Interview With Heather Langenkamp
Truth or Dare
Ryan T. Cusick: The trailer, I waited to watch it until this conversation took place.
Heather Langenkamp: What did you think?
RTC: My honest opinion, it looks like a lot of fun. Something that you would have your friends over for, like a sleepover and this is something that you would watch.
HL: Yeah, and you would never sleep again. [Laughs]
RTC: [Laughs] Yes, never sleep again!
HL: It’s like full throttle gore – scary for the whole movie. And then it kind of takes this little pause, and they introduce my character, so when I finally make it to the screen, everyone can take a breather for a little while because so much has been going on for the first two-thirds of the movie. Right from the very beginning, they sort of blast you with all of these gags and gore effects, I am curious to see whether people think that it is too much, just right, or not enough like Goldilocks [laughs]
RTC: [Laughs] It is evident in the trailer, it [Truth or Dare] seems like a locomotive.
HL: It’s very much like that because it is the game Truth or Dare. A lot of people had probably played that game when they were in seventh or eighth grade. These people are playing it, and they are high schoolers. The game kind of starts off sort of sexy, a much more sexy Truth or Dare and then it just takes this turn, and it becomes kind of this haunted game of Truth or Dare. And it’s really a creative script, full of [pauses] never been seen before horror and death scenarios. I think that people will be entertained by how original it is. You know as I get older I really don’t like watching some of it. There are a couple of bits that I just [pauses] uhh, “please just don’t tell me any more about that scene, there is no way I can even stomach what you just told me.”
RTC: I totally understand.
HL: I hope that it’s successful. I hope that kids are in the mood, its October and it is the perfect thing to do with all your buddies who love horror, but I wouldn’t invite anybody who doesn’t like horror because they will just need to sit in the bathroom the whole time…
RTC: And wait until its over.
HL: Wait until its over and do the dishes in the kitchen or something.
RTC: You know it [Truth or Dare] spells out FUN that is the first impression that I got. “This is something that I am going to have so and so over for, we are going to get some popcorn and some drinks and have a good time watching it.
HL: I hope you do. Everytime someone gets bloody have a drink, and everyone will be really happy.
RTC: Have a shot game! [Laughs] I saw that Thommy was involved with the film.
HL: Yeah, so Thommy Hutson, so I think the idea of the game was someone else’s original idea and then Thommy Hutson re-wrote it. He really wanted me to consider playing that part. There was one pretty intense scene that I had to do, so I really hate taking any kind of credit when I only did one scene. I do have to say this scene is particularly good because the character has something really good to offer the kids. Sometimes they ask you to play a part in a movie, and you’re kind of just set dressing in the background, “Oh look there’s Heather Langenkamp,” and I don’t like playing those parts at all and I will rarely do those parts. This scene is actually very instrumental to the whole movie and to the backstory as to why these horrible things are happening. So it was really cool, and my character also appears as a young woman too. The gal (Taylor Lyons) looks so much like I did when I was 18, 19, I think that people are going to be amazed.
RTC: That’s good. At least you’re not just on screen just to be there, you actually have a purpose, and that is great!
HL: There aren’t too many horror films that feature older people, but when they do, its funny, they kind of grab someone that has that reputation in the industry and the genre already, and I am flattered by that. I just wish there were beefier and better parts for women in their fifties in horror. There is more and more, but often they are the psychiatrist or the psychic with one or two scenes.
RTC: And sometimes as a viewer, you kind of feel cheated in a way. We have this person that has been involved in horror for many years, and now we have them on screen for two minutes in a non-important role.
A Nightmare On Elm Street & Nancy.
RTC: Nancy was such a powerful character I do not know if that character could ever be replicated. With Nancy, I am sure the character was written well, you were the one that gave LIFE to that character. That was one hundred percent you. You know I never “got it” up until the last few years, how powerful Nancy is in our culture, today. I have seen your documentary, I Am Nancy, and it really got me thinking. The character is very powerful, and I am sure Nancy has empowered ordinary people every day to fight their own demons.
HL: That’s true. I use her for my own inspiration, “Be Nancy,” buck up and face your fear. I use her in my own life all the time, I know it sounds silly sometimes, but I think she is pretty much useful to anybody that loves that movie [A Nightmare On Elm Street] when using her as an inspiration, especially in October too. We celebrate horror so much and all of the monsters, everyone thinking of their costumes, at the butt of every evil character there is a good one, and I like to remember Nancy [Laughs]
RTC: [Laughs] Definitely! Let’s face it, Elm Street as a whole is cinematic history, it will be here when you’re gone and when I’m gone and if you can’t escape it, why not embrace it?
