It was during the 1980s when Mark Patton was ready to embrace stardom. He had recently worked with the likes of Robert Altman and Cher, and was starring in the highly anticipated sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, as a teenager named Jesse who had to contend with Krueger’s nefarious plans for him. But all of that changed quickly as the sequel was poorly received at the time, and it seemed like Patton’s lifestyle directly clashed with Hollywood’s value system.
Mark disappeared from the limelight, building a new life for himself away from the entertainment industry, but when he returned to appear in the Never Sleep Again documentary, Patton realized that it was time for him to take control of his life and his legacy and has worked tirelessly over the last 8 years as an activist, and has also reclaimed the power of Freddy’s Revenge, proving that the sequel was far more important than many in Hollywood had ever truly recognized.
Part of Patton’s journey has included the documentary, Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, which was directed by Tyler Jensen and Roman Chimienti. The film follows Mark as he reconnects with genre fans all over the world and reclaims his spot in horror history.
Scream, Queen! recently screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2019, and while in Austin, Daily Dead spoke with the filmmaking team behind the doc, as well as with Patton and his Freddy’s Revenge co-star Robert Rusler, about how the project came together, the power in being able to take control of the narrative of your own life, and how they hope the documentary will impact fans and society as a whole.
I was so excited to see this documentary, and it did not disappoint. It was wonderfully done and it was great to see you, Mark, coming back into the fold and reclaiming your career. So Tyler and Roman, I’ll start with you two. Can you discuss how this came together? Did you guys approach Mark? Did Mark come to you guys? How did this come together, and why was this the right time?
Roman Chimienti: We were all at different points in our life, but there was something that was drawing all of us together. Mark had resurfaced, his story was starting to come out, and fans liked that this guy was back and that he would talk to them, and he was announcing that he had a story to tell with his book called Jesse's Lost Journals, which is awesome. I read it and I was like, "I want to be a part of this." I felt like his story is important, and I wanted to help him. So I wrote him and said, "I'm a sound engineer, I'll help you. I want to be a part of it," and it just grew.
Mark Patton: I didn't know the rules of social media when I came back into it all. That’s why I'm so hands-on and friendly, which I'm glad I am, now. But, when I did Never Sleep Again, they found me two days before I filmed, right? So I was not, in any sense of the word, camera-ready for that. If I would've known it was coming, I would have dropped 10 pounds, I would have done this, and this, and this, but Hector and I were on a plane and we were doing it. Then, I started reading the social media things. There was this girl, who now is the head of one of my fan clubs, I will tell you how this adds up, but she wrote on a website, "Oh my God I just saw Never Sleep Again and everybody looks great, except for Mark. He didn't age well."
So, I just wrote back to her, and I was like, "Listen sister, I am 10 years older than all of those people. I have had cancer and pneumonia,” and I just laid it all on her, heavy, and I was like, "So, what did you do for me today?" And she wrote back and she was like, "Oh my God, I don't even know why I said that,” and she's become a great friend, because she didn't really believe that those were real people.
Robert Rusler: That little story is a perfect example of what Scream Queen is doing for the masses. It's about realization. It's about taking a look at yourself. It's about seeing others in a different light. It's about realizing that, no matter what differences there are, that it's 2019 and it’s time to stop with the judging, and it's time to start with the compassion. The importance of this story is that you get to see through Mark’s eyes. I'm not gay, but I don't have to be to be able to relate to this. And I get to be a part of it, because I was a part of it from the beginning. But the relationship that we had in the movie is kind of what we have in real life, as well. He's never judged me for being straight. and I've never judged him for being gay. This was not a prerequisite to be friends, it just never was an issue between us, and it shouldn't be for anybody else. I think that's what's so powerful about this story.
Mark Patton: Oh, thank you. That's so sweet. The word that was coming to me, when we were talking about this, is empathy. And empathy is something that's really lacking in our society, right now.
I grew up a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan, and I will totally admit, the first time I saw a Nightmare 2 as a little kid, growing up in the Midwest, none of it landed on me. None of it did.
