Exclusive: Heather Langenkamp Discusses Her New Documentary I Am Nancy

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Actress Heather Langenkamp is known to fans worldwide as the tough-as-nails Nancy Thompson who boldly took on maniacal dream demon Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s classic A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time some 27 years ago.

Since that introduction, Langenkamp has returned to the franchise on two other occasions- once as a psychology grad student trying to help a group of troubled teens in Dream Warriors and finally in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, where she had to face off against a new and improved (and far more vicious) Freddy.

Now Langenkamp is showing fans a different side to the actress- documentarian- with the release of her brand new project entitled I Am Nancy. Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the actress extensively about why this project was so important to her, the surprises she encountered along the way as she compiled numerous hours of interviews, and why the character of Nancy still means so much to her after all this time.

Langenkamp, who served as both narrator and executive producer on last year’s stellar documentary Never Sleep Again, discussed why she felt like she still had more to say about the Nightmare franchise after wrapping on that first documentary.

“Originally, Tommy Hutson and I had been wanting to do I Am Nancy to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street,” said Langenkamp. “But then Never Sleep Again came along and Daniel Farrands asked me to be a part of it, so we put I Am Nancy on hold. I loved Never Sleep Again and it’s a wonderful historic look back at the entire franchise but I didn’t want it to be my only mark on the analysis of the Nightmare franchise.”

“Something else we wanted to do with I Am Nancy is explore why women in the horror genre were always being chased down by monsters and even though the monsters became icons in their own rights, the women in these roles were also doing some heavy lifting and I think they deserved their due too,” added Langenkamp.

When Langenkamp finally set out to make I Am Nancy, the actress had a few ideas in mind for the subject matters she wanted to explore while compiling the numerous interviews over the last year. “The one thing I had always wondered if it was a conscientious decision on Wes’s part to make the protagonist of the original Nightmare a woman. Was it by luck or was he making a socio-political statement? So that is one of the themes I set off to uncover in I Am Nancy.”

“Another theme we decided to explore was the fandom behind the series and that ended up being almost the heart and soul of the project. It all started out because one of my employees has a Freddy tattoo on him, and for me a tattoo is an ardent sign of devotion. That’s where our journey starts in I Am Nancy, and we just kind of let things happen from there,” added Langenkamp.

Putting I Am Nancy together was no easy feat for both Langenkamp and Hutson. A project two years in the making, the actress talked about her experiences hitting the road to start in an effort to hear from the fans that fuel our beloved genre.

“It took us about a year to put I Am Nancy together after we spent the initial first year figuring out where we wanted to go with the idea of the documentary,” explained Langenkamp. “During that time we made our way to six different horror conventions to meet and interview fans from all over the place. We ended up having somewhere between 100-150 interviews so you can imagine how hard it was to go through all of those and picking what we were going to use for our documentary.”

“In terms of what my role in the documentary ended up being, you could say I was sort of a petulant teenager wanting to know why she wasn’t as popular as the other kids. Freddy’s fandom has been huge over the years to the point where he’s about as well-known as Santa Claus. So my thinking is ‘Why not Nancy? Why Freddy?.’ It’s all very tongue in cheek so I hope fans understand that and don’t think I’m actually complaining because I’ve been very appreciative of the fan support I’ve had over the years,” added Langenkamp.

Exclusive: Heather Langenkamp Discusses Her New Documentary I Am Nancy

At first, Langenkamp only approached fans about their love for the Nightmare franchise but as the interview process moved forward, she began to realize that for a lot of fans, the movies and these characters came to represent something more than just entertainment. “We decided after the first few interview sessions to start asking fans more probing questions and the response we began getting were rather eye-opening so there are times when the documentary gets very serious. We asked people about who their ‘Freddy’ was and things like that. I was stunned by these incredible fans that were so honest with us during the interview process and I am really grateful to them for opening up to me and really making me understand what our franchise and the horror genre in general meant to them on a personal level.”

“Also, I think there’s a lot of power in just being heard out and I think that’s what a lot of fans are looking for. I know when I am working at a convention, I make every effort to always personally talk with as many fans as I can. I feel like I am obligated to give back because these fans have given all of us so much over the years. And when you take the time, you hear some amazing things and I find it very powerful that for a lot of fans, these movies are their escape,” added Langenkamp.

Not only did Langenkamp interview more than a hundred fans for I Am Nancy, the actress also got both Craven and Robert Englund in the interview chair to hear their thoughts on just what it was that Nancy represented to fans, the Nightmare franchise and the character of Freddy.

“I still can’t believe it but I actually labored over my interview with Wes for several days before we filmed it,” said Langenkamp. “I was so nervous which I know sounds kind of funny but I treated the interview like I had never met him before and I even made notecards up with questions on them. And even though I’ve known Wes now for over 25 years, I was absolutely floored by every single answer he gave me about Nancy. Some of the things we talked about were how he picked the name Nancy and where his inspiration for the character came from and I don’t think those are questions that he had been asked before within this context.”

”Then, for my interview with Robert I wanted to explore with him how he envisioned what place the original Nightmare sits in horror history. From there, the interview led to an in-depth conversation we ended up having about what Nancy really meant to Freddy and how that relationship evolved throughout the sequels I was a part of. Honestly, I was almost speechless to hear his thoughts on how he viewed the character of Nancy and her importance to the Nightmare franchise,” added Langenkamp.

Now that I Am Nancy is available for online ordering this week, we asked Langenkamp to discuss just what kept the actress so invested in the Nightmare franchise for almost three decades now and how she feels like Nancy’s story isn’t really over (even if the studios may feel differently).

I knew from the first day on set of Nightmare that there was something special about this movie and I honestly think that had I been involved with a different horror franchise I don’t think I would have been that open to coming back to do any sequels,” explained Langenkamp. “And what I love about Nightmare is that there haven’t been any other horror franchises where you see an original character come back at various stages in her life and experience her maturing along with fans. Nancy started off as a teenager, then we saw her as a young woman in her 20s and with New Nightmare, you saw Nancy (or a version of me) in a motherly role. I think that kind of continuity within a franchise is exceptional and that’s why fans care about the movies we make.

Even though it’s been so long since New Nightmare, I don’t think that Nancy’s (or my) story is truly done being told. But with last year’s remake, I really don’t see any studio wanting to finance another sequel from the original franchise. But I do think there’s still a story there and I know I’d want to come back as Nancy if I were ever asked again,” added Langenkamp.

A very special thank you to Heather for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with Dread Central. To order your own copy of I Am Nancy, check out the official I Am Nancy website here.

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