The Les Files: Interview With Scream Queen: My Nightmare On Elm Street Cast And Crew

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Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street

Mark Patton (Actor)
Robert Rusler (Actor)
Kim Myers (Actor)
Roman Chimienti (Director)
Tyler Jensen (Director)

Les Weiler (LW) :
I’m Les from That’s my entertainment. I’m just gonna have y’all go around the table and
introduce yourselves if I could. I’m sitting here with…
Robert Rusler:
I’m Robert Rusler.
Mark Patton:
Hi, I’m Miss Missouri, Mark Patton.
Kim Myers: I’m Kim.
Roman Chimienti: I’m Roman Comity, co-director of ‘Scream, Queen’.
Tyler Jensen : I’m Tyler Jensen, co-director of ‘Scream, queen’.

Les: I was thrilled that I got to watch the, the doc prior to doing this. Something that I didn’t
understand about documentaries when I was a kid, before I understood how movies were
made, is that there has to be a narrative thrust. There has to be choices made narratively to
make this a story and not just a gathering of information. It’s not like you just shot B roll footage for two years and then put it on-screen. When it came to taking what was Mark’s relationship with the film and then making a documentary of it to have an act structure and end to pull me narratively through it, which it does very well… I very much enjoy the entire documentary. The choices that that y’all made – did those change over time knowing Mark and making the thing, was there ever a shift in the structure? Or, did you always kind of know what you wanted it to show?

Roman: The beautiful thing about Mark Patton is that he tells stories beautifully. When we were traveling with him across these conventions, it became, the structure was like, Oh this is a road documentary. We are going from city to city and we are telling the story of this man’s experience and having to pick and choose the best version of those stories in each of these cities became our blueprint to how do you tell, how do you unfold someone’s life in every different city as they’re traveling the world and opening this wound time and time again. Like, which is the most compelling place, and where does this fit in and the narrative of past, present and the future?

Les: I would imagine that so that it isn’t reopening this wound, something has to change in the story for you of what this movie means and where it fits into your life. Is that different for you now after the documentary and if so, how has it changed for you having told this story now?

Mark: Oh, well, you know, it’s really interesting because the thing is you don’t want to get trapped in the trauma and I want it and I want everybody to know that I’m not, I’m not harmed by this in any way at this point. I mean, I have a very good life. I enjoy my life. But I like to sort of use an AA model, cause I know a lot of people in alcoholics anonymous and I think it’s a perfect way to tell a story, what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. That’s what we did. You know, I’m there. That’s what we’re telling you here. It’s like, this is what it was like in 1985. This is what happened to me and this is how I feel from it, and it’s a journey. And it’s like, it’s interesting with this, the people that you really want to talk to in regard to this are the people who sat for the documentary and what happened to them. We were going to Copenhagen, Jack Sholder and I were invited to Copenhagen and, he’s going, he accepted this invitation for queer theory in film and, um, they’re going to show Scream Queen. He’s going to be there, and I really encouraged  him not to. He doesn’t really have any business being there. He’s not equipped to do what he’s about to do and he doesn’t really understand the language. And now he’s going to experience what I experienced when he says to me in the film, “Well, you know, it’s not all about you.” It’s
like, why don’t you just get over it now? It’s in the film. It’s not all about now. And he’s going to get to experience the same feelings I had. Same with David. So, it’s a learning experience. You know, I’ve learned deep, deep compassion for people in these last five years and especially now and for myself, you know what I mean, I finally fell into some compassion for me, you know?  Obviously this is not a pity party, but I, I got to sit down and have a good cry for myself and I needed to, you know what I mean? Cause I, I say that in the film. I gave up a lot, you know, to step back from that world in the way that I did. And I see my friends and our friends, you know. Robert Downey, Jr was my dog walker at one time and he destroyed my house and cost me a lot of money, because he left the dogs there for three days and they pissed all over everything. He and Sarah Jessica Parker, and they went on to become billionaires, you know, and it’s like, I’m not saying that I would have, but I could have. I was in that lane and I stepped away from it, so I had to think about that in the end. And now I feel like the universe is just throwing Rose petals and dollar bills at me. I get to be who I want to be. I’ve thought about sending [RDJ] a note saying, you remember when you were gonna take care of the dogs to stay at the house?

