CHAPTER 8

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NIGHTMARE #8:

I’m on a rocky promontory surrounded by boulders baking in the hot sun. A childhood friend is trapped above me. I’m climbing down to get help, and my foot gets wedged in a crevice. I pry it out and resume my descent down the steep cliff toward a dead tree jutting from the stone. I reach a drop-off and can go no further. I try to climb back up to the dead tree. I’m stuck. I keep trying to climb down with no success. The frightening recurring image in the dream is a vertiginous look over the edge of the cliff. It’s dizzying and nauseating, like Jimmy Stewart on the stairs of the bell tower in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It’s been a long time since I suffered through this nightmare. But not long enough.

NIGHTMARE 3 RAKED IN A WHOPPING $45 million, so come 1988, New Line of course commissioned a sequel to the sequel of the sequel. Again demonstrating an uncanny eye for new talent, Bob Shaye discovered three young screenwriters who would together come up with a different twist for Freddy and his victims.

An untried twenty-seven-year-old wunderkind, Brian Helgeland launched his career in high style with A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Brian—who would go on to win an Oscar for his screenplay of L.A. Confidential, get nominated for his adaptation of Mystic River, and concoct such box-office monsters as Conspiracy Theory and Payback—demonstrated a keen sense of structure that would make him one of Hollywood’s highest-paid writers. Writing under the pseudonym of Scott Pierce, brothers Jim and Ken Wheat had a modicum of experience, but compared to Brian, they were practically grizzled veterans. Their first feature film was a 1980 sci-fiflick called The Return, which featured one of the odder casts you’d ever want to meet at a sci-fifest: Martin Landau, Cybill Shepherd, Raymond Burr, Neville Brand (from Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive), and my old friend and co-star Jan-Michael Vincent. Five years later, they codirected and cowrote a Star Wars spin-off TV movie for ABC called Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. I had auditioned for the original Ewok Adventure with Kitty Winn from The Exorcist. Neither of us got the part. Too young again.

I think the reason so many young creatives—and I don’t mean only writers, but also directors, cameramen, and special effects techs—gravitated to the Nightmare franchise and were willing to work for low pay was because these movies offered them a real chance to stretch. More so than in a television series, or a romantic comedy, or a straight low-budget indie flick, they could really show off, strut their stuff as long as they stayed within the budget of their department. Taking creative chances was not only accepted, but also encouraged. The dream sequences were particularly fertile ground because they gave people the opportunity to let their imaginations fully flower. Wes Craven and Bob Shaye had never been meddlesome backseat drivers. Once they hired you, they trusted you to deliver. They gave advice but weren’t always second-guessing you. Another plus was that although New Line paid you peanuts on your first gig, if you did a good job, they promised to hire you to work on other New Line projects. The next time out, you’d likely get a bump in pay and so on. They were true to their word; the minimum-wage interns on the first Nightmare were in the camera department by Nightmare 4 and could now afford a down payment on a house, drive cars that didn’t break down every four blocks, and even start families.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to spread their wings on Nightmare 4, Brian Helgeland et al. let it rip. For the first time in the franchise the three writers picked up the story more or less where the last Nightmare left off.

I’d been working my ass off on the series Downtown, so when the filming for Nightmare 4 started, I was beat. As tough as a movie shoot can be, it’s far less difficult than a weekly sixty-minute episodic drama with multiple locations. Television hours are a real grind; you’re always adapting to changing conditions and the commutes suck. (Tyne Daly had the right idea when she was on Cagney & Lacey: when the schedule became too grueling, she would sometimes sleep in the studio car overnight at the next location, which gave her time to learn her dialogue for the following day. By minimizing the schlepping back and forth, she gained precious hours of sleep and was able to deliver Emmy Award–winning work on an insane timetable.) On the other hand, television money was far better than movie money—I’ll take a V paycheck over an early Nightmare one anytime.

As had become the rule, another Nightmare meant another hot new director, and, boy, did we find a good one, a talented foreigner with a vision, Renny Harlin. A blond giant from Finland, Renny had already directed two films, one of which was Prison, a tight little ghost thriller that starred an unknown Viggo Mortensen. Rumor had it that during our shoot Renny hadn’t had time to find a place to stay in Hollywood yet, so he crashed on his agent’s couch. I’ve always liked that image: this big guy who went on to direct the megablockbusters Die Hard 2 starring Bruce Willis, Cliffhanger starring Sylvester Stallone, and Deep Blue Sea starring Samuel L. Jackson, curled up on the sofa like a husband banished from the bedroom.

