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Heather Langenkamp

Heather Langenkamp

By Patrick Samuel • August 8th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
I AM NANCY (DVD)
Some Pig Productions

Release date: May 1st, sale 2011
Certificate : Exempt
Running time: 120 minutes

Director: Arlene Marechal
Producer: Heather Langenkamp

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, view Robert Englund, Wes Craven

Official Site

As one of cinema’s most celebrated Scream Queens, along with Jamie Lee Curtis and Never Campbell, Heather Langenkamp has embraced the role of Nancy Thompson and continues to honour both her maker, Wes Craven, and fans around the world who have taken her to their hearts and championed her as their inspiration and protector of good dreams.

In Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), she fought the child killer who came back from the dead to claim the souls of the children of the parents who burned him alive. She discovered the secret to his power and lived to fight him again in A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors (1987).

Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund

In a surprising storyline, Wes Craven brought Nancy back one more time with the meta-film, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), where Heather played herself in a role that also reflected on the phenomenon of Freddy Krueger and how society deals with horror.

2010 saw the release of the definitive look back on the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise with Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy which she served as executive producer and narrator for. This year she completed work on I Am Nancy, a documentary which asks “Why Freddymania and not Nancymania?” and features interviews with fans as they talk about what Nancy Thompson means to them.

Being a lifelong dreamer, the Nightmare On Elm Street movies have long been a fascination for me and quite naturally I was drawn to the character of Nancy Thompson from the get-go. Bearing many traits I’ve tried to aspire in life – courage, selflessness, problem solver – I was more than thrilled to have spent an hour chatting with Heather about the role, the films, the impact, the future and much more. The interview is in three parts, so be sure to use the navigation at the bottom.

Heather Langenkamp

What kind of research did you do for Nancy for any of the films, in terms of learning about dreams, the philosophy and the science, or was everything you needed in the script already?

“I was more concerned about the emotional realism I would bring to the part because it was very much a fantasy. I worked more on creating someone in that reality she was experiencing and I didn’t really question dreams. I felt that part of the script was really imaginative but I didn’t study dreams per say.

Then when we did Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3, coincidently the Stanford Sleep Research Centre in California printed a lot of research studies about dreaming; lucid dreaming, how to be awake in your dreams and actually take part in your dreams while you’re still sleeping. It’s very interesting, this whole concept of lucid dreaming, and it’s something that Wes and I have talked a great deal about since Nightmare On Elm Street.

Wes Craven really believes you can become powerful in your dreams which can actually make you powerful in your waking life. It’s kind of a new way of thinking and I definitely read a lot about it when I was doing the Nightmare 3 movie. I had about 3 or 4 months interest in learning everything I could about that and then I kind of gave it up and moved along. It’s something I always wanted to participate in because I went to Stanford and I know they recruit students to dream, talk about their dreams, be monitored while dreaming and develop this ability for lucid dreaming, so someday if I ever have any extra time I’d love to be a volunteer subject!”

Heather Langenkamp

Dreams can be such an experience, whether amazing or terrifying, and whether or not you have control, anything can happen in them. I guess that’s what hooked me as a child and stayed with me.

“In my family we talk a lot about the dreams we had the night before; whether we dreamed, were they bad dreams, did you wake yourself up from them or did you have to suffer through it. I don’t think it’s because of Nightmare On Elm Street but I have always wanted to know about people’s dreams and I know a lot of people who don’t do a lot of dreaming. It kind of worries me because it seems to me so integral to our personalities and if you don’t dream I don’t know really what it’s doing to you. I feel it’s very important to make sure you’re having a good dream life and to recognise it as something that’s important as maybe eating a healthy diet.”

From Nancy I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about being pragmatic and having the courage to face demons, but what about you? What would your dream power be?

Heather Langenkamp

“Oh it would have to be flying! I just really love the idea of being able to fly under your own power and be able to take off… I don’t think it would get me very far against Freddy actually, but if I could have my own dream power it would be that. Let me see… if I had to battle Freddy more effectively I think it would have to be… oh goodness… I don’t know what that would be! I mean I don’t wanna be electrical or fiery, he’s already burned! I don’t know… I could be a splash of water or something like that. I could have the power to douse flames!”

Heather Langenkamp

That’s funny, I remember in one of the comics Nancy conjured up a hose and used water against Freddy!

[Laughs hysterically] “Well I’m trying to think, his main power is knives that he slashes people with so I could have some kind of dulling spray that just dulls all of your knife blades down! It wouldn’t be very exciting though, dulling spray.”