Les: I know for me, I saw the original Elm Street films far too young. I think that’s probably how we all did. I remember being a kid in the South, who knew that there was something  different about what was happening to me heading into puberty, maybe a little different than my peers. But, in the eighties, at the time this was happening, it seemed like everything I learned in puberty was a new rule of what was gay. Which side could people have an earring in? Everything seemed like this ever expanding list of rules. And it really all kind of came down to vulnerability. So, when I first started hearing that Elm Street 2 was a gay movie, I think I was in college. This was pre-internet, so I really wasn’t aware of the larger take of this movie until I got a little bit older And when someone first explained that to me that, Oh, you know, it’s kind of considered a gay horror movie. I thought, great, here’s another time where having a male lead be vulnerable is immediately called gay. It took me a little while longer to put together that this wasn’t just my homophobic friends telling me that this movie was gay, that this was a wider understanding of this film. And still when I every watched the original film after seeing the doc, I can still believe that it is simply Mark playing a vulnerable man. Like seeing myself in the role Nancy had in the first film. Getting to be the hero.

Mark: Right. Nancy. I wanted to be Nancy because Nancy gets to kick ass. Yeah. There is a big, heavy, heavy conversation about masculinity going on here in this world. What boys are allowed to voice or not love, right? I mean, in the pedagogy of our world, right? Men are not allowed to be privately vulnerable. And that’s the one rule. I mean that’s what makes a man a man. When I was a little boy, like your earrings, mine was, I remember it very specifically. I read in a book someplace that gay guys, part of their hair on the left and that, if you parked at your hair down the middle, you were perverted in some, like that was a sign. Now this goes back a long way. And also I was told gay men can’t whistle, and I couldn’t, I could never whistle. I mean, [these rules] come from other men. It’s crazy. The things that we have to worry about, and carry with us, and it’s distracting, really. I’m going to say something gross. You know, my dad said something that really affected me for a long time. My dad told me a joke when I was little and, uh, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what it meant, but I knew that I was puzzling. It was something to the effect that when a gay man farts, you can’t hear it. And I didn’t know that you  shouldn’t laugh at that, I didn’t know what the joke was. I literally didn’t know what they were talking about, but I noticed the laugh at it. Do you know what I mean? I was like, Oh my God. It’s like I’m born, you know, the butt of a joke. And my dad had no idea. My dad would’ve never done something like that. Never. But like, it’s common in guys to do that kind of stuff. And you don’t realize that all that stuff was playing on somebody. I’m sure nobody… I mean, I did everything I could to hide the fact that it was landing on me. Right? Nobody found out if I worked, if I did my job right. If I could pass.

Les: Right. If you were lucky enough that you’re able to pass, you would. I came out to my parents as bi in March of this year, at 40. And, that was very much the math I did. I remember Matthew Sheppard being in the news and thinking if I can pass, it would be suicide not to. And, um, and that just stayed with me. So I never saw myself in Rambo was a kid. I never saw myself in, in the action movie heroes. I knew I wasn’t that dude. So, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2’, for me… to see me. I got, you know, to see the kid on the back of the bus. What if this was happening to me? It didn’t click why this would be any different than what happened to Nancy. I didn’t understand the subtler film theory at work here. When you were going back through this documentary and establishing this, what was it like to really delve into the queer theory of this film? But at the same time keep it fun and keep it about the movie, and about Mark.

Tyler: Oh, I screamed about that all the time. Because it’s easy to delve to the dark parts and stay, you know? And so how do you go back up and have fun every now and again? Keep it something that’s lively cause it’s a heavy topic, you know? I don’t know what it’s like to be in a Hollywood movie. I don’t know what it’s like to have Hollywood come at me for being in a Hollywood movie. But I do know what it’s like to be a gay person that feels ‘less than’ in the world. So having your end game, and knowing that the intention is to be positive in the end and look forward, it kind of helps you just tell the story how you need it to be. Not wallow in pity, but make sure that, for example, my mother would understand what we’re trying to say. That was kind of the intent. Keeping it a little bit elevated to a wider audience. It allows you to tell a story that you where you’re going with it. It was definitely a balancing act to be able to do it, because we had a lot of fun. There was a lot of fun stuff that happened, and fans are always wanting to talk about Freddy Krueger, and…

