an easy go of it. Ultimately, Patton left Hollywood for years, only to return relatively recently to take his place amongst horror icons.
Elm Street 2 birthed another couple of horror icons in the form of Kim Myers, who played Lisa, and Robert Rusler, who played Ron. Both stars showed up at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas recently in support of Scram, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street. I unexpectedly had the chance to chat with both of them about the doc and the legacy of the 1985 flick all these years later. So, without further adieu, here’s my chat with the stars of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
How’s Austin Treating you?
Robert Rusler: Wonderful. Love it.
Thank you guys so much. So you obviously have a bit of a different place in this story, but how have you guys been feeling heading into the big premiere?
Robert Rusler: Excited and supportive. Kim and I are very supportive of Mark’s endeavor here.
Kim Myers: We’ve seen the film a couple of times.
Robert Rusler: And it’s excellent. And here’s Here’s the deal. When you do a movie like this that’s become what it’s become, even during making [A Nightmare on Elm Street 2] when we had no idea that it would become sort of an iconic piece of history in horror and in society, you become family and we feel like that about each other. So when Mark decided to make this film, Kim and I, we’ve been nothing but supportive, and it’s fun. We’re just having a blast.
Kim Myers: It is, and we’re learning. I don’t know how you feel Robert, but it was such a unique time for all of us. Given our age, and given just what was going on in our lives personally, whatever, professionally. So there’s so much that I didn’t know about Mark at that time that’s relevant to this documentary, where he shares the journey that he’s been on. So it’s been really eye-opening and deeply humanizing. It’s a reminder, we never know what the other person’s story is, whoever that other person is in our lives in front of us at that moment. And that’s really, really interesting.
You had a very different relationship that this whole thing. Not to presume, but maybe like the more traditional sort of scream queen thing. How was your relationship to the movie in the horror community? Mark had a very unique experience. Did you guys ever have a point where you rejected the movie? Because his movie had this reputation of being the “bad” Nightmare on Elm Street.
Kim Myers: For me, not at all. I approached it with total excitement, and it was my first professional job. I really didn’t see it negative. What’s being discussed now, in alignment with what Mark experienced at the time, was such news to me. I was so focused on this character and the story and excitement of the experience that I didn’t have any negative feelings about the film. I was thrilled. I was pinching myself. It was awesome.
Robert Rusler: My perspective didn’t look at anything like that. In fact, the subject matter being what it was, there was some creative discussions that I was having with the director Jack Sholder. But you know what? It never meant anything more than creative choices. I grew up in Hollywood, so you know, the homosexual overtones that I did recognize right away. Undertones, overtones, some of it blatant. Whatever it was, it didn’t have anything to do to me with the bigger picture of the dynamic of our relationship, and the truth of relationships like that in high school. Him and her having their own relationship, and him and I having our relationship and that arc that happens between Mark and I. which is, am I really the bully? Or am I just a guy that calls it like it is and doesn’t have judgment about things like sexuality or place in social status? Him and I just connected, and when he reached out, I was there for him. But my character never even thinks about stuff like that, if his character is [gay] or not. It’s really none of my business. And so when it came out later, when there was this controversy and they were calling it the gayest horror film ever made, I just have a snicker about it. I really never really put that much thought or emphasis on that. And you know what? To be honest with you, I still don’t.
Kim Myers: To be honest, same here.
I grew up watching just anything you get on cable and I was a big horror movie guy. I remember watching the second [Nightmare on Elm Street] and for me, I never thought of it in that way. Eventually, you kind of come back around to the reputation of it later. It was surprising to me. I totally understand what you’re saying. But I can’t even imagine being in it, and then eventually having that come back around.
Robert Rusler: Marshall Bell and I, who played Coach Snyder, we just laughed about it during, and we laugh about it after, but getting back to a little bit about what Kim touched on. There was a different empathy. There was a different sort of inclination from Marshall and I. I won’t speak for Marshall, but we’ve agreed on it. But speaking for myself right now, I didn’t really put that much thought into it. I didn’t have any judgment, but I had my own perception of what Mark went through, what I thought he was going through and the troubles that he obviously puts out in the film that, when I watched the film, it gave me a whole new understanding, and it did actually help me to go back, circle around and think about it again. Not so much in the storyline as much as what kind of impact it had on him personally and what it must have been like in that time to be a gay actor that’s not out. It really reminds me a lot of my African American friends and some of the girls that I knew in the 80s that had troubles that I didn’t, and they were prevalent and they were real. I would always kind of say, “Don’t make excuses. There’s other black, there’s other gay, there’s other women actors working. Don’t let that be an excuse for you to get stifled.”
