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Nightmare on Elm Street Star Shares Terrifying First Encounter with Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger (Exclusive)

A Nightmare on Elm Street star Heather Langenkamp is thinking back on the illustrious horror movie that Wes Craven wrote and directed and which debuted in theaters on November 9, 1984.

“Wes had a whole unique notion for what we wanted to convey to the screen, as he has many times throughout his career. And it was a kind of horror that a lot of people dubbed a slasher,” Langenkamp, 59, which brought a new spin on the genre by blending dreams with reality as a vicious murderer tortured its cast of adolescent victims.

The slasher was a box office triumph, starring Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, a.k.a. the film’s last girl, longstanding Western actor John Saxon, Oscar candidate Ronee Blakley, and several young stars, including Johnny Depp, who made his feature picture debut.

Although Langenkamp, who was 20 years old when Nightmare was released, had previously worked in the business, she joked that she felt like a veteran in comparison to Depp, who was 21 at the time.

“When I started working on Nightmare on Elm Street, I had already done a few TV movies of the week and lesser projects. So I’d been on set before. And I constantly think about my experience with Johnny Depp, who was really on his first work ever,” says Langenkamp, who has since gone on to appear in two Nightmare sequels, ABC’s Just the Ten of Us, The Midnight Club, and director Mike Flanagan’s forthcoming The Life of Chuck. “And so I felt like the seasoned pro next to him because he really had never been on a set.”

Although it made the actress feel like she understood what she was doing at the time, “I probably was faking it half the time,” she admits, adding that her first major part “was a very daunting experience for me.”

Robert Englund rounded out the cast as Freddy Krueger, a psychopathic child murderer who hunted unsuspecting high school students in their nightmares. Craven’s creation, with his disfigured face, ratty striped sweater, and fedora outfit, which included the now-trademarked claw-like glove, became an iconic addition to the horror killer canon, following in the footsteps of Michael Myers from Halloween and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Langenkamp recalls the first time she saw Englund, now 76, in full costume and makeup on set while discussing the terrifying terror that Craven’s crew created for the big screen.

“We were shooting a scene—it’s everyone’s favorite—where Nancy goes into her school and she walks down the hall and then she walks down some stairs and there’s Freddy down in the dungeon of the school,” according to her.

“The moment he pulls aside this curtain and he’s revealed in the smoke,” Langenkamp recalls seeing a “menacing” figure appear before her. “He had fantastic body language, which he perfected for Freddy. Everything was fine there in full force. And then the hat was pushed over his eye, and he had one shoulder higher than the other; it was a whole Freddy look that I had never seen before,” she says. “And I knew that was quite terrifying. It put me back a little.”

Langenkamp also remembers another occasion on set when Krueger’s dread hit home, particularly for fans watching on screen.

“There were also the scenes in the alleyway, where Freddy says his famous ‘This is God’ line, and I remember being there, realizing how frightening that particular line would be for so many people.”

In that scenario, Tina (Amanda Wyss) was forced to leave for her life. However, Nancy found herself struggling to escape Krueger’s grasp throughout the film, appearing in one legendary confrontation after another. “There was a lot of running,” Langenkamp says, before getting into the physicality of the character.

“All of those scenes with so much action and fighting, I really relied on a lot of my dance training,” she explains, alluding to her history as a ballerina. “Of course, we had wonderful stunt people to help us,” the actress says.

That did not necessarily prepare her for being shot inside an 8-foot water tank, as was the case with the iconic bathtub scene in which Krueger tries to drag Nancy beneath after she falls asleep in the bathroom.

“Things like the bathtub scene were all naturally developed on site. And I believe Wes wasn’t even sure what would be expected of me. He never, like, gave me the heads up, except maybe the night before, saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do this bathtub scene,’ ” she adds, remembering the late filmmaker telling her, “We’ve had some ideas.” They’ve been constructing this tank over there. “We hope it works.”

The actress also remembers shooting a scene that did not make it into the final edit. “They placed me in a harness. They were saying, ‘We’re going to fly you from the ceiling and hope we can get a picture where it seems like you’re falling out of the sky into your home after your dream,'” she said, admitting that she was wearing a parachute-like apparatus.

“I remember getting this harness attached to me, and I’m trying to figure out how the pajamas are gonna go over it and that my hair’s gonna fly in my face and how they’re gonna keep it outta my face,” she keeps telling us. “So it always felt like we never got enough chances to practice, but then we just went for it.”

Amazingly, despite all of the activity on set, she only had one minor injury. “I sliced my foot once on stage. We put up a shot really fast, and no one had cleaned the floor. “I was running barefoot and cut myself on a piece of glass,” Langenkamp remembers, adding, “but that was the only injury I ever had.”

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Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.
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