Roman:
The best part I think for this, for the fans of it, was when we introduce everyone at the reunion and they get to see each other and embrace each other. Everyone is like, Oh my God. I’m oddly emotional about that. It’s nice to see these people come together at the same time. Our biggest challenge as filmmakers was nailing that intro, and like setting up the structure of how this movie is going to work, and getting the history in as quickly as possible. That makes you want to go on this journey. You don’t want to be like, oh, is this going to be a two hours of tension and terror? I’m not ready for that.

Les: I feel like you laid the roadmap out really well at the start. I knew I knew what this documentary was going to tell me about, different from ‘Never Sleep Again’, and where the focus was going to go.

Tyler: I think a lot of people assume that we were just like really focused on the Elm Street part of it, which we really weren’t. You know, it comes down to the fact that we have, we live in a city, in an urban bubble and every time we step into a place like this, we meet people that are, that are still shaken by their experiences. You know, we’re surrounded by gay people and we feel we take for granted a little our freedoms that we have where we live. When I met you, I met you in Maryland.

Mark: Right. I was shocked just walking into that. That was fun. Somebody threw a birthday party for themselves and they pretended was convention. It was like, all of a sudden we were in a movie theater with like 25 people watching the Elm Street movies.

Tyler: I was not prepared for what I saw. I walked into this crowd and there’s a big crowd of people and they all looked very stern, and it was a bunch of obviously horror fans. I thought, oh, I better not let them know I’m gay. They’ll kick my ass. No, they all lined up to tell their stories to Mark. And I was like, whoa, these people aren’t guarded!

Mark:  I think the three of us, Robert, Kim, and I have something very much in common. Kim doesn’t really live the life, and I as well, but Robert is still very invested in his career and doing very well. But we are iconic on social media, and people place a lot of importance on us. I mean, I have so many letters from people who want us to be in love with each other.

Robert: The great thing is we are.

Mark:I love him because, like he said, we were talking about the relationship at work. What did you say?

Robert: What did I just say to you in that text? “Where my boyfriend at?”

Mark: But it’s true. When we were filming, he was protecting me. The same dynamic that happened in the movie is still prevalent here today. And with Kim it’s like… I always think it’s really interesting if you really look at ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2’ through real queer eye, go and watch Kim and my scene in the cabana, right. And add one little fact – she’s just realized that her boyfriend is gay. And I love the way she plays the scene because I had a relationship like where the girl was like, no, we’re walking you through this. It’s like we’ll get through this, it’s going to be okay. We’ll get to the other side. And I believe that’s exactly what she would’ve done. And I believe actually that’s what Lisa would have done. So, you know, I think it’s really cool and I love it when kids project that on it, and tell me, “that’s what I would want it to be”. Like, if I told my girlfriend, you know, that my horror show, my Freddie, was being gay or whatever. So I love, I’d love them to re-cut this movie. Actually. I mean, people have. There’s an ‘afterschool special’, a ‘brokeback mountain’ and I’m actually putting together, I ordered a picture book, I’m having a Grayson and Jessie picture book made.

Les: For me, going back and rewatching this movie after kind of understanding the background on it, and then the overall interpretation of it, I wanted it to be a much more positive movie. If it came out now, it’d be fine. It would be okay to have a male lead that’s vulnerable. Maybe if it had come out now, if I was growing up right now, maybe it would’ve landed differently with me. And then I read David Chaskin’s interview about it being homophobic.

Mark:
That it was meant to be homophobic, yes.

Les: And then, I could never drop this sense that no matter what good I might tease out of it for myself, I was being trolled by the screenwriter. It made the third act of the documentary so vital. I mean, you couldn’t have done anything else by your conversation with him for the end of the documentary. But, really, that moment is what brought it all home for me. I really can’t believe your patience and the amount of work you must have done to make that a safe space for him to talk.

