How Adam Sandler Accidentally Killed the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Prequel

How Adam Sandler Accidentally Killed the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Prequel

Apr 13, 2015

When a franchise has the kind of life that A Nightmare on Elm Street has had, there are always going to be ideas that fall through the cracks. Did you know, for instance, that Peter Jackson wrote an Elm Street sequel in the early '90s? Titled A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Lover, it was going to address the fact that Freddy Krueger wasn't the terrifying entity he'd been in the first movie, how he'd become a weakened clown who teens tried to encounter so they could use him as a punching bag. 

There were also plenty of other pitches being drafted back then, and in the years since a lot of attempts at Freddy vs. Jason movies had been discussed or in early stages of development both before and after the 2003 Freddy vs. Jason. Right before that crossover happened, one of many Elm Street prequels was in the works to show fans what Freddy was like as a real-life serial killer before he became the burnt-up boogeyman of the dream world. 

John McNaughton was on board to direct that movie, titled Elm Street: First Kills, and word was that it would be similar to his 1986 breakout, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Three years ago, Robert Englund, the original and longtime portrayer of Freddy, described the prequel to Moviehole with reference to the early McNaughton:

There was a great kind of Portrait of a Serial Killer kind of docudrama script around, where you see Freddy and his first kills and the courtroom scenes where these really horrible, terrible lawyers keep getting him off; great corrupt lawyers getting him off and then the vigilante parents. Finally in the climax, burning him alive, and maybe you see him manifest, and show up on Elm Street at the very end, where his sort of revenge, reign of terror would be hinted at.

Now McNaughton has shared new details on the unmade movie with Bloody Disgusting, and he also revealed a surprising reason for why the movie -- or, at least his vision -- fell apart. Here he divulges his preferred idea for the prequel beyond the stuff from Englund's description:

I started thinking about what we haven’t seen before and the idea came of well, where did Freddy come from before he returned in the first picture? Hell. Nothing could keep me from going to Hell and the idea of actually setting a story in Hell, that to me, I was just like a pig in s--t.

Unfortunately, Elm Street's studio, New Line, had just made a movie with many scenes set in Hell and it lost money. That movie was Little Nicky, Adam Sandler's comedy in which he plays the son of Satan (interestingly enough, Sandler's love interest in the movie is played by Em Street alum Patricia Arquette). Apparently, Sandler killed the movie by ruining McNaughton's pitch. The director continues:

After that didn’t do too well, New Line didn’t want to go back to Hell. So I basically told them to go to Hell. Just the idea of being under the thumb of the studio and being called on to satisfy genre expectations, it’s not something that would make me happy. They were unwilling to go to Hell with me and it just came apart.

Seems like a lot of people have a new reason to hate on Sandler, though I think it's clear that New Line was at fault here. And we'll never know if McNaughton's idea would have worked, especially at the time. It's pretty hard to do Hell seriously, as we've seen with plenty of movies in addition to Little Nicky.

 

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