Release date: May 1st, 2011
Certificate : Exempt
Running time: 120 minutes
Director: Arlene Marechal
Producer: Heather Langenkamp
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Wes Craven
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).
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.
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?
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!”
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.
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?
That’s funny, I remember in one of the comics Nancy conjured up a hose and used water against Freddy!
Just turn them to rust.
Or turn them into feathers so all he can do is tickle!
When it came to Dream Warriors, did you feel fairly intuitive with Nancy, was that connection already there from the first one?
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.”
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.
That scene is just much more powerful than any of the horror they’ve shown in the entire series.
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.”
I guess that’s what makes him a master of what he does, he does it so well.
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 .