Nancy Thompson is one of the most iconic final girls in horror, and rightfully so. While the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise boasts 7 entries (and 1 remake), many people view the 3 films with Heather Langenkamp as their most favorite (twice playing Nancy and once playing herself). It is my firm belief that (without Heather’s performance in NOES) Freddy would simply be a footnote in horror films.
Yesterday, Heather was gracious enough to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. I managed to get two of my questions answered, but thought I would take an opportunity to highlight what I thought was her best questions/answers here.
Question (Scaretissue): While I was on set for Robert Englund’s Fear Clinic, his voice sent chills down my spine every time he spoke. When I watched the commentary of Freddy vs Jason, he laughed just like Freddy repeatedly.
What is Robert like off set, and is that big laugh really a part of his persona?
Heather: To know Robert is to laugh with him, at him, for him, around him and in spite of him. Maybe we should get his laugh for our ring tones. The laugh I like best is this lower, slow kind of chuckle. Like a creepy, perverted, heh, heh, heh…. NANCY…. I can hear it now!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHGGGGG!
Question (Obradbrad): Hi Heather! I’m a huge fan. I have two questions! One, when you first did the original Nightmare on Elm Street, did you have any idea how big of a franchise it would be? And two, what was it like acting as yourself in New Nightmare? How similar was yourself in the movie to you in real life?
Thanks again, Heather!
Heather: If anyone says they had any idea that Nightmare would be a hit, they are lying. I was actually thinking that I needed to get some better work if I was going to be able to stay and pay my rent in Hollywood.
Now, regarding playing myself – I thought Wes Craven had lost his marbles with that crazy storyline. I always told him that I was going to play someone completely different from my REAL SELF so that I could remain sane. I would have looked like a really bad contestant on REAL WORLD if I had acted truly like myself. I created a character, who was as close to me as I could handle, and then went from there. I often argued with Wes though. Especially when it came to talking about “my crazy mother who was in a mental institution.” I felt that my real mom wouldn’t have appreciated that.
In you playing Nancy, we see here go from a normal teenage girl with an average life to a woman who has been through all kinds of hell, seen its horrors, and basically was an equal match against one of the biggest boogeymen in horror movie history. Did you enjoy developing Nancy to the point that she reaches by the end of the movie? And also, does it make you proud to know that Nancy has become one of, if not the, best horror movie heroines in film history?
Heather: I am the luckiest woman alive to have played a character that is a credit to her gender and has fought the baddest monster of them all – Freddy Krueger. I am not the first to appreciate the fact that Nancy goes from a Johnny Depp crazy teenager to a earnest dream psychologist helping suicidal teenagers to the mother of a Freddy haunted 6 year old over the course of ten years in three distinct films. Who does that? I am so happy about that legacy and PROUD.
Questions (sharper4221): Have you even been accidently cut by Freddy’s glove? Also, have you been in touch with Wes Craven or know what he has been up to lately?
Heather: That damned glove never cut me. But it did poke me, knick me, frighten me and bruise me. But I loved every minute of it. Bring it on, KRUEGER!!!
Wes and I have thankfully stayed in touch. If you have a chance to see the documentary I made called I AM NANCY (shop.iamnancy.net) he gave me one of the best interviews of all time. He is one of the most influential people in my life and I try to tell him that all the time. He and I exchange emails from time to time and I wouldn’t dare divulge any secrets about his whereabouts or else he might send Freddy after me. I know that he lives on the East Coast now, He is a grandfather with adorable grand babies and for once in his life he probably isn’t trying to devise ways to make us all scream.
Question (DelrikT): Hi! There was a huge difference in the Nancy character between parts 1 and 3. Why was the part 3 Nancy written to be so much more callow? It certainly wasn’t your fault as you played both parts beautifully.
Heather: OMG! I can’t believe you used that word callow! In one of the first reviews I ever got, Pauline Kael or someone like that called my performance callow. I still don’t really know what that means in terms of acting. But, Nancy got so restrained and boring for awhile there in NOE3. Falling in love with Craig Wasson? What was she thinking? Sometimes I feel that she was holding on so tight to her own disturbed reality that she had to tread very carefully in the world. I often discussed the fact with the director, Chuck Russell. “Why is she always sitting down!!” “Why can’t she be more active and kick ass!” “Where is the Nancy we all know and love?!” In the end, I had to turn over the Nancy Kick Ass mantle to Patricia Arquette and the other kids – Jennifer Rubin (yeah!) Penelope Sudrow – Welcome to Prime Time Bitch! Rodney Eastman!! Ira Heiden!! Bradley Gregg and baddest of them all Ken Sagoes ! They received and adopted all the best “Nancy FINAL TEENAGER” mojo. The torch was passed in that movie as Nancy sacrifices herself to the Franchise GOD Freddy Krueger.
Question (BEANANCYBOY): I purchased the I AM NANCY DVD, and I sent a little note about how, growing up gay in the early 90s, I likened my bullies to “Freddy” and I looked to the character of Nancy for survival, I was essentially, a “Nancy boy!” a frequent taunt that actually was a compliment…in retrospect!
You sent the sweetest personalization of my dvd, and I thank you for that! It made me smile! (I will also be attending the Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, NC, and look forward to saying hi in person!)
MY QUESTION IS: How was the scene where “Nancy” falls back into/through the chair in Dream Warriors filmed? It has always been one of my favorites, and is quite impressive for its time (Scaretissue Edit: The scene can be found HERE).
Heather: You would have thought we were landing on the moon for that shot. Everyone on set was talking about it for days. We were doing a …. VISUAL EFFECT! I remember meeting all the cool nerdy VFX crew – never realizing that they would take over Hollywood in a few short years. I got the simplified “you’re an actress not a rocket scientist” version of what exactly we were going to achieve with the use of …. computers!!!! Basically we locked off the camera so it couldn’t move at all. We did one take where I fall backwards as if going into a chair – but there is nothing there but a foam pad to catch me. Then we shoot another shot with just the chair and they…. MORPHED THE TWO TOGETHER in the COMPUTER! It was the first visual effect that was employed for Nightmare on Elm Street. Pretty cool.
Question (Scaretissue): I’ve read about how New Nightmare was written about your experiences with a stalker. How did it feel to open up that wound on film, and is this a touchy subject to this day?
Heather: Having a stalker introduced me to the idea that fame has a huge price. Since that time, I have tried to be philosophical about it. But it certainly tempered the excitement I might have had about my career at that time. But how can I complain about anything. You have to take the good with the bad and hey, if exploiting people’s real life pain makes money for a big movie studio, WHY NOT?!
Heather was a phenomenal guest, and you can read the full thread HERE. I loved the answer regarding the chair scene in NOES 3, and her answer to my question about the stalker/New Nightmare was very surprising. You can follow Heather (and her documentary on NOES) on Twitter (@iamnancydoc).