RTC: You’re gonna be Nancy forever.
HL: And then try to understand why people love it so much really. It is helpful to think of it that way. “Why does that battle resonate so much with us and every person comes up with their own answer to that question. It’s almost like a psychological test, and you’re saying “what’s your Freddy?” like I did in the documentary [I Am Nancy]. It was a way for people to express what they are afraid of. I have often even told my friends that are my age, we have kids the same age and I’ll say ask your kid “what his Freddy is.” If you really want to know what your kid is afraid of and you are too afraid to ask “what are you afraid of?” Just ask him what his Freddy is and see what he says.
RTC: Everybody has one.
HL: Yeah, they do.
RTC: In the last decade when you have attended conventions, have you seen more Nancy fans? Is your line longer?
HL: [Laughs] Is my line longer? Good question. Yeah because of that movie I Am Nancy [came out in 2011], and I would say there are ten times or more. Sometimes, [stutters with excitement] I am totally shocked! What people think about her [Nancy] has changed so much within the past five or six years. Nightmare is being regarded more and more as this very important movie, a classic and it wasn’t that twenty years ago, and even ten years ago I don’t think that people were calling it that. Lately, since Wes [Craven] passed away, and everyone is really appreciating his legacy, I think the movie itself has become much more, like you said, more iconic than it has ever been. As an end result, Nancy’s reputation has.
Both: Gone up.
RTC: That’s good, very good. When you put together not just the I Am Nancy documentary but Never Sleep Again, how hard was it digging back in time?
HL: I have a hard time remembering. One of the things is that when I made A Nightmare On Elm Street, I was eighteen years old, working every day, working really long hours, living kind of by myself, it was a super intense work environment. Its almost like how when describing when they have a baby, and they can never remember it, it is kind of that way. I don’t remember too much, I rely on my pictures, and I’ll rely on diary entries, or Amanda Wyss will say “Remember when we did that?” There are certain things that I will never forget, but if I had to remember every day, it would be tough.
RTC: I know that I have a hard time remember twenty-years ago, so I could just imagine how hard it must be.
HL: When you have Robert Englund who tells such great stories, there are some people who just have incredible memories, and they have this ability to recall conversations, and I have never been that kind of person, its unfortunate, I wish I had the other kind of mind, I wish that I could recall conversations that I had with Wes [Craven] verbatim, that would be great.
RTC: Was it hard getting everyone together for the documentary? [Never Sleep Again]
HL: It was not actually. I mean there were some struggles finding some people, but it was mainly tracking people down. Thommy Hutson did most of the tracking, made phone calls, got them to commit, scheduling their interviews. It was like a herculean task to do the busy work, but everyone was willing nobody really had to be coaxed along. I stepped in to make sure Wes Craven, Bob Shaye, and Robert Englund – to make sure everyone was on board. Thommy Hutson did most of that work, and he and Dan Ferrands wrote a lot of the questions that were asked during interviews, they had it really well structured. I think that the more difficult part aside from the interviews was gathering all of that background material. Getting all that stuff from Robert, from me, from Wes, going through it, and getting the video clips, that is such hard work. Thommy and Dan worked tirelessly to make that happen; I feel like I got off the hook fairly easy. [Laughs] Sometimes I would say, “use my name whenever you can if it’s going to help you, just know that I will do anything that you say.” They didn’t call upon me that much; I would say I probably did five percent of the work and they all did ninety-five percent of the work. [Laughs] On I am Nancy I did about fifty percent, well more like sixty percent since I was on camera.
RTC: Both of the films were great, as a fan you could not ask for a better gift!
HL: Oh thank-you, that’s a huge compliment.
RTC: It is amazing! In Never Sleep Again I think one of the best parts was when people started reciting their lines from their film. That was AWESOME! And EPIC! Growing up as a fan I would be running around with my buddies, and we would shout out the same EXACT lines.
HL: Isn’t that great? Well, people tell me that they put it on an only intend to watch an hour of it and they find themselves four hours later still watching it, you don’t want to turn it off, its such a great movie.
RTC: The 2010 remake. Seeing someone else step out and kind of do Nancy, how does that resonate with you?