Mark Patton: Right? Well, because it wasn't coded to you.
It wasn’t, at all, but it was still scary, and there was still something real about the things that Jesse was going through. I think what's interesting is that now, you are getting to reclaim this movie, reclaim your career, and your place in horror history. You're also getting to change the narrative in a very powerful way, too. Did you guys realize the impact that this documentary could have on the world, and how there might be some kid out there who's going to watch this movie, and it will forever change his life. I mean, it changed mine in a very different way, and I think it's something very special.
Tyler Jensen: That was definitely the hope and the genesis of this project. We wanted to make a film that was needed when we were that age. We were force-fed these action movies as young men where you should always be the hero from the start of the movie to the end of it. But then, we have horror movies which we can relate to, because the heroes of those movies aren't necessarily believing themselves to be heroes at the start, and they go through a journey to find their strength, and survive at the end. That's what I think we were all connecting with when we were watching these movies.
Was there anything that surprised you guys, going through this journey with Mark, in terms of spending time with him?
Roman Chimienti: Oh, everything. Mark was, and I can't stress it enough, extremely open and brave. It takes a lot to let cameras follow you around and not be controlled by it. This was happening in real time. We didn't know what the outcomes were going to be, and neither did he. Sometimes that means, when you're having that difficult conversation, and the emotion swell, and the cameras are running, you're just being truthful about it all. So, the surprises were at every turn.
Robert Rusler: Something that is true in art is that the challenge is transparency. And in order to be transparent, you have to be truthful. You have to be honest. You have to be authentic. One of the reasons why I've always adored Mark is because he was never afraid to be himself and speak his mind. He doesn't ever parrot, you know? And that's the way I am too. I grew up a certain way, and I have a certain belief system, but I don't parrot. I speak my mind, and I say what I feel, because I feel good within myself to do that. And I think that's what's so strong about Jesse, and what's so strong about Mark, as well.
Mark Patton: It's always more powerful when you speak about what you know. The one thing that I know for certain is that, yes, this movie is going to affect people. I've already seen aspects of it affecting people, and I've participated in that. You'd be amazed at the stories that I'm told.
Robert Rusler: One thing you have to remember is that, ultimately, this movie's about Mark and his experience, his perspective, everything that he went through. I'm just here to support him. But there's another part of it, too, that I have to chime in on. I've always been a part of it in another way, too where, from the beginning, being a straight guy in Hollywood, hundreds of men fell in love with me in this movie. So it was an opportunity for me –
Mark Patton: To learn how to accept it.
Robert Rusler: Absolutely. To accept it, and never have a judgment about it. I've had men come up to me, very emotional, and say, "Oh my God, you're the first man I ever fell in love with.’ And you know what? It's actually a privilege to have been in this movie and have this role, and have it opened my eyes to just how special this project was. Then, seeing it now, has even heightened my empathy, my compassion, my own –
Mark Patton: Humanity.
Robert Rusler: Vulnerability and humanity. And I've said this before, and it's a nice feeling to never have to look back and be ashamed of something that I did, said, or even thought. I have plenty of shame in my life. I'm a human that's fallible, but one of the things that I feel a lot of gratitude about comes from being a part of this movie, and having the relationship that I share with Mark – the way it came out on screen, and the way it is now.
Mark, you’ve gone through so much in your life and in your career. Has it been fulfilling in some way to be able to turn all of that into something positive now?
Mark Patton: I think it's about currency. I created this whole thing. People ask me, not this movie but this movement, I created it on purpose because I wanted to change the narrative. And I will advocate for myself. I'm a grown up man, who's a gay activist, and I'm very strong now. I wasn't when I was 25, though. Also, I didn't want my legacy to be a blowjob joke, either. I'd much rather be inducted into the Missouri Historical Society, which I was just recently, as a social activist and an actor as somebody who changed the conversation in the world. When I put on my glove and said I was HIV positive on the cover of HIV Plus Magazine, CNN picked it up, so I'm going to continue to squeeze every last drop out of this motherfu--er to do good in this world.
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