Just turn them to rust.

“Yeah! Rust them! The rust power, I like that! But it would still be kind of dangerous, unless the weapon could disintegrate into rust.”

Or turn them into feathers so all he can do is tickle!

“Oh! Turn them into feathers! That’s another good one, kinda related to flying!”

Heather Langenkamp

When it came to Dream Warriors, did you feel fairly intuitive with Nancy, was that connection already there from the first one?

“The connection with Nancy was there. I never felt that comfortable in the skin of that role because I’m a very casual person and I really like to talk to people, using humour as a kind of ice breaker, especially with kids. I love talking to kids and I feel good at it but I just felt like the dialogue that they gave Nancy was so stiff and there was no sense of humour at all. She had barely anything going in that department at all and then she’s supposed to be having this quasi-love affair with Craig Wasson’s character!

Heather Langenkamp and Patricia Arquette

None of it really seemed to have a dynamic energy behind it and as a result I felt I didn’t know what Nancy was anymore. I was struggling to make something of her because she didn’t have that big of a role in some way. She was like a facilitator, she was always showing things like “let me show you how to do this”, “let’s do it together” but she was never really moving the plot forward herself that much and as a result I didn’t feel like I did a very good job in that role.

Then when I saw the movie I thought “oh it’s not as bad as I thought” because actually the relationship I had with the kids does come through and she is a kind of a reassuring presence in the movie rather than this fighting, battle warrior that she was in the first movie. So I just had to get used to this different role that Nancy played. Then I found that the end when I actually die by Freddy’s glove, it’s one of my favourite scenes now out of all the scenes I’ve ever done, it had the most gripping reality to it with Kristen and me in that final scene. I just find it so touching and it was a very, very real scene to shoot and we were very fond of each other so it was an easy. I feel that scene really stands out.”

Heather Langenkamp with the Dream Warriors

For me, that’s the pinnacle of the entire series, that moment when Nancy dies and Kristen is weeping as she holds her in her arms. If Nancy can die then anything can happen, it’s so powerful, raw and so tragic.

“Patricia is… it’s just so rare to get somebody who has laid out their whole soul like that and they’re distressed so realistically, she just did such a good job. It’s just a testament to what a fine actress she is.”

Heather Langenkamp with Rodney Eastman

That scene is just much more powerful than any of the horror they’ve shown in the entire series.

“I totally agree with you. In terms of getting a real emotion out of you, it’s on a different level entirely. One of the things that horror can really achieve is that you can have these funny moments like when Glen is playing with the boom box and making that big noise and clatter while trying to tell his parents that he’s doing something that he’s not really doing. That’s scene is actually really touching and funny, there’s friendship and it’s really real in lots of ways. Then it goes straight to this really terrifying scene where Tina’s running down that alleyway and then you have that sad scene in the police station.

Nancy attacks Freddy to save Kincaid

Nightmare 7 and I don’t know if it was very successful, but I felt it could have been, it’s when I go and look at my husband in the morgue, then I go back to my car and look at his driver’s licence. That scene to me was so touching and so real. You have to say goodbye to people and how that is manifested is something that Wes puts in a lot of his movies.

It’s like you don’t just have to have the violent death, you have to have people reacting to it in a very realistic, sad and grief stricken way. A lot of horror movies forget that part, like somebody gets killed and then the next day everyone’s at school and smiling again or they’re stressed out, but they’re never grief stricken. I always admired Wes’ movies because there’s always grief. Nobody really likes to put grief up on screen; it’s so disturbing and really hard to handle sometimes.”

Heather Langenkamp

I guess that’s what makes him a master of what he does, he does it so well.

“The horror movies that do it well are the Rosemary’s Babies, just to show that whole range f human emotion that we all express but in a movie you have an hour and a half and you get it all in there, it makes sense and there’s a story behind it. It’s quite a task, some horror movies are almost there and you can’t quite put your finger on what’s missing. But I bet if you could just analyse it emotion by emotion and how they took you through that rollercoaster you could figure out where the gap was…oh here they didn’t really dwell on that girl’s anguish or they moved along too quickly to the next violent moment. It’s all about timing and people like Wes or Roger Corman and all those who made a career out of scaring people, they know timing, that every single minute is beated out for them.”

Interview Part 2 | Interview Part 3

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

You can find his music on Soundcloud .

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