The 13th Floor

We Chat With Thommy Hutson, Author Of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN!

As die-hard horror fans, we tend to obsess over our favorite movies. Constantly poring over any details we can uncover regarding their creation. Thankfully, some of those same fans are also terrific writers in their own right! Enter Thommy Hutson. Thommy was one of the producers on the epic documentary NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, which is regarded by most fans and critics alike as the best retrospective doc about any film franchise ever. He was also involved in the creations of the similarly themed docs, HIS NAME WAS JASON and CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES. But his heart has always remained firmly with the ELM STREET franchise.

Last year, with Red Rover Press, he released a limited edition hard cover book version of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, which promptly sold out. But fret not, now a newly assembled paperback edition is available both for those that missed out, and for those that continue to have an insatiable appetite for any info regarding Wes Craven’s masterpiece. We delve into the creation of the book, the differences between the previous edition and this one and, of course, the first time Freddy Krueger came into both of our lives!

HTR CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES started out as a book and eventually became a documentary. This was the opposite – NEVER SLEEP AGAIN was a documentary first and then became a book. At what point did you start thinking about a book version? Was it early on while making the documentary or later?

Thommy Hutson: Actually, the funny thing is, the idea for the book came way earlier than the documentary. Dan Farrands and I had been talking about it around the time we were making HIS NAME WAS JASON. He edited the FRIDAY THE 13TH book, which is just a fantastic book. He knew of my love of the NIGHTMARE series and he knew about my relationship with the cast & crew and had suggested, “have you ever thought of doing a book?” That was the basic genesis thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if there was a book about A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET?” And then years later, no one did a book. We did the documentary which was an entirely different beast. The book idea came back to me because in the documentary, we spend about 40 or so minutes on the original film, but we don’t explore in depth on the many, many moments of the film. We explored the main idea of the film and the key scenes, but there was so much material that I had that I wanted to utilize in some way, shape or form. The 30th anniversary was coming up, so I decided to use those interviews we hadn’t used, and I re-interviewed everyone including new people we hadn’t gotten for the doc. And the book formulated from there as a love letter to the original movie for its 30th anniversary.

BTS_Krueger1 I wanted to ask you about the format a bit. Because I’m used to previous similar books of this sort, I almost expected it to be broken down film by film in the series, but what’s interesting about this is it primarily focuses on Part 1, but also it tells the story of everything that came before Part 1. The history of Wes Craven and Bob Shaye and Robert Englund and where they were before NIGHTMARE became a part of their lives. Was that important for you to differentiate from other books that had come out?

TH: It was and I felt that if I were to do a book on the entire franchise, it would really just be a transcript of the documentary. And I thought instead of doing that, I wanted to tell the definitive story of this incredible film that launched everything and became a global phenomenon. It made Wes Craven a house hold name, and this is the story of the genesis of New Line Cinema. But more than that, the career trajectory of Bob Shaye, which is super fascinating and such a success story in Hollywood. It really was important to tell the story of the making of this one film that Wes had called his watershed movie. And I think in a lot of ways it really, really was. Leading up to the movie, what came before, what could they both do next to take that next step in their film careers, and finding a way to make A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET shine, in the way it did for both of them.

BTS I think it gives interesting context, rather than jumping right into the making of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Part 1. You get the context on who all these people were and how this perfect storm happened.

TH: Yeah, when you really look at the context and back story of Wes and Bob and Robert and some of the other people involved, you really see that this movie became really important to the people working on it. It was certainly important for Wes. It was certainly important for Bob and New Line Cinema. I believe it was important for Heather and Robert! This put everyone involved at the forefront of the horror genre at that time.

Craven-BW Sadly, Wes Craven is no longer with us. But what I always admired about him was that when it came to things like this, whether it be books or documentaries about one of his projects, he seemed so supportive of the people that celebrated his films. He did the foreword for this book and was very prominent in the documentary. Can you talk a bit about his involvement in the book? Because I always felt that the original NIGHTMARE for a long time was a bittersweet thing for him. It gave him a directing career, but he also had to sign over a lot of the rights. I felt he must’ve come to peace with that and he seemed really happy anytime someone talked to him about his work. How’d he feel about what you guys were doing?

TH: I can honestly say that I would not have done the book had I not had Wes’ blessing and contribution. It was really important to me that this book not only be seen as a definitive making-of, but as something that celebrated not just the film, but what Wes did with that film, and what he contributed to the genre, which decades later is still staying with us. When I originally contacted him, he had said such great things about the documentary. He certainly remembered enjoying that experience. There was no resistance. I think he really enjoyed the idea behind the book, which again was to celebrate him and his career. Him providing the foreword was really the way to begin this book, because without him there wouldn’t be a movie, or a book talking about it! His contribution and support was very instrumental to me. Even after, I would email with him back and forth, and we’d chit chat about certain things. He was really involved in my process of writing this book. It wasn’t a one and done interview. He was open throughout the entire process for me to ask questions, get clarification, and let him know what I was doing. It ended up being a really nice part of the process and the memory of creating this book, because I had a really nice back and forth with Wes. He’s not only a great director, but one I’ve always admired.

never-sleep-again-the-elm-street-legacy-9781618686404_hr So right now, there’s a brand new paperback edition of the book. It had come out previously as a limited edition hardcover, correct? What’s the differences between the original pressing and now this new one?

