"I actually saw the original movie in the theater," he tells PEOPLE, "and thought it was pretty cool. [Being in the remake] just seemed like a real gas."
Here are five things to know about the new Freddy Krueger:
1. He's not easily spooked
"It’s really hard to scare me," Haley says, adding that horror films such as Halloween left him unmoved. What does creep him out? "One of my biggest fears is the vulnerability of when you're lying in bed asleep," he says. "It's unsettling."
2. He has big shoes to fill
He may have landed the role of Freddy Krueger with no audition, but Haley knows following in actor Robert Englund's footsteps won't be easy. "I don't feel like I'm competing with Robert because if that’s the case, he's going to win," he says. "He's Freddy."
3. Johnny Depp did not steal a movie role from him
Despite Internet rumors claiming that Haley walked into an audition for the original Nightmare accompanied by Depp only to have the Pirates of the Caribbean star nab the role for himself, Haley says, "I don't remember any of that. I'm not even sure I auditioned for the film."
4. He thinks makeup is torture
Transforming into the disfigured Krueger was no walk in the park for Haley, who was forced to endure three-and-a-half hours of makeup every day before filming. "The best motivation for becoming a crazed monster is to go into makeup," he says. "You come out of that trailer wanting to kill everybody." Still, the routine was well worth it. "It was an incredible experience," he says. "I'll tell you this though, I'm glad it's not a TV series."
5. He's loving this new career upswing
Haley solidified himself as young star after major roles in 1976's hit Bad News Bears and 1979's coming-of-age film Breaking Away, but soon after his success "drifted away." He left Hollywood behind only to return 13 years later and score an Oscar nomination for 2006's Little Children. "Against all odds, I have a second chance," Haley says. "Sometimes I'll be in my trailer and I'll just pause and think, 'How did this happen?' "