A Nightmare in Hollywood Couldn't Kill Mark Patton

In an exclusive interview with HIV Plus, the iconic star of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 comes out as HIV-positive and reflects on why Hollywood’s homophobia caused him to walk away from his dream.



Grudgingly, Patton went along with the real-life charade he was forced to play in his new Hollywood life, and in 1985 he landed his now-iconic role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. But he was playing one nightmare on film while living another behind the scenes.

“By that point, AIDS was all around me. Everyone I knew was getting sick,” he says. To make matters worse, the gay subtext of the Elm Street sequel, which was purposefully woven into the script by screenwriter David Chaskin, began to be noticed by fans and critics shortly after the film’s release. But rather than admit what he’d done, Chaskin blamed Patton for making the film — which included a scene where Patton’s character runs into his gym coach at a gay leather bar and lines like “He’s inside me, and he wants to take me again!” — too gay.

“David would just blame me any time it came up alluding to something along the lines of, ‘Well, he’s a big old fag and he chose to play the part in a big old fag way.’”

However, the darkest moment of Patton’s career came in 1987. He was cast to play what would have been a groundbreaking gay character on a major network television series, but what happened next shattered the promising actor’s Hollywood dreams. “It was what I would consider my last true hardcore audition,” Patton remembers of nearly getting a part as a gay character on CBS. He was sitting at table with nearly a dozen other men. “They began to ask me if I would be comfortable playing a gay character and telling people I was straight if they began to question my sexuality? I remember looking around that table and I knew every one of those men were gay. All I could think about was how everyone I knew was dying from AIDS and we were having this bullshit conversation. My heart just broke and that was the line for me. I knew I would never be able to do what they were asking, so I walked away from Hollywood and decided to move on to a place where it was totally acceptable to be gay.”

Before long, Patton had re-branded himself as a successful interior decorator, but just as he’d risen from the self-inflicted death of his movie career, he was about to endure another trial. After battling what he thought was a severe case of bronchitis, Patton underwent a battery of tests and discovered he was not only HIV-positive, but was also battling a slew of other infections, including pneumonia, thrush, and tuberculosis. “I found out on my 40th birthday and three days later I was in the hospital,” Patton says. “But because of the infections I had, they made me take tuberculosis medicine and that didn’t mix with those older HIV meds. There were so many side effects.  It was like I was poisoned. ” He pauses for a long moment before he continues. “I almost died there, but thankfully my friends took me to an AIDS health clinic, which saved my life.”

Tags: HIV & AIDS