In 1985, handsome upcoming actor Mark Patton landed the lead in the highly anticipated sequel to the blockbuster film, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.” But, instead of becoming a young Hollywood leading man, Patton found himself facing a stark reality: he was a young, closeted gay man starring in a subversively queer film that was maligned by fans, failed at the box office and destroyed his career.
Patton retreated from show business and left the country, unaware of the growing reappraisal of “Freddy’s Revenge” and the cult status it achieved. Patton, out of hiding after more than 30 years, has finally embraced the film and confronted his personal demons by telling his story in a new documentary, “Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.”
The compelling documentary will receive its Florida premiere and open the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Friday, Nov. 1 at Savor Cinema, in conjunction with the Popcorn Frights Film Festival.
The film, directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen, examines how attitudes towards the controversial sequel have changed, along with the social mores of both Hollywood and society. Interviews with celebrities, film historians, local Fort Lauderdale industry personalities, and the original cast and crew—including his co-stars and Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund—round out the story of how the gayest horror film of all time ever got made.
“It’s a totally different world today,” Patton said of the industry in a telephone interview. “The people who kept (gay actors) in the closet were the casting directors, agents and managers. They would scare kids into believing they’ll be thrown away. Oddly, so many of those casting directors and mangers were gay.”
Detailing the homophobia and AIDS-phobia of the mid-1980s as a closeted actor in Hollywood, Patton, now 55, retraces his career missteps and finally confronts the film’s writer, David Chaskin, who vehemently denied inserting the gay subtext into the story until just recently. Patton also publicly addresses his own nightmare with AIDS and how he barely survived the plague that wiped out his friends and former partner, “Dallas” cast member Timothy Patrick Murphy.
Patton recalled an event that occurred on his 20th birthday when a group of gay friends took him to see a “witch doctor” for a fortune-telling session.
“This was pre-AIDS and he told me that I wouldn’t like what he was going to tell me,” Patton said. “He told me my karma was to be a witness. Whatever was coming, I would be safe. Those friends are gone now and I am a witness to a horrifying time in history. I want to arm young people with knowledge and honor my friends who are gone or have lived through it.”
Patton is now working on more film projects, but he yearns to be 25 again.
“Today, truly unique people are becoming movie stars,” he pointed out, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or general weirdness. “Show business is never going to be an easy place, it is always going to be toxic and mean. You have to be tough to stay in that game, but these kids are going to make it.”
“Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” opens the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1 at Savor Cinema, 503 S.E. 6th St. in Fort Lauderdale. For tickets and a full schedule of the 150 films being screened during the festival, Nov. 1 – 17, go to FLIFF.com.