20 Behind the Scenes Secrets From the Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise

In the true spirit of Halloween, why not continue exploring hidden secrets from some of the most popular horror franchises ever? So far, we’ve done Scream and Friday the 13th. Now, let’s move on to the killer who haunts the dreams of teenagers, yes? When I was younger, any kind of horror movie was not allowed to be watched in our household. Me being the horror buff that I have been since… well, forever, I thought I would be a brave little toaster and watch the Freddy movies when my parents were gone at work. Boy was that a bad idea. I had the worst nightmares with Freddy chasing me in a cave lit by torches. I woke up in a panic, ran to my brother’s room to wake up him and have him tell me it’s not real and to chill. Instead, he rolled over with one eye open and told me to leave him alone. You know, in true big brother fashion. So, even though I can still remember that dream rather vividly, it never deterred me from watching the rest, or any other horror movies. There are likely to be spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen these films, read at your own risk! We are going to cover seven of the films in this article, and that is because I watched the four-hour long documentary about this franchise and had to share with you guys. If you haven’t seen Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010), and you are a fan of the series, I suggest you do. Great, great behind the scenes stuff spoken about. Without further ado, here are the ones I decided to share!

20 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - Wes Craven Got the Idea from an Article

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The idea for A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was derived from an article that Wes Craven (director and writer) read. It was an article referencing teenagers who were dying in their sleep. One specific case Craven spoke about regarded a teenage boy who had refused to sleep. His parents took him to the doctor and he was prescribed sleeping pills, but never took them. One night the kid was found screaming and thrashing in his bed, he eventually died. By his bed, there were all of the sleeping pills and a Mr. Coffee machine. There was never a definitive cause of death. How ominous, right? Only Wes Craven. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it again, the man is a genius. To come up with the idea of Freddy Krueger based on an article? To figure out a whole story line from it? Just plain awesome. However, not so much for the family the story is derived from (I do have a heart, you guys).

19 The Name Freddy Was Personal to Wes Craven

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This secret is twofold. In elementary school, there was a kid named Freddy who used to beat up Wes. So when he thought of what a name could be for a bully, Freddy was the clear choice. As far as the attitude and the type of character Craven was looking for, he stated that when he was younger lying in bed, he heard a mumbling outside of his window. Being a semi-brave little child, he crept to his window where he heard said mumbling and saw a man in the distance. It was almost as if the man felt himself being watched and turned around to look at Wes, which made him jump and rush back to bed. Little Wes waited a little bit, then went back to the window and the man was still there with his eyes very wide. Craven said Freddy’s character had elements of this man. It was the "sick sense of delight he had in terrorizing a child."

18 Robert Englund Wasn’t the First Choice for Freddy Krueger

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Can you imagine Robert Englund not the guy who had knives for fingers?? I know it’s hard for me to see anyone else playing that character. Especially after seeing how into his character he got. The hours of sitting through prosthetic makeup, the way it improved over the years with better tools at the special effects personnel's disposal, etc. The original person cast as Freddy Krueger was David Warner (Titanic [1997], The Omen [1976]). Although Warner would have likely done a great job, some parts are meant to be. Wes Craven originally wanted an older guy to play Freddy so when Englund showed up after Warner dropped out, Craven didn’t want to give him a shot because he was so young. Then, he realized Krueger would be in heavy makeup, so he thought it was silly not to let him audition. The rest is history, as Englund has played Freddy in every subsequent film (well up until Freddy vs. Jason [2003], that is).

17 Freddy’s Sweater Inspiration Too, Came From an Article

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Wes Craven found an article that explained that the colors red and green are “opponent colors,” and as such, it makes it difficult for the eye to see these colors side by side. Craven described it as a “painful optical effect.” I knew a guy some time ago that was color blind and couldn’t see the colors red and green. I immediately responded, “Oooh, Christmas must be hard for you,” completely unaware of the comedy everyone else in the room saw from my comment. We all had a pretty great laugh that day, and that’s when they realized what a winning personality I have. “Painful optical effect”? Perhaps for the guy I knew some time ago…

16 Johnny Depp’s Death Scene Was One Take

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Did anyone else forget that Johnny Depp was in the first Nightmare film? I certainly did. It also happened to be Depp’s first film and according to Craven and other cast and crew members, he was nervous around set. I assume it was because he wanted to impress, which if we look at his very long acting career, I’d say he nailed being a professional at his job. So anyway, when Depp dies, it was in a rotating room, and the “blood” was red water that had to be poured by someone. When the guy poured the “blood” and it hit the lights in the room, the guy got electrocuted. Because of all of this, it was a one take shot to get it exactly right. Talk about pressure, huh? This same rotating room was also used in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984).