Coming off months of long hours and rush-hour commutes on my weekly series Downtown, I was feeling like dog meat and certainly wasn’t thrilled with the idea of getting back in that fucking makeup chair and facing cold glue and those stiff makeup brushes every morning. I was dragging ass, and Renny, to his credit, realized it. In hindsight, you have to be impressed that the guy was perceptive enough to notice that even though the performance was okay, his star wasn’t inspired.

Renny was hip to all kinds of new technology, most impressively a piece of equipment called video assist. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you take your video assist unit, attach it to the top of a camera, let it run simultaneously with the movie camera, then, once the scene is over, you can watch what you’d just shot from the exact same camera angles. Today, with digital film, that probably sounds antiquated, but back then, we thought it was pretty damn cool. Renny was a big fan of video assist and generally watched the shooting from behind an enclosed monitor rather than next to the camera.

Some of the shoot took place in the northeast end of the Valley, a sprawling area of extremely variable weather. It can be scorching during the day, then, once the sun sets, it can drop down to near freezing. The Universal Studios backlot is infamous for plummeting temperatures and ground fog. One Friday night we were out in the Valley, shooting the junkyard sequence, and it was getting colder and a damp wind was picking up. I was still alert enough to recognize that the set was phenomenal, as spectacular as any set I’d worked on. They’d stacked old wrecks ten high to form a canyon of junked cars, and when the headlights magically blinked on like evil eyes, it looked like a junkyard from hell. Where else would Freddy and his crazy mutt hang out?

Around three in the morning, between takes, I was slouched in my director’s chair wrapped up in a wardrobe blanket, shivering. Renny loped over and said, “Robert, c’mere. I wanna show you something.”

“A hot-coffee enema? An Irish coffee laced with Bushmills? Anything would be better than the mud they’ve been serving us for the past two weeks.”

“Even better. Check it out.” Renny is well over six feet tall, and at the time he had long blond hair, halfway to his ass. He looked like a fucking Viking, and when a Viking asks you to follow him, you follow him, no matter how cold or tired you may be.

He led me over to the video assist playback machine and fired it up. He and his editors had slapped together a rough cut of everything in the junkyard sequence that had been shot up to that point. Huddled like some monster monk with a blanket over my bald head, teeth chattering, clutching a craft-services cup-a-soup for warmth, I stood transfixed, watching what they’d come up with. It was original, stylish, full of camera movement and jump cuts, and it was enough to give a freezing Freddy a second wind. I don’t know how he knew I needed that, but that little glimpse of assembled footage got my adrenaline rushing big-time. Renny’s sneak peek motivated me through my toughest Nightmare shoot yet.

A couple days later, we headed to Pacoima, again out in the north Valley. For the first time in Nightmare history, Freddy Krueger was going to be seen in the light of day. All of our previous outdoor filming had been at night, but our writers had contrived a dream with Freddy at the beach, so it was off to … Hansen Dam?

Hansen is a large, once bucolic body of water now a little worse for wear and a bit forlorn that’s been around since the 1930s, regularly used for Hollywood locations, a recent example being 2003’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. A golf course was nearby, as well as an aquatic center, a full-blown recreation area, horseback-riding trails, and a historical museum. It’s also the neighborhood where Rodney King got his ass kicked. What better place for Freddy to make his outdoor debut?

In the scene we were shooting that day, Kristen Parker, who, this time out, was being played not by Patricia Arquette, but rather by a vivacious blond singer/actress named Tuesday Knight—and, yes, Tuesday Knight is her real name—falls asleep on the beach and has a dream in which a shark fin pops up from the water, then turns into a claw, which, of course, announces the arrival of our Mr. Krueger. Freddy then slinks out of the water wearing his usual Freddy garb, augmented only by a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. Even Freddy has a fashion sense. Having grown up a surfer, I was comfortable around the water … but, of course, I’d never jumped into a lake while dressed up as a claw-wielding psychopath.