Mark: That was all [Tyler and Roman]. These boys and, and, but I will tell you this: God went right through the top of my head and out my mouth with that one. Because as you know from seeing the movie, David didn’t apologize to me. He did what everybody’s dad who’s never been in therapy does. He was like, well, I’m sorry if you felt I harmed you. And David did troll me for 20 some-odd years. Very intentionally. He would say one thing and then would call me a slur, and how do you be kind to that person? And that was the one thing that we all agree. We weren’t going to put a number on that. We could have done a number on David, if we wanted to.

Les: I was so impressed with you in that moment. To be holding to your truth there.

Mark: I, you know what? I learned the power of truth at many points along the way, and it’s like you’re in a bubble of divine protection. I love when people come to me with gossip, and say, Oh, this is what I just heard about. And when you have the power to say, well, you heard that from people because I told some of them. It’s like, you’re not telling me anything about myself. I put the word out that I’m human being, I’m flawed. All of these things. And you can’t shame me for it.

Robert: But Mark took the high road the whole way, you know? And when you’re taking the higher road, and you’re utilizing truth in whatever form it comes, whatever comes with it, you know, you can never utilize justified anger because it’ll always be read wrong and your story will always come out false. Now, from my perspective, I’m able to empathize with Mark in a completely different way because there’s never sympathy. There’s never been sympathy from me, from my character. And the perspective of my character still works because that’s who I am. If you’ll notice from the straight man’s perspective in this movie, there was never a judgment on the sexuality. That’s never been a prerequisite for someone to be my friend, and it isn’t now. And I think there was no mistake of me being cast as Grady and Kim being cast as Lisa. It worked in a way where it left it up for people to interpret for themselves in one respect. And then the other respect is what you guys touch on so brilliantly, which hits it on the head. There was a naivety that was going around that I was questioning from the beginning. Like, let’s just be honest. Let’s put the truth on the table. What’s the dynamic here? Because our own relationship is gonna blossom just as it did in the movie. I don’t know. A lot of that stuff was there, but a lot of that dynamic between the three of us came about in the performances and in the relationships because my character never attacked that, ever. He never questioned it, never attacked it. But there was that subtle thing that was going on between us in the beginning that got cleaned up
by the end when he came to me for help. I never attacked him for it or judged him for it.

Mark: And that would have been such an eighties thing to do. You know what I mean? That kind of character would usually like to call me a slur, and he never does. And it’s the same thing with Kim. But you know, the thing is I don’t – to hop to the metaphysical, which I am happy to do it at any given moment – I really believe that we made that movie for this moment. I’m absolutely convinced that the only reason I ever made Elm Street 2 was so they it could just hang out there for a time, and be here now. And to have this conversation that we’re having at this particular moment. Here, in Austin, Texas, this conversation right now. Whether it be about race, gender, color, whatever, religion, you know, we all, we all got our turn when someone just shits on us. And you get to go back, and clean it up and say, you know what? I think you misunderstood me.  You saw me as a vulnerable, nice, kind person. I am a kind person, and I am a strong man, both. So don’t cross me. Don’t poke this bear. And that’s what David did throughout my life. Poked me until I couldn’t stand it.

Robert: And that’s where more empathy came from me and watching the documentary is that I knew that Mark had obstacles and challenges, but I didn’t realize the depth and how and how much they did really affect him and what was going on with him personally where when I watched the documentary, I got emotional. And it made me proud of who I am, that I always treated him the way that I am. That from when I was a boy, I understand what it’s like to be hurt. I understand what it’s like to be betrayed. I understand what it’s like to be judged and, and misunderstood. And that’s what made me who I am. And it gives me gratitude as a man. It makes me a better father. It makes me a better friend. It makes me more empathetic and understanding and compassionate. But I mean, you know, I also had a little bit of guilt for ideas that I had when I was younger about, you know, other people’s struggles. And so when you get to take a look, sometimes, you know, taking a look at your own truth is eye-opening. That’s the wonderful healing thing that can happen when you have that kind of openness and willingness to look at somebody else’s story and go, “Hey, that must, that must’ve been really hard, and I’m here in this moment to support.” To support this endeavor, to support the movie, to support the filmmakers and to keep our relationship going, which we were talking about earlier. When you make a movie like this, even if this subject matter was never there and the obstacles and all these things the filmmakers are bringing to light, you’re still a family. But this made us even more of a family.