HL: I didn’t see it. I heard that it was happening and I decided not to see it. Rooney Mara is of course so, so great and I couldn’t complain about that choice of casting. I’d say so much of the Nightmare On Elm Street was Wes Craven, Robert Englund, and Heather Langenkamp, our little trio of minds, emotions, and personalities are so infused in that movie whether you guys realize it or not. The laughs that we had, the jokes we would tell before we started rolling camera, you know, that spirit was in that movie, it has a lot of life, a vibrant movie. It’s hard to recreate that part especially when you are doing a remake because you are already kind of in “stale bread”, in some ways its stale before you even begin. I feel that way about a lot of remakes, not every remake.
RTC: Yeah, we’ve already gone that direction.
HL: Anyway, I don’t think that I will see it, I don’t have any interest.
RTC: Interesting enough, one of my top five favorite remakes is Dawn of The Dead.
HL: Well, thank-you.
RTC: In that instance, it worked. I think when the Nightmare On Elm Street remake came, I truly believe that people were just not ready for it.
HL: There are so many new filmmaking techniques, and Zack Snyder did take it in a totally new direction. The way the story was told and how the zombies were created, so there were different methods too in some ways, and similar. I think it was more successful and it was a new generation, I bet many had not seen the original when it came out. All the audience was probably brand spanking new, whereas the Nightmare movie everyone had already seen it when they were impressionable and excited to see it and then they are seeing this other thing again in their lifetime seem too soon.
RTC: You never know, it could always be too soon if people keep going back to the original.
HL: People like it so much.
RTC: Yeah and my thought is if they are going to remake it, why not, if they’re going to do something different why not make the Freddy character a female, change it up a bit.
HL: Right, do something really different.
RTC: Trying to copycat thee Robert Englund, you just can’t. Certain characters you can just not replace, Robert Englund, Nancy, you just cannot do it.
HL: You’re nice to say that. I agree I agree.
RTC: It was just hard to sit through. Let’s talk about “The House That Freddy Built,” for me knowing years ago New Line was responsible for Freddy made me always embrace the company. I would watch all of their movies just because of the partnership with Elm Street. Seeing that logo always reminded me of Freddy Krueger.
HL: That’s interesting and good. They would be happy to hear that.
RTC: I remember hearing Shay’s [Robert] testimonial on Never Sleep Again, it was sad.
HL: Touching, yeah it was very touching wasn’t it?
RTC: Yeah it was, I..I teared up.
HL: Yeah, we didn’t expect it to be so moving. We certainly didn’t expect to make the documentary focus on his journey as much as it ended up. He gave such a touching interview, you know he is getting up there and doesn’t have the opportunity to make movies like that as much anymore. The whole thing was really poyant, and I think he was touched by our whole effort. Later when we made it into a book, that nice coffee table book Thommy and I went in person and gave it to him to let him know how much we appreciated for what he did because I do think that he made the documentary really special.
RTC: I do agree, and that was one of the highlights for me personally. Watching and listening to him speak felt really good, but it crushed me at the same time. This man started this company from the trunk of his car.
HL: I know, the American success story. The true American dream story, and the same with Wes Craven. They both came from places where their success was unlikely, and they became so successful. If anything I do hope that people still do feel that hopeful about their futures and know that they can be like the next Wes Craven or the next Bob Shaye or the next Robert Englund, even the next Heather Langenkamp. We all came from totally normal – super normal places. Either worked our asses off, had a lucky break, that’s the best part of living in this country, it can happen. It does happen every day in Hollywood and other places too.
RTC: This will live on forever, I truly believe this will KEEP Going.
HL: [Laughs] Aliens will be coming down from space and would have seen Nightmare On Elm Street before.
RTC: It’s funny because in New Nightmare your quote, “He’s like Santa Claus..or King Kong,” its true, everyone knows who Freddy Krueger is. My daughter is twelve; she knows who Freddy is.
HL: I cannot believe how many times I hear his name in a week, I should count.
RTC: Do you keep in contact with anyone else from the Elm Street films?
HL: I see Amanda Wyss all of the time and Robert [Englund] of course, I see Ronnie Blakely a lot because we go to these conventions around the country a lot. It’s kind of a cottage industry for the horror genre. I do see people from time to time, but not really as much as I like.
RTC: Thank you so much for speaking with me.
HL: My pleasure, have a great weekend and Happy Halloween.
“I can’t overemphasize how important We Craven is in my life. I think back, you know, he has given me this role of a lifetime and if I never work again I can kind of die happy that I played a role that is so important in America Cinema.”
-Heather Langenkamp, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.
*This interview has been condensed for length/time restraints.
*Feature Image Courtesy of Chris Fischer.