The producers arranged to have a special trailer for me where Howard Berger, an inventive makeup artist who would go on to win an Oscar in 2005 for The Chronicles of Narnia, could apply the Freddy makeup FX. As this was the fourth Nightmare, getting in my makeup had become second nature to me. It was tedious and often uncomfortable, but it came with the proverbial territory. However, my monster had never really seen the sun, and I suspected that it might be a problem for him … or, actually, me. My trailer was air-conditioned, so I was comfortable while Howard was doing his thing, but I knew that once I left the cool interior climate—once my makeup and I got a taste of the ninety-degree day outside—my comfort would be kaput.

After Howard successfully applied the Freddy face, I took a tentative step outside, and almost immediately my brain started boiling like an egg yolk. I was as hot as I’d ever been on a set, and that’s including the time I’d done my first fire stunt on Nightmare 2.But I was a professional, so I looked at the fake palm trees and the augmented, art-department beach sand, savored my last moment of air-conditioning, strode into the blistering heat, and commenced the business of scaring the shit out of Tuesday.

We finished the scene in just under three hours, and those three hours were tough for everybody on both sides of the camera. As if my boiling brain and the Freddy makeup slowly filling up with sweat weren’t misery enough, the Santa Ana winds kicked up, blowing Hollywood sand everywhere, ruining Tuesday’s hairstyle and making it nearly impossible for our soundmen to get a clean take of our dialogue.

Then there were the uninvited guests. Hundreds of them.

I was so wrapped up in getting the scene in the can without passing out face-first in the reservoir from heat prostration that I didn’t notice the huge audience gathering until I was on my way back to the trailer to remove my makeup. Fifty yards from the beach set, a crowd of Nightmare fans had congregated to watch us film. Our security people had set up a cordon, but the natives seemed restless, and I wasn’t optimistic that it would hold.

The crowd screamed for me to come over and sign autographs, and normally I would’ve been happy to do so, but I was dehydrated and exhausted, and I was afraid that if I didn’t get out of my makeup immediately, my head would explode. I gave them a wave, a smile, and an apology, then headed into the trailer.

Howard realized how miserable I was, so he dived right in. He’d removed about half of the makeup when suddenly a dull thud came on the side of the trailer. Then another one. And another. Howard cautiously separated the trailer’s venetian blinds and took a quick peek out the window. Turned out I was right—the cordon hadn’t held. Scores of fans were surrounding the trailer, pounding on the sides, chanting, “Fred-DEE, Fred-DEE, Fred-DEE!

Stunned, Howard turned and said, “They really want your autograph, Robert. You better go out there, or they’re never going to leave.”

I stood up with half my makeup still hanging off my face and sighed. “Fine, I’m going.” I grabbed a Sharpie from my backpack and readied myself to sign an autograph or ten. Or twenty. Or a hundred. Anything to keep me and Howard from getting trampled.

Thankfully, the crowd stopped pounding on the trailer the second I opened the door. As I signed bits of scrap paper, baseball hats, napkins, assorted body parts including two perfect biker chick breasts (Freddy Krueger’s signature on one breast and Robert Englund’s on the other—ha, my daddy didn’t raise no fool), the fans applauded and continued their chant: “Fred-DEE, Fred-DEE, Fred-DEE!” I answered a few questions, posed for some quick snapshots, made a couple of scary faces, cackled the Freddy laugh, then lied, “My makeup man has to leave in ten minutes, and he’s gotta get the rest of this stuff off. Thanks for coming, and look out for A Nightmare on Elm Street Four: The Dream Master coming soon to Hell’s Octoplex!” Then, to hoots and applause, I went inside.

Almost immediately, the pounding started up again. Then the makeup trailer began to rock. Howard said, “Oh, shit, we gotta get outta here. Pretty soon they’re gonna tell their friends you’re here, and you’ll be signing autographs all night. Sit down. Let’s finish this.” He removed the rest of the makeup in record time, somehow managing not to scrape off my epidermis.

“Fred-DEE, Fred-DEE, Fred-DEE!

The crowd was rocking the trailer back and forth. I don’t know whether they wanted me to come back out, or if they just wanted to flip the trailer over. This would have made a great scene in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare: the monster and the villagers, updated!

Panicked, I looked at Howard. He stared back, scared. “We have to get the fuck out of here. Now!” I shouted.

Howard said, “I’ll go first. You get behind me. I’ll run interference.” He gulped. “Ready?”

“Ready.”

“Okay. One … two … three … go!

