Amanda Wyss may best be known as Tina Gray, the very first teenager that Freddy Krueger turned into human confetti in Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street. But Wyss has been busy in the three-plus decades that have passed since A Nightmare on Elm Street premiered on November 9th, 1984.
Amanda can be spotted in a myriad of high profile television shows like ER, NYPD Blue, JAG, Cold Case, Dexter and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg for Wyss, who’s also surfaced in feature length films Deadly Impact, The Graves and Fallacy, to name but a few.
This year she made an official return to her horror roots in the critically acclaimed Thommy Hutson flick, The Id (read our review). It’s a remarkable piece of work, and it now has the bright lights shining on Wyss once more. Her performance is award worthy, and whether we’ll see her wrangle any major trophies for her depiction of a broken woman on the brink of insanity or not, we’re yet again paying attention to the gorgeous and immensely talented Wyss.
Amanda was kind enough to field a handful of our questions, so we let loose with everything but the kitchen sink. Read on to find out what it was like filming The Id, working with Wes Craven and even what direction she’d choose to travel were she in charge of rebooting the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise!
Addicted to Horror Movies: I want to start with a little focus on the earlier days of your career. So, if you will, tell me what the casting process was like for A Nightmare on Elm Street, and were you excited to be featured in such a terrifying piece of work?
Amanda Wyss: The casting process for Nightmare was interesting. All of the girls initially read for Nancy. I was told for the call back that I’d be reading for Tina. Wes matched Heather and I up to read together, and then brought in the boys. We improvised a few scenes together. He told us in the room that we had the parts. That rarely happens. It was actually a fun audition, as auditions go. I was, and still am proud to be a part of such an iconic, beloved film.
ATHM: While filming, did you get the impression that the film was going to be a bit more impacting than your typical horror flick?
AW: I didn’t know. Not because I didn’t think we were making a good movie. I thought we were. At the time I’d read a lot of horror novels, but the only horror films I’d seen were JAWS and a few fantastic old black and white films. So, I didn’t realize, at that point, how unique our movie was going to be. Wes was brilliant.
ATHM: After filming had wrapped, and you had seen the final product, what were your thoughts? Did the film crawl under your skin, as it did with the vast majority of viewers?
AW: I didn’t see the movie for almost two years after it came out. By the time I saw it I’d forgotten parts of the story, so it scared me to death. I found Tina’s death scene to be overwhelmingly sad. I still do to this day. She fought so hard to live. The first 20 minutes of the film is Tina fighting for her life. Someone once said that all great horror is intrinsically sad. I think that’s very true. The character of Tina embodied tremendous loss and sadness. She was the death of innocence.
ATHM: How did A Nightmare on Elm Street change your life?
AW: Well, for one thing, it gave me lifelong friends. And it created a place for me in this amazing genre that I love working in.
ATHM: Did you see the franchise, and Freddy Krueger, for that matter, becoming the pop culture phenomenon that they eventually became?
AW: I didn’t know while we were filming. But, on Halloween, about a year after the film came out, a bunch of kids came to my door dressed like Freddy Krueger. That was pretty cool.
ATHM: Any interesting stories in regards to working with Wes Craven?
AW: Wes was intimidating, smart, caring and knew exactly what he wanted. Very funny, too. I had so many challenging and weird things to do in the movie. The body bag, the eels, the centipede, picking up worms, running barefoot down a glass-strewn alley, the rotating room. Wes would approach everything like it was a piece of cake. He’d say something like “So, you’re going to stand in the body bag and we’re going to fill it with eels and then zip it up. It will be easy. Just look calm because you’re dead.” I got vertigo in the rotating room while filming my death scene. I could tell Wes was getting frustrated with me. When he came into the room to talk to me he felt how disorienting it was. After that, he couldn’t have been more supportive of me. Throughout the years he put in a good word for me with quite a few directors. He was one of a kind.
ATHM: Let’s say you had the opportunity to make an appearance in another Nightmare film, would that be of any interest to you?
AW: It would all depend on the script, the role and the people involved. I’m not interested in doing any nostalgia based cameos.
ATHM: And building on that question, I’ve got to ask, did you see Samuel Bayer’s remake, and if so, what were your thoughts on the film?
AW: I haven’t seen it. It’s my understanding that it’s just a retooling of the original. No new take on it. There are so many amazing screenwriters out there with original material. We should be making those new and interesting films.
ATHM: Let’s say you had some creative control over a new Nightmare film, what direction would you like to see the franchise head?
AW: Definitely a musical. Horrifically dark and raw and filled with sorrow.
ATHM: Let’s move forward and talk The Id. It’s a powerful film, driven by psychological jolts and emotional susceptibility. How big of a challenge was it carrying so much of the film on your shoulders?
AW: We had a very tight shooting schedule. We shot the whole film in 11 days. It was definitely challenging but I was incredibly supported by the crew and the director, Thommy Hutson. I felt safe to go down the rabbit hole, to go to the places I needed to go emotionally.
ATHM: How do you prepare yourself to become a character like Meridith Lane?
AW: Thommy and I had many talks about the story, Meridith’s life and the script. My desire was to step into her world and help tell the story truthfully, and from the heart. At the time I was filming another movie. So after wrap each day I would call Thommy and we’d discuss my character and the themes of the movie. I flew back to LA, landed at midnight and started filming The Id the next morning.
ATHM: Is there any difficulty in turning a character like Meridith Lane off, so to speak, when the day ends, or do you take a little slice of that persona home?
AW: We were on location, which was great because I was able to suspend real life for a few weeks. I didn’t intentionally stay in character the whole time. But in hindsight, I see that I did to some degree. The rawness and vulnerability of the character really stayed with me. It took me quite a while to let her go.
ATHM: The film has earned a lot of praise from genre followers. Did you anticipate such warm reception, and how did it feel to once more really take center stage of a genre film?
AW: This has been an amazing journey. The reviews have been overwhelmingly kind…mind-blowingly so. This movie is a true labor of love and it’s definitely my favorite role I’ve played to date. I’m grateful Thommy thought of me for this part. It was wonderful to work with him. I’m excited that we have a few more horror projects in the works.
ATHM: Any compelling little production stories?
AW: Thommy and I are old friends. So it was really interesting to work with someone who knows me so well. We had a mind meld. He could just look at me and I knew what he was saying. And vice versa. The movie was shot predominantly handheld, so our talented DP, Athit and I were literally in a physical dance throughout most of the film. We were very in sync. It was an intense set, not a lot of goofing around. But it was friendly and supportive. The whole experience was pretty great.
ATHM: You’ve got a series of films slated for arrival in the next year or so, any of those films in particular that you’re really excited about?
AW: I’m excited about Catch a Fallen Star, a wonderful story about country music, family, and redemption. Two horror films, Big Legend and Sleep Study. And a thriller called The Watcher of Park Ave. The role of Meridith spoiled me. I’m definitely looking for more challenging, creatively fulfilling roles like that.
ATHM: Thank you, Amanda – you rock, and I’ll always be a fan of your work!!
AW: Thank YOU, Matt! You rock!