Women in Horror Month: Heather Langenkamp

According to her IMDB and Wikipedia pages, Heather Langenkamp wasn’t always a horror fan and admits that before she was cast in the role that would change her life that she had never seen a horror film. Funny that now, nearly 30 years later, the actress is remembered as one of the greatest horror Scream Queens of all time.

While she was studying at Stanford University, Wes Craven cast her as teen heroine Nancy Thompson in the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” as he wanted someone very “girl next door” to play Nancy. He believed that Langenkamp met this quality. For the part, she beat out over 100 actresses including Courteney Cox and Demi Moore. The film, follows the story of a group of teenagers who are killed in their dreams one-by-one by a past child murderer turned supernatural serial killer, whom their parents killed. The film was continued the 80′s slasher movie craze, following the trend set by “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”.

The film introduced the iconic villain Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund. Nancy, as the film’s protagonist, lives, and defeats Krueger after he has killed all of her friends. Johnny Depp, in his feature film debut played Nancy Thompson’s boyfriend, Glen. Veteran film actor John Saxon played Nancy’s father, police lieutenant Donald Thompson. The film was both a critical and commercial success, earning a total of $25 million at the American box office. In 1985, she received the Best Actress Award at the Avoriaz Film Festival for this role. She also became one of the original scream queens and final girls.

She continued her role as Nancy in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”, in which she co-starred alongside Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne, and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”, in which she played herself, and through events in the narrative, she is compelled to reprise her role as Nancy Thompson. John Saxon also returned with Langenkamp in “Dream Warriors” and “New Nightmare”. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” earned nearly $45 million at the domestic box office, making it both the highest grossing film for the studio that year. What many consider to be the best of the series, myself included, “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” earned just $18 million at the U.S. box office. The three films in the series in which Langenkamp stars are considered the three best and are all certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. As Craven writes on the script that Langenkamp reads from in the final scene of “New Nightmare”, “Thank you for having the guts to play Nancy once last time”, the horror world couldn’t agree more.

She continues to tour conventions all of the world to promote the power of Nancy. She worked behind the scenes as well as provided the narrative voice to the definitive Nightmare documentary, “Never Sleep Again.” She also interviewed fans and those that were a part of the series for her own documentary, “I Am Nancy.” She clearly loves and cherishes her fans and the horror genre is simply better because she is a part of it.