He somehow got the door open with one shove. The crowd parted, assuming I was coming out to sign more stuff. They assumed wrong. Howard and I fought our way through the mass of bodies, then sprinted toward the parking lot, where we split off to our respective vehicles. The crowd sprinted right after us. Despite the heat and my exhaustion, I ran as fast as I’d ever run in my life and put some distance between me and the Freddymaniacs.

My car was a three-year-old cherry 5.0 Mustang convertible. Fortunately I’d left the top down, so I vaulted over the front seat, jammed the key in the ignition, and shifted into reverse. I couldn’t take off the way I wanted to because, after all, I was in a parking lot, so my pursuers were able to stay with me as I drove toward the exit. Eventually, I shook them and made it safely onto the freeway.

Or so I thought.

Two minutes later, an old, beat-to-hell Dodge Dart drew even with me on my driver’s side. The car’s driver laid on the horn, opened his window, and stuck his smiling face out. “Yo, Freddy,” the kid yelled, “why’d you take off so quick? Where you goin’, man? Let’s hang!”

I floored it. The Dart pulled behind me into my lane and got right on my tail. Then another car—a Mustang, almost identical to mine—joined the chase. As did a Harley-Davidson with a passenger, the girl whose breasts I’d signed.

Now, I’m not a reckless driver, but I can handle myself behind the wheel when necessary, so for the next ten minutes or so I dodged between cars, trucks, and motorcycles, trying to ditch my growing vehicular entourage. I was pretty confident I’d lost my little parade, but to play it safe, I shot past my exit, then took a circuitous route back to my house and hid my car in the garage, just in case anyone was still following me. Because if the fans found out where I lived, well, Freddy would’ve become the stalk ee, not the stalker.

Since the script for Nightmare 4 was so loaded with SPFX and our budget was only $13 million (which sounds like a lot, but for a movie like this, it wasn’t, not even back then), we had several splinter units shooting simultaneously. Our sound-stage was an old, converted industrial warehouse beyond the Valley, way the hell out in Santa Clarita. As of this writing, Santa Clarita has become one of the busiest film-production centers in southern California—in fact, CSI has called it home for ten seasons—but back then, it had mostly been used for old westerns and car chases. And as was the case over at the Hansen Dam, it was hotter than hell out there.

One day, I had to drag my ass out of bed at four in the morning so I could be on the set for a 5 a.m. makeup session. By the time I got out to Santa Clarita, it was nearing eighty degrees … and this was before the sun came up. As was usually the case with these early calls, my makeup crew and a few on-set painters were the only people at the stage. One of the art-department girls was on her knees outside, drawing a hopscotch pattern on the sidewalk with a piece of colored chalk. She wasn’t there to challenge anyone to a game; the crude drawing was actually for a scene in the movie, a child’s graffiti warning that Freddy was coming. I was still half-asleep, so I didn’t realize for a few seconds that we actually weren’t the only people on the set that morning. A couple of cameramen on the other side of the soundstage were finishing up some inserts that they hadn’t managed to get in the can the previous evening. It was a round-the-clock Nightmare.

THE SECOND, THIRD, AND fourth units got the shaft when it came to on-set chow. During the overnight shoots, craft services would be long gone, and these poor, hardworking folks would be stuck with lukewarm coffee, cold, gelatinous pizza fused to the cardboard of the take-out boxes, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches crawling with flies, and if they were lucky, the remains of a jumbo economy bag of crushed Cheetos. This graveyard shift was a skeleton crew composed of loyal, devoted Freddy fans, willing to forgive the late hours and craft-services leftovers in order to contribute their talents to the Elm Street experience.

Another entrée from the craft-services menu that nobody wanted to eat was our animatronic pizza, a robot pie in which all the toppings were the faces of Freddy’s prior victims. Instead of a pepperoni slice or a meatball, imagine substituting the tiny, animated face of one of the film’s teenagers. We were there all night trying to get the FX pizza to work right when somebody in the grip department told the first assistant director that his crew was starving and wondered if they could order some food. The AD grinned and said, “Sure. Order up some pizza.” The grips rang up Domino’s and told them to rush over with a dozen large pizzas with the works.

Twenty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds later, a Domino’s car pulls up to the set and out trudges the unfortunate soul stuck working the late-night runs. The guy had long dirty hair stuffed under a Domino’s baseball cap, adolescent acne, and would rather have been anywhere else than a Santa Clarita industrial park delivering crap pizza in the middle of the night. This kid was slackerism personified.