Tyler: Robert’s spoke a lot about sincerity and truth when we talked to you in Florida. It was actually very inspiring. It made me like focus. I used that as inspiration a lot because there was… this film could easily just turn into a reverse bash. Oh, you know, we’re angry gay people. But there’s similar experiences that a lot of straight men have. You’re very guarded. I think that we have to learn to see that it’s not just a gay experience, it can be a human experience. It’s a weight that all men carry with them.

Mark: Honestly, I would not to be a straight man for everything in the world. The load that you have to carry on your back, the expectations. I’m a big fan Brene Brown, one of your fellow Texans. She wrote book, this guy came up to her and said, I really liked your book, but you didn’t mention men. And she’s like, well, I don’t study men. He said, that’s really convenient. The people that are toughest on me are the women in my life. There are high expectations of what it’s like to be a man. Like I feel blessed to be gay because I can talk about this stuff. I can’t imagine what it’s like to carry around this whole, ‘I am the fixer of all problems’ role. Men don’t often have an outlet for this. They’re afraid to scream. They can scream in sporting events and in violence. And I think that’s why they’re attracted to horror. I mean, you see that, uh, like you get to go into that, that church, you know, the movie theater as a church. But I do think that’s a connects. That’s where it, that’s where the answer lies. Being able to kind of say, this is something we all share.

Robert: But here’s the funny thing too, you know, that there’s always the exception, you know. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve always been able to speak my feelings. I’ve always been able to be honest and accepting of others. And I think that a lot of it has to do with what I’ve experienced when I was a young boy and how I was raised by my father. And I think it goes the other way too, about what stereotypes gay men have. Especially in this context of Hollywood. I liked that we break it open and we don’t necessarily have to have an individual sort of perspective on it. What I like about what [Tyler and Roman] did is you leave the audience to be able to interpret for themselves Mark’s experience, what happened, and what it’s like now. You guys also opened it well with what it was like. Watching before I met [Mark], things that I didn’t know. Where you grew up and how you got into the film business. Very different from my story, but so much to relate to. I think that’s why I really love what you said about it all coming to now, because I think that’s the key to life. Being able to accept that and be open to that – that everything comes around. There’s a synchronicity that happens.

Les: Yeah. I wouldn’t have been ready to begin this interview last year.

Mark: You have a freedom. Yeah, I think and it’s so interesting because Kim is the voice for me in ‘Scream, Queen’ that advocates for compassion. Like when she’s in the elevator and she says he is having this catharsis, and Jack acts like the father figure, and is just like, “Well, get over it. You should’ve gotten over a long time ago.” And then she gets to say, “This is him getting over it. You’re watching him get over it. Be honored to be in the presence of somebody getting over it”. I think that’s interesting how that played out in the making of the documentary, come out. You really see that in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2’. I mean, if you really want to go to that pedagogy, I mean we’re a family dissecting a family when we’re sitting around that fireplace and the people that are there… I love like Marshall, but you know, the conversation, just the smart ass, you know…

Robert: And I called him out there too. I did it during the making of the movie, and I did in the audition, and I’m never gonna change who I am or what I said. Even though my perspective changes, I’ll never have to go back and re-explain myself. That’s what I was talking about. I never had to go back to Mark and say, sorry. I never had to because I never did anything to hurt him. Even sometimes when we had a little discrepancy, it was part of art. It was part of creativity. There was never anything personal to me.

Mark: It’s funny, you know, Jack said to me, “Well, I’m not going to apologize.” And I said, well, I don’t expect you to apologize, but do you feel like you’re supposed to? Because I can unburden and listen to you. You’re like, I’m supposed to apologize and listen to you.

Robert: Let’s get to the nuts and bolts. Sometimes it’s really about getting to the simplicity and you can sometimes that’s the hardest thing to achieve. Because you can beat around the bush, and you can talk. But like, let’s talk about what’s really going on. That’s what I thought was really done well between us at the fireplace. We all just let it out.