TH: Yes, the hardcover was done originally as a limited run, an over-sized coffee table book that came out in time for the 30th anniversary. That is and will remain out of print. I swore at the beginning it would be a special limited thing and I’m keeping my word. I wanted people who ended up getting that to feel that they got something that is more than just a coffee table book, but a collector’s item for them. This edition, the trade paperback is essentially the same text as in the hard cover. There are however new interviews with cast and crew I ended up tracking down after the fact. There are expanded stories and anecdotes and other interview materials that I did not include in the hardcover. So there is an expanded text. It’s a few 1000 words more, and also a preface by Bob Shaye, which I was so happy he did. I wanted to do something to make this version special as well and when I asked Bob to do a preface, he was so gracious enough to contribute. The original book has over 900 photos. The paperback has over 400 photos, which I’m super excited about, because they’re black & white, the quality is great. And I was really happy that I didn’t relegate to just a few photos in the middle. I really wanted as the book went along to not just have text, but also to tell the story in pictures. I think it’s a great balance in text and visuals. It’s a great price. This is what I call the accessible reading copy of the hardcover book. (Laughs) It’s nice and small, and you can take it with you and you don’t have to worry about ruining it. You get all the great stories and tons of great photos that you can take with you wherever.

BTS_Krueger2 The hardcover is the edition you might be able to physically hurt someone with if you hit them over the head! (Laughs) This is the much safer, friendlier edition.

TH: Exactly! You could hit someone over the head with the hardcover and do some damage. (Laughs) A lot of people have said to me that they’re super happy that the paperback has come out and they picked it up in addition to the hardcover. Simply because they don’t want to ruin their coffee table book, so they literally use this as their reading copy. That’s why I added more information. I didn’t want this to be just a “oh, we’re throwing this into a paperback.” This is a completely redesigned layout. Peter Bracke, who wrote CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES, he did the layout for both editions. This was a complete do-over from step one in terms of crafting the presentation of the book. We put a lot of care and thought into how to turn this over-sized hardcover book into a 6 x 9 trade paperback. It definitely is a new edition of the book. Yes, there are less photos, but they’re still great photos and there are some in this version not in the other one. The completist in me needs both!

TH: And a lot of people have said that! This version is a great, accessible way to read the book.

nightmare_on_elm_street_uk_poster_1984 When was the first time you saw the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET? Do you remember seeing it for the first time as a horror fan and what it did to you?

TH: Oh, I vividly remember it! I write about it in my introduction, because I had wanted to see the movie as soon as I saw the commercials on TV, which really flipped me out! My father did not want to take me. I ultimately convinced him, and we went. And I was literally paralyzed with fear. I started to cry, I was devastatingly upset. I wanted to leave. And my father literally said, “you wanted to see this thing. So we’re staying.” Suck it up kid! (Laughs) It had such a profound impact on me. When you deconstruct it, and in context of what horror films are today, it’s almost like this dark family drama. And that’s what I really responded to. There was this really interesting mystery going on that even as a little boy I could understand. And then there were these scary moments. It was the first horror film I remember seeing as a kid that scared me, yet set off all the neurons in my brain. I wanted to solve the mystery. I wanted to know who Freddy Krueger was! I wanted to know why Marge did what she did. On top of that, you have this incredibly dark, menacing monster. It really made me realize for the first time just how exciting and scary horror movies can be. They’re not all traditional slashers. It was the first that felt real to me. Freddy may have been in the dream, but all this other stuff going on with Nancy felt real. I thought that could be my babysitter! In terms of the other horror films I was watching, this was the first time it felt like it could happen, because hey, it’s a nightmare.

Continuity You hit the nail on the head in terms of where this fits into the “slasher” cycle. For me, these were real kids. I remember when I saw it as a little kid, these teenager characters felt like they could be my older cousins. I knew Nancy and Glen and these characters. I hadn’t thought about that until now, how these kids were already like people that I knew.

TH: I was a little kid when I saw this movie, and I’m not disparaging other horror movies, because I love them. But I did not personally know many camp councilors that went to camp and had sex. (Laughs) It wasn’t in my wheelhouse. However, I knew kids like Nancy and Glen. Frankly, my brother was a jock. Everything in that movie felt so accessible. I didn’t have to imagine anything. That could be my older brother in that movie. And even Tina, she’s not in the movie long, but you get who she is and then she’s gone and it’s really shocking. They don’t make them like they used to!

TH: True, and when I say that, I also think, maybe that’s a good thing? (Laughs)

You can purchase your copy of the new paperback edition of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN on Amazon right here!