A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET heroine Heather Langenkamp took to the stage today to give us insight into the Elm Street legacy, her documentary I AM NANCY, and what contemporary character she thinks is a modern-day Nancy Thompson.

Moderated by FM executive editor David Weiner, Langenkamp told the crowded theater of film lovers what sparked her desire to produce the documentary, I AM NANCY, which puts the spotlight on her ELM STREET character. She called director Wes Craven and his assistant didn’t know who she was. It didn’t strike her as noteworthy until later, and it was her sister-in-law who was particularly irked, asking why Nancy wasn’t the focus of the adulation instead of Freddy Krueger. Langenkamp didn’t know. She told her, “It’s just the way it is. It’s Freddy mania. Not Nancy mania.”

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Landing the gig, she recalls that “I probably didn’t even know the name of it when I auditioned.” She’d been auditioning for anything she could, commercials, films, TV, so when she got the role, it was one of hundreds that could have come along. Obviously, this was the right film, though she says realized at one point, “What’s my legacy as an actor? This is it!”

She says that one of the reasons ELM STREET hit such a nerve is because it arrived around the same time home video did. Before that, people could see movies only in theaters or when they were shown on TV (in a time when there were only three networks!). But the generation that came after her could become film experts, having access to any film at any time that they could watch repeatedly.

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Weiner asked how much input she had into the character, and she claimed to have essentially none, excepting the bathtub scene. She and her then-boyfriend thought it would be better if she sang that song as opposed to simply saying the dialogue. (It was a good choice, because it’s eerier than ever!)

Speaking of the bathtub scene, she says there was no weirdness about filming it. Like every film scene, it was so technical, she didn’t really think about the fact that a crew member was reaching a knifed glove up between her legs! (I think I’d be worried, myself!)

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It didn’t hit her until way after the fact how much the film had been an impact. The Tulsa native says it wasn’t until the late nineties that people even began to recognize her.

And yet, with the surge in empowered female characters in the past 20 or so years, she sees pieces of Nancy in a lot of them, nothing that Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen in particular has sensibilities that are very similar to the ELM STREET Final girl.

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Asked about Wes and if she’d learned any lessons from him, she says, “He was a very private man. … We always had a friendly relationship.” She adds, “I have 10 words in my vocabulary due to Wes.”

Her fave? Postprandial.

Fast Facts:

  • The reason she wasn’t in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2 is that Bob Shaye, the head of New Line Cinema, which released the original, thought the through line should be the house instead of Nancy.
  • When she was offered NEW NIGHTMARE, to play herself, she says, “I really felt it was my last chance as an actor.”
  • She was once a performer on CIRCUS OF THE STARS!