Les: And I’ll also with you and David, I’m sure he would have talked circles for an hour.

Mark: Oh, David’s still talking in circles. I mean, [Tyler and Roman] have four hours of him. And I said to them later, when David says like, “You scream like a woman.” That book on my face… I was convinced I wasn’t in the room when he said that. Right? Because, he would not have the balls to say that my face. And they were like, no, you’re there. I was in a blackout. I unpacked it later, but I don’t think people can really understand how much I hated it. I grew up from a place where, like, rocks were thrown at at the time I was little over this, and I succeeded. You know, I never let anybody get in my way, and I let some chubby man in a dark room making homophobic jokes get to me. I should have been… it’s interesting, you know, it’s when you talk about trust, like I totally trusted Roman in Tyler. I’ve never asked them to take out anything. And there are things that I don’t like, you know? Mostly they’re vanity things about angles, that I was like,dude, did you really have to do that to me? Or, why didn’t you tell me before you were shooting that? But that comes down to trust. When I did Nightmare on Elm Street, I had worked with Robert Altman before. I knew the job of the director is to protect you. Right? That’s the deal that you make. I’m going to do everything that I want for this character, and if I make a fool of myself, please stop me, or edit it out. Please protect me. I’m gonna give you everything. I mean, believe in writers. I read every piece of punctuation on the page, everything. I honored the writer, I honored that. I read what [David] wrote down. Even though sometimes it didn’t make sense.
Then, to be betrayed like that… I came to understand that Bob Shea, Jack Shoulder, David,
nobody knew what to do. And at the very end, to say, oh, well I see it now. You’ve been in
showbusiness 35 years. You live in Los Angeles County. You didn’t know any gay people? I
mean, like Jack actually said to me at one point, he goes, well, I never knew you were gay. And then he goes, you know the rumor on set was that you were the lover of the producer. Well, how could you not know that I was gay, and think that I’m the producer’s lover? How did those two things live at once in your mind? But they do. It’s amazing, the denial. I just thought it’s very interesting to have this conversation, when often they’re not based in reality.

 Robert: You say something that may or may not be on your behalf… I don’t know how much you were affected when David sat in that dark room and called you a name, but I don’t think that you were ever on that level of vulnerability up until then, like you’re saying, being in a lead in a feature film. Those little jokes weren’t between three or four people having a chuckle. It’s going out to the public. That leaves anyone extra vulnerable. So there’s, you know, there’s no shame in it. Anybody’s defenses are gonna get up in the beginning as they go, wait a minute. There’s a line being crossed here, and I don’t accept it.

Les: Hell, if I felt mad at the man…

Mark:Oh, you know, we’ve had the experience cause we been in 60th cities, right? He’s been pissed at. My friends and Mississippi said to me, you know, you were 26 years old, 27 years old and your husband died. If you were a woman, they would hold you up as so brave. I wasn’t expected to show emotion about it. To not be affected by this. You know, my dad said to me at one point, he said, you know what we have in common? He had been in Korea, and he lost an entire group of men. 100 men, killed at the same time. And he said, that’s what we have in common. It’s like you’ve been to war. But people are expecting you to not say anything about the war. Your friends die, and you just bury them. Just live with the PTSD. We had to become calm like that, and to find that numbness. Like, if you’re in a movie theater, and on-screen, two guys kiss? And you hear the audience, you know, hiss or boo. If you’re a gay person sitting in that movie theater, you turn into yourself. You turn in, and you start to protect yourself, because you know you’re not in a safe space any longer. Cause if people, really in the dark, really think that’s funny, that it’s hysterical? That’s what they really think, then.

Les:Yeah. I had never placed, I’d never done the chronology of placing this movie in the era that it happened in. I’d never put ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2’ alongside ‘…And The Band Played On’ as happening simultaneously.

Mark: Exactly. And that there were riots literally in the streets, and the president of the United States ignored it. Thousands of people had died. Unimaginable, yet you’re in a situation where all your friends are dying and nobody even mentions it. And you’re not supposed to say anything. It was a clear signal that we weren’t cared about.

Les:Thank you all so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.