But then when you see an experience, when you’re close enough to somebody and you go, “Wait a minute, this is real. There’s real obstacles. There’s real things that I don’t have to deal with.” Especially, let’s just keep it real, as a straight man, I didn’t have to deal with some of the things that some of my black, my Hispanic and some of the girlfriends that I had that were in the movie business had to deal with. And it gave me a different perspective of what Mark must have went through, and I took a step back and went, “Wow, that must have been really tough.” And I’m here to support him and love him because I loved him when I met him on the audition. I loved him a couple of times when we had discrepancies as actors. It doesn’t matter because that’s what part of the art process is.
Robert Rusler: It’s kind of like having an argument with a loved one. You don’t hold resentment and grudge. It’s part of growing together. So even when we had a couple of differences, we always worked it out on set. And then after the movie was made, like I said, we all feel that we’ll always be family. We’re always gonna be bonded and connected in that way.
Kim Myers: And that’s one of the beautiful byproducts of this documentary. It really sums up what Robert just described. Speaking with Mark before this documentary was even created, before he had the idea to make the documentary, when he start started to share with me some of what he’d done, because we hadn’t seen each other in 25 years from the time we wrapped. We saw each other once or twice afterwards, and then 25 years went by until we saw each other or spoke to each other in person again. It was a lifetime for anyone.
25 years is a long time.
Kim Myers: Back to the documentary, I think with what it’s done is it’s pulled the curtain back on someone’s soul and someone’s heart. Someone’s conflict and truth, and that has been really, really something.
You touched on something. I’m not in the movie business, but I’m a straight, white guy. I don’t have the struggles that others have. But I think this movie and Mark’s story is largely about, people have struggles. People have things they need to overcome. What struggles have you guys had?
Robert Rusler: That’s the whole point. It’s no different from normal struggles that people have in any business that they do. It’s just life. It’s just growing. It’s just challenges. It’s life on life’s terms. I had other gay friends, other black friends, other Hispanic, other women friends that were in other businesses. They had struggles as well. I just don’t see, in my own perspective, I’m not making a blanket statement because I’m not professing anything here. But from my own perspective, they did not have as much challenges in the workplace as some of the actors did, but they still had them. I learned a big lesson when I was with three of my black friends, and we got pulled over. I was treated much differently than they were, and they said, “See.” In so many words. It wasn’t that cut and dry. But at the end, I was like, “That was f*****.” And they said, “Yeah, welcome to what we deal with.” And I never really saw it that way before. I wasn’t naive. I grew up in a melting pot. Gay, straight, black. It don’t matter. If you connect, you’re in. And I hadn’t seen it like that until that day, and I hadn’t seen it like Mark explained it until I met Mark. Because, like I said, I knew other gay actors, but I didn’t really get a chance to live in any of their struggle.
And some of the guys that were more open, I don’t know what struggles they had, but I can see now, from what Mark is saying, how difficult it must be, whether you’re out in personal life, but you’re not out in professional life. Now it’s way more accepted. It is way more liberal. In the 80s it wasn’t, and I didn’t really think about much because I’m not gay. I just don’t think about it. It’s not about being naive or not putting myself in someone else’s perspective, but like you said, I got my own [struggles]. I’m 19. I’m dealing with my own background, my own neighborhood, my own finance, my own romance. I’m dealing with my own life on life’s terms, and that’s what opened my eyes is just being able to really see, especially from the documentary and talking with Mark, it really opens your eyes not only to his own experience, but how he has become, I think, a terrific spokesperson for just rising above any kind of adversity.
Like you said, it’s still not totally accepted.
Kim Myers: No, it isn’t. I can’t imagine that there aren’t any gay actors who are working, who are big stars, who are maybe feeling the need to not reveal all of who they are.
Robert Rusler: Absolutely. In the 50s the studios would cover it up for the actors. I think one of the first that I can remember just historically was Rock Hudson. You can see over the decades how it is more accepted. But is it ever, really, truly… is the obstacle ever gone? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Like Kim was just saying, maybe there’s people that don’t say anything because they don’t want to change their reputation. Who knows what kind of lash back it has on their personal lives as well as their professional lives? So it’s an interesting subject matter because there’s a lot of gray area.
Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t yet have a release date set just yet.