Heather Langenkamp just celebrated her 50th birthday. Think about that for a minute: the final girl from that first Nightmare on Elm Street movie has been around for over five decades now. (Not to insult Ms. Langenkamp, of course, because she looks great.) Of course, three of those decades have been all about the legend of Freddy Krueger and talking about her big break in Wes Craven‘s seminal horror film. And not only has Langenkamp appeared in three of the eight Nightmare movies, she produced the quintessential documentary about the franchise, Never Sleep Again. This past weekend at the National Fan Expo, Langenkamp re-untied with co-stars Robert Englund and John Saxon to celebrate Freddy’s 30th birthday, and Nerd Bastards got a few minutes to pick her brain. You know, in a good way.
Nerd Bastards: It’s the 30th anniversary of A Nightmare on Elm Street, does it feel weird for you to still be traveling around and talking about this movie 30 years after the fact?
Heather Langenkamp: It’s a little weird to still be talking about something you did when you were 18 years old, and I feel like my memory doesn’t serve me very well because people are so curious about so many aspects, like “What was Johnny Depp like?” and “What did you talk about?” My memories are really strong in some ways, but I wish I could go back and take notes because if I knew this was going to happen I would have paid way more attention. (Laughs.)
Nerd Bastards: If you had known that Johnny Depp would be a $20 million man some day…
Heather Langenkamp: If I knew that every girl in America would ask what it was like to kiss Johnny Depp I would have taken a lot more rehearsal time, I would have tried different angles and different techniques, but that was one of those things that went by so quickly. I have to watch the movie to try and remember.
Nerd Bastards: But you’ve gone pretty deep into those memories too, producing the Never Sleep Again documentary…
Heather Langenkamp: Yeah, and I think one of my reasons for tackling that project was because I felt like I needed to have that experience re-enforced by all the other people that participated in the Nightmare series. And I also felt like there was an untold story about Bob Shaye and the whole making of this franchise and how it was such a revolutionary act in and of itself to create an eight movie franchise. It was one of the first, and I remember when we got a glimmer that we might make a sequel, I didn’t know what that was, I had never heard the word “sequel.” We made all these endings that were open ended so that Freddy could return, and I thought, “Why did you do that? Why did you not finish him off, put the dagger in his heart?” But Bob had this really great idea, which was to make Freddy into a household name.
Nerd Bastards: And he did.
Heather Langenkamp: And he did.
Nerd Bastards: Is there anything that stands out in your memory, like when you were on set was there a moment where you thought this could be big for me?
Heather Langenkamp: No, I really wasn’t very ambitious in my thinking back then. I was really just happy to have a job, and I did know there was some moodiness about Freddy and some capturing of a truly evil character that had never really been seen before in film. I was not a big horror fan, but even in the movies that I was watching the evil character wasn’t such a powerful figure, and so evil. I thought that was unique and watching Robert [Englund] play him in the shadows and the mist, he was truly magnificent.
Nerd Bastards: It was weird because he was really the first supernatural monster like that, I mean outside of stuff like Dracula and Frankenstein. Michael Myers, in the beginning, was just a guy.
Heather Langenkamp: Right. And Dracula got close to really that pure evil, but the thing the about Dracula was that he was a much more romantic figure from the old world, and Freddy’s really our new world monster.
Nerd Bastards: In love with himself.
Heather Langenkamp: (Laughs.) Exactly. He’s also a product of a kind of social vigilantism. There’s a reason he’s that way, which I think gave him an interesting justification for why he does what he does, and with a lot of other monsters the why isn’t as strong, and I think that’s why people love Freddy.
Nerd Bastards: Are there any questions that you ever get asked when you come to a con like this where you just kind of role your eyes to yourself when you hear it coming?
Heather Langenkamp: Well, last night a person asked me a question I had never been asked, and it was “If you could choose just five your cast members in all the movies you did, to be in the next Nightmare on Elm Street, who would you choose?” And I though that was really interesting, and of course its kind of hard to pick because there’s so many great people, but I did pick five. Johnny Depp was one of them. (Laughs.)
Nerd Bastards: Of course. Well, if he did 21 Jump Street he might do anything.
Heather Langenkamp: I know, I’ve got to get a hold of him.
Nerd Bastards: I want to ask you to about New Nightmare because after the original that’s probably my favourite of the Nightmare movies, is there something about working on that one that sticks out?
Heather Langenkamp: I saw it last night and it was really fantastic. I haven’t seen on the big screen for many, many years. First of all, I was just really shocked that I was in the movie so much, I had totally forgotten I was the star of that movie. It was interesting because all my scenes are kind of alone, and I was acting against this tension and this idea of Freddy that we all had at that time. We all knew what I was afraid of and that Freddy might be back, but you never really saw Freddy that much, and I was really amazed that the movie was about Wes [Craven] creating this relationship with that idea that Freddy is here, and the audience has it too. It’s a really interesting concept, and it’s one of the only horror movies where the monster’s really in the background, at least until the end. But it’s all about our mentality about fear.