I recently sat down with the lovely Heather Langenkamp at the Rock and Shock horror convention in Worcester, MA to discuss her new documentary I Am Nancy, the lasting legacy of A Nightmare on Elm Street, working on The Cabin in the Woods, her upcoming role in the new Star Trek film and more.
We’re here at Rock and Shock in Worcester, Massachusetts. How’s your weekend going so far?
It’s been a really great convention. Yesterday was incredibly crowded and busy, and today we just started off. It’s a great group of people here.
Any fun stories to share from the convention?
I was able to show my film, I Am Nancy, at the last minute, because they had trouble with their video player upstairs. That was a thrill for me, because I was supposed to come to the convention last year, but I had a family emergency, so I couldn’t make it. Everyone has been telling me how much they were disappointed by me not being here. Just listening to the music at the concerts. I heard the Misfits and Gwar last night. This is a little bit out of my wheelhouse, that kind of music, but I actually really enjoyed it. I’ve been having a great time.
Speaking of I Am Nancy, I did catch the screening yesterday and enjoyed it. Can you tell us about the project?
I’ve been coming to these convention now for 15, 20 years, and I’ve been struck by how many interesting stories people tell me about their experience watching Nightmare on Elm Street and how they love Nancy so much because of her strength and they way she was able to conquer her fears and fight Freddy. I started thinking how that would be a great theme for a documentary, really focusing on the fans themselves and trying to promote Nancy in a way… You know, people always talk about her being a “final girl,” but I feel like even that has become a cliche now, and I wanted to go one step further and talk about what that means and why she stands out as a teenager who fights Freddy.
I know the DVD is available directly through your website, but have there been talks of wider distribution?
Well, I just made a deal to distribute it in Germany. I’m actually talking to some distributors to do video-on-demand. I’d really like to get on Netflix. My next goal is to have it release on Netflix. But I’ve been selling it pretty well on my website, IAmNancy.net, so if I get one of those distribution deals I have to give that up. I’ve been getting as many sales as I can, and then as soon as they start dropping off I’m going to go to the on demand.
As you get older, other memories start to pop up. You think of it in terms of what your legacy is going to be. As you get older, you think, “What am I leaving behind here?” I’ve been thinking of Nancy Thompson more in those terms. As I think of it in those terms, I get a lot prouder of the work that I did, and I also feel really lucky. I think when I first got the job I felt like, “Oh, I’m pigeonholed in this horror genre.” It was hard to find work after that. But now I’ve realized that that was the way it was supposed to be. Now I get to come here and really enjoy the fans that have been so loyal for 30 years.
Do you ever go back and watch it?
I see it often when it’s on TV. I don’t know if I’ve actually stuck in the player and watched it front to back, but I’ve had the opportunity to watch the first movie a lot. I come to these conventions, and often they’ll have a screening and I’ll sit there and watch it. So I’ve seen the first one the most. I’ve seen the third one the least, but I’ve seen the seventh one a lot too. I love that one.
I really love New Nightmare as well. I think what Wes Craven started there, he later transformed into Scream, particularly the meta aspect.
Definitely, Nightmare 7 laid the groundwork for Scream. Kevin Williamson, I think, definitely kind of copied Wes’ idea in the seventh to go beyond the fourth wall and make a spoof, in a way, of all these cliches and tropes that had taken hold of the genre as it has.
How did you feel about the remake?
I didn’t see it. I really made a conscious decision that I never want to see another Freddy Krueger besides Robert England, so I didn’t see it, and I really am glad. I want to hold these images that I have in my brain. I don’t want them to be confused by having to watch another Nightmare on Elm Street.
You recently worked with your husband on the special effects for The Cabin in the Woods. What was that like?
In the last 10 years, my husband is quite a prominent makeup effects artist, and I’ve found that he’s often going to Canada and doing jobs far away, and it was really hard on our family. I kind of teamed up with him, and I do a lot of the busy work of owning a business. I really enjoyed teaming up with him, because I really like more mundane jobs, and he’s so creative, so we complement each other a lot in our business. Then I get to travel with him. For Cabin in the Woods, we got to live in Vancouver and do what has turned out to be such a fantastic job. It’s so filled with creatures and effects.
It must have been a fun experience with all of those monsters.
Yeah! We had so many monsters to make and a very small budget, very limited time. What it taught me is that you really can make anything. You just have to be really open minded about how you make it and trust people to do the very best work they can do, not micromanage everything in the world. It was a really challenging job.
Your most recent acting role is a film called The Butterfly Room. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I actually met the director at a convention in Hollywood, and he said, “I have a movie that I’d really like you to be in.” I always say, “Of course. Send me the material.” It was a really great script. It was very unusual. I got the chance to play the daughter of Barbara Steele, who of course is an icon in the horror world. I play her daughter, and it’s a very spooky, very disturbing story of an old woman who has a really bad problem [laughs] that I won’t tell you about! It was a thrill to work with her. The movie actually has been playing in Europe at all the festivals and has been doing really well. I expect it will be out in America in the new year, for sure, but I’m not sure whether it will be on video on demand or maybe it’ll be a Netflix thing. I don’t know.
Have you considered directing? I know you were supposed to do a segment for Prank a few years ago.
I really would like to direct, but the older I get the more I realize my window is kind of slipping away [laughs]. You have to really commit years of your life, and so many things are going that I haven’t had a chance to. But my husband and I have a project that we hope someday to direct together.
Good luck! Do you have any other projects in the works?
Well, I had the opportunity to play a small part in Star Trek, so I’m looking forward to that. I can’t tell you anything about that, but that was a thrill for me. My husband and I worked on the makeup effects for Star Trek. He designed some of them, so that’s the thing we’re looking forward to most. Hopefully we’ll be working on something else in January. We don’t know what that will be yet, but hopefully it’ll be a really fun job.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, now that it’s Halloween season, it’s fun to be at these places and see everyone in their costumes. I’ve having a great time!
Great, thank you so much for your time!
Interview: Heather Langenkamp – Actress (A Nightmare on Elm Street, I Am Nancy)