Horror fans have mixed emotions regarding the first sequel to the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. While the film would see the return of the ever popular Freddy Krueger – one of top three names in the slasher franchise, the film’s lead character would prove controversial. Mark Patton had unsuccessfully tried out for the role of “Glen” (given to Johnny Depp) in the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but was hand picked to play the role of “Jessie” in FREDDY’S REVENGE.”I was thrilled to be chosen to Star in NOES2,” said Patton. “Lately it has come to light that I was cast over Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Times change, I guess they are OK.”
What most viewers didn’t know was that Patton was much more than just a handsome face. Having an impressive resume,’ which included performances on Broadway as well as having worked with Oscar winning actress, Cher, and legendary director, Robert Altman – its no wonder casting agents for FREDDY’S REVENGE were determined not to make the same mistake twice. In a genre where the average male teen was portrayed as a sex-crazed bonehead Patton, while clearly over qualified, would bring to the screen a vulnerability and sensitivity rarely seen by a 1980’s slasher audience. But this would be a mixed blessing…
The original script called for a female lead character, not unlike the first installment. At this time, audiences were much more accustomed at seeing a “damsel in distress” versus that of a man. Of course there were plenty of male victims strewn about the slasher franchise but none that were toyed with as emotionally as Jessie, nor played with as much intensity.
Patton’s performance was above average but, in this instance, the believability factor wasn’t quite so welcome. Viewers rejected the concept and the resulting backlash would result in Patton walking away from acting all together. “The Orginal unhappiness regarding NOES2 came from The Fangoria Fans,” explains Patton. “The real hardcore horror folks. The reviews from the main stream press such as the New York Times & Variety were excellent and the box office was fantastic! Then the Homo Nightmare started…with attacks on both the movie and myself. I began to see the entrenched Homophobia in Hollywood, the insistance on staying in the closet. I became an Actor to be free of this but I was naive.”
So complete would be his self exile from the public eye, it would take 2 years for Hollywood to locate him for participation in the film’s DVD extras.”Truthfully I did not understand what I was walking away from,” Patton admits. “I am not even sure I consciously knew I was walking away. I had other things on my mind, my friends were dying in droves…everything in life seemed foolish in that light. I walked away not knowing that it would change and I would have the ability to help. I believe I was being protected I am not sure FAME would have been the best road for me at the time.”
Indeed, technology was not the only thing that had evolved during his screen absence. When Mark resurfaced on the horror scene, it was a whole new world with the public’s perception of male/female roles having changed considerably. It was now permissible for men to show emotion with the traditional stoicism no longer the norm even in the straight world. Mark Patton, for his part, is openly gay and lives happily with his partner in Mexico. Many horror fans who grew up homosexual look back on NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: FREDDY’S REVENGE with a somber understanding. Being bullied by a testosterone charged coach and teased by your fellow classmates was, for some of us, a nightmare not exclusive to Elm Street.
What really sets the character of Jessie apart, however, was his complete vulnerability while wrestling with “nightmares” that (when one gives the film a second glance) can certainly be construed as gay (only male nudity, images of his coach in black leather S&M, etc). For his part, Patton was not altogether pleased with the director’s handling of his character. “Had I directed NOES2, knowing it would be seen in this light, I would have gone in a much darker direction I think,” says Patton. “Maybe have “The Smiths” for Music, suicidal thoughts, longer hair, a little dirty from lack of care…much more distant from the parents..and a more sexual undertone towards Freddy…a completely different approach to Grady (at least in the subtext).”
In two weeks, I look forward to finally meeting Mark Patton at DAYS OF THE DEAD in Indianapolis. In the 26 years since Mark portrayed Jessie he has not only learned to embrace his character but who he is as well. An advertisement for DAYS OF THE DEAD shows Mark joined by NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s most famous actress, Heather Langencamp, along with Linnea Quigley and P.J. Soles. The poster is urging conventioneers to attend a “Scream Queen” panel.
One Facebook fan commented, “Don’t you kinda find it insulting that you’re considered a scream queen?”
“Not at all,” said Mark. “I created this.”
TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES wishes to thank actor, Mark Patton, for graciously agreeing to participate in this piece. Mark will be attending DAYS OF THE DEAD this weekend and looks forward to meeting all his NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET fans!