While our production manager paid the kid, one of the FX crew guys sidled up to me and said, “Check this out.” He had a little twinkle in his eye that hinted, I’m up to no good.

He then opened one of the pizza boxes, removed the Domino’s pizza, replaced it with our animatronic death pie, and called the delivery boy over.

“Hey, fella, something’s not right with this one. C’mere.”

The kid shuffled over. “S’up, dude?”

“I don’t know. There’s something very weird going on here.”

Then … our killer pizza came to life! The expression on that kid’s face was priceless. It took us about fifteen minutes to stop laughing. I believe that somewhere there’s a faded Polaroid of that moment. I’d love to see it. Domino’s Slacker meets Robo-pizza. Classic.

It’s been said that style-wise, Nightmare 4 was the “MTV Nightmare.” In 1988, music videos were all the rage, and their jump-cut editing paradigm was influencing the look of commercials, mainstream television, and cinema. This new look meshed with the surrealistic dreamscape that Wes had originally created and worked perfectly as a design concept for Dream Master. Although our movie only cost $13 million, it looks as though we spent five times as much. Renny Harlin knew how to make one hell of a horror movie. He gave the film great bang-for-the-buck production value, kinetic action sequences, and a unique, unsettling, edgy feel. The first time I saw it, my initial thought was Man, if you’re into Freddy, watch Nightmare 3 and Nightmare 4 back-to-back and you’ve got the definitive Krueger double bill.

Nightmare 4 contains my favorite sequence in the entire franchise, and I’m not even in it! Alice is locking up for the night at the Crave Inn diner—get it? … Crave Inn? … Craven? … Wes Craven? … Weren’t we clever?—then she and Rick walk out to his truck, open the doors, and get in, and then … the sequence repeats … and repeats and repeats in a time-disorienting, continuous loop. The first time I saw it, I was spooked because it reminded me of how my nightmares tended to function. That repeating exit was the most hypnotic, disturbing, and accurate depiction of a dream I’d ever seen.

Renny Harlin had found a way to unnerve even me, a jaded horror actor, and I couldn’t help but be impressed. I think I realized then and there that playing Freddy Krueger would probably haunt me all the way to my obituary column, but I had finally made my peace with being identified as the logo character for the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. I was proud to be part of this burgeoning phenomenon.

Several years earlier, my old pal Mark Hamill had been feeling a bit typecast, concerned that his entire career might consist of reprising Luke Skywalker or other sci-fi–related roles. I’m sure he was being offered a ton of space-opera scripts of varying quality. Mark was a huge Mel Brooks fan, and at the time, both were top talents on the 20th Century Fox lot. Apparently Mel heard through the studio grapevine about Mark’s dilemma, so he invited him up to his office for a chat. After some pleasantries, Mel told Mark, “Listen to me, kid—when you’re lucky enough to have a hit character like Luke Skywalker, you embrace it. Enjoy. When you’re on the merry-go-round, you don’t get off until it stops turning.” When I first heard the story, I didn’t pay much attention. But now, with the success of the Nightmare franchise taking on a life and momentum of its own, I realized I was probably going to reprise Freddy as many times as New Line asked. Just like that continuous loop, the repeating-dream roundelay outside the Crave Inn from Nightmare 4, I was on the merry-go-round now. And that advice Mel Books gave Mark Hamill years before made perfect sense to me.

* * *

I’M NOT SURE HOW Wes felt about the entire end product; I do know however that he believed we went a little overboard with some of the humor—e.g., when Freddy turns Debbie into a cockroach, then spits the Roach Motel tagline in her face: “You can check in, but you can’t check out.” On the first Nightmare, the humor that existed wasn’t very overt; most of the laughs were gallows humor born out of discomfort. But by Nightmare 4, more funny stuff was in the script, and I was quick to improvise a joke or two on the set myself.

Our editors can also take some blame for too many wise-cracks; when they were given two different takes of the same scene, it seems they gravitated toward the more comedic rather than the darker option. These Freddy punch lines were used as a kind of punctuation mark, a way to end scenes with a filmic rim-shot. Had we kept Fred Krueger strictly the incarnation of pure evil, things might’ve become boring and predictable, but we also had to be careful that we didn’t turn him into a Catskills comic.

Whatever we were doing, it worked; the fans approved. Nightmare 4 made $50 million. As Freddy famously told one of his victims, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” And prime time meant I had opportunities come my way that I’d never dreamed, including the chance to direct my first movie.

My agent, Joe Rice, had an old UCLA friend named Rhet Topham. Rhet had come up with a horror script that was built around the current ubiquitous 976 phone-sex toll numbers (e.g., 976-FUUK or 976-LUVV, where it would cost you a buck a minute to get your rocks off), which were a fad back in the eighties. The movie was called 976-EVIL, and as its premise, posed the question “What if you called a 976 number, and the guy who answered the phone tried to recruit you to murder, maim, and pillage? And what if that guy was Satan?” Joe asked if I wanted to direct. I’d never imagined that my directorial debut would be with a horror flick, but I guess it made a certain sense, because not only was I familiar with the world of horror filmmaking, but I was comfortable in it. Plus my newly accrued horror-genre status would help put asses in the seats.

I called in a favor, and Kevin Yagher agreed to oversee the special effects makeup on the film. Once again Kevin and his crew went above and beyond the call of duty and on a limited budget created incredibly memorable design. Our star, Stephen Geoffreys, was gradually transformed from a sexually repressed innocent into a horrific incarnation of teenage lust and revenge. Stephen had already achieved cult status as Evil Ed in 1985’s hit horror flick Fright Night; he’d also essayed a tragic performance alongside Sean Penn and Chris Walken in At Close Range.

Sandy Dennis was our female lead, and she certainly brought class to our production. She had won an Oscar in 1967 for her supporting role in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and was a seasoned professional who had a great sense of humor that she brought to the role of the fanatically religious Aunt Lucy. The film did well enough that four years later, a sequel was in production.

Casting can be difficult for me because having been on the other side of the desk I have too much empathy for the actors auditioning. It’s especially tough when people come in, nail the audition, and I have to tell them thanks but no thanks because they just don’t have the right look for the part, just like all those times when I was told I was too young or too old for the role. The actual shooting can be a pain sometimes too because as director you are always watching the clock.

My favorite part of moviemaking is postproduction. Even though it can be frustrating, I love editing. I love the freedom to juxtapose scenes that heretofore I thought had been locked in chronology on the page; I learned that shuffling sequences editorially sometimes enhances the narrative or provides mystery. You realize during editing that it is truly the most creative aspect of filmmaking. You can play with time, stretch moments, condense scenes, discover new rhythms. You can highlight good performances, correct and minimize weak ones. Editing is as close to playing God as you can get in filmmaking.

Even more than editing, I love playing with the postproduction sound mix. A strategically placed mournful train whistle, chirping birdsong, the hissing of sprinklers, an infant’s wail … the perfect music cue can bring to life a flat scene and make it resonate in a way that you could never have imagined when you were on the set.

Directing has other advantages too. My set decorator on 976-EVIL, Nancy Booth, was a mixture of a young Lauren Bacall and a teenage Amy Irving, with a bit of Ava Gardner tossed in for spice. I needed a pretext to spend more time with her, but I didn’t want to risk a sexual-harassment suit, so I concocted a way to legitimately be around her. I would ask her to scout locations with me. Thing is, I’d already locked up the majority of my locations, but she didn’t know that and was happy to drive me out to East Bumfuck and check out, say, the locker room in an abandoned high school. I would also use any excuse to visit her in the art department office— anything from trying to match a paint swatch to borrowing some yogurt from her minifridge—just so I could see her or hear her laugh. One day I walked into the office and she was curled up under her desk, napping like a puppy. I sat down and stared at her for a half hour. Thank God she didn’t wake up or she would probably have thought I was a perv.

After copious flirting, Nancy and I went out on our first official date during postproduction. At the end of the evening, we stood in the alley behind an old Hollywood screenwriters bar and had our first kiss. My knees practically buckled. I felt as if I were fourteen years old all over again. Having been through a failed marriage and a couple of serious relationships, I knew at that moment, after one kiss, that I was in love again. As James Garner said to Sally Field in Murphy’s Romance, I also realized, “I was in love for the last time.” When I expressed that to Nancy, she said, “All right. Get rid of your baggage, and call me.” I did. And a few months later, we were engaged.

976-EVIL wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever been associated with, but in the grand scheme of things it may be the most important. Had I not signed on to do that project and watched a sleeping girl lie, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life.

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