15 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) - Wes Craven Didn’t Like the Script

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Since Craven didn’t like the script, and felt it was inferior to the first, he didn’t want to direct it. Instead, they got Jack Sholder to direct. I will preface this with the fact that every single Nightmare film had a different director, until the master of horror, Wes Craven, came back for New Nightmare (1994). Funnily enough, Sholder (who was good technically), didn’t like the first film at all. I personally wasn’t a fan of where Sholder took Freddy’s character. It was a lot different than the Freddy we were introduced to. This film also prompted one of the biggest debates in the franchise as it had some script issues. One of Craven’s examples was the pool scene where Freddy shows up, which completely defeats the purpose and identity of Freddy Krueger who kills kids in their dreams.

14 Heather Langenkamp Was Not Asked to Return

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As Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) was the heroine in the first film, and one of the only remaining survivors, she surprisingly was not asked to be in the sequel. There wasn’t really a definitive reason for Sholder not including her, but it is what it is. Speculation is that they wanted a fresh look, with fresh young actors for the sequel. Robert Englund initially wasn’t asked back either. They started the film with Freddy being played by an extra in a rubber suit and mask. It was a terrible decision as Englund brought a special quality to the character. Also, Kevin Yagher was brought in for special effects because the original special effects guy (David Miller) wasn’t available.

13 Jesse’s Metamorphosis Took a Long Time

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The sequence where Freddy is coming out of Jesse’s body took eleven weeks to build. Mark Shostrom (Transformation Effects Coordinator) stated that the script said: “Freddy vs. Jesse,” so he had to come up with what he thought that meant. Also, the eye in the back of Jesse’s throat was Kevin Yagher’s (special effects) girlfriend. She was the only person short and small enough to be behind the prop and get her head through. Even with some of these extremely cheesy parts, this film achieved 150% of the sales of the first one. It seemed everyone wanted more Freddy.

12 A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) - This was Patricia Arquette’s First Film

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It seems the Freddy films gave a number of actors their first start. Including Patricia Arquette (also known for her show Medium). As it turns out, one third of the male cast fell in love with Patricia. They all apparently came to Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) for advice, of which he had none as he obviously had never dated her. On her first night of filming, they didn’t get to Patricia’s scene until four in the morning, and by that time, she had forgotten her lines. 52 takes later, she still couldn’t remember her lines, so they had to use cue cards. Chuck Russell (director) never truly gave her the support she needed (or deserved). Apparently Russell wasn’t exactly the easiest director to work for, either.

11 Robert Englund Ad-libbed One of the Famous Lines

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“Welcome to Primetime, bitch!” Do you remember that line? When Jennifer’s (Penelope Sudrow) death scene comes about and she gets her head shoved into a television? Freddy’s original line was: “This is it, Jennifer! Your big break in TV!” So for more of an effect, Englund added a little more for emphasis. Englund said that when the scene was shooting, the original line was a mouthful, but in true Freddy character, he came up with one of the most memorable lines of the movie. I assume that this is one of the reasons, as there were many more that fueled a much heated debated between film critics Siskel & Ebert about the rating for this installment. Ebert believe it should’ve been rated “X.”

10 A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) - Tuesday Knight Didn’t Hold as Much Charm

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The replacement for Patricia Arquette’s “Kristen” was played by Tuesday Knight. The surviving cast members from the third film didn’t feel that Tuesday held the same charm Arquette did. It was harder to connect with her and try to build the chemistry of their traumatic experiences (from the previous film) that they did with Arquette. No one really knows why Arquette didn’t come back to the film as it couldn’t have been a monetary issue, or perhaps she simply didn’t want to come back? Even with the cast change for the main part of Kristen, this installment and installment number three were both the highest grossing films in the series. Considering that for the fourth film the release date was given before the actual script was written, it’s pretty impressive.

9 Yet Another Director Was Used for This Installment

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As stated earlier, another director was used for this film. Renny Harlin (also known for Die Hard 2 [1990]), was a young unknown director from Finland. Broke and in desperate need of money, he would wait in the lobby for Robert Shaye to convince Shaye to hire him. They didn’t initially want him, but he became so bothersome they decided to give him the opportunity. As this film had no actual writers and just an outline for a script, it was Harlin’s job to make the film work. He only had a six week shooting schedule. To top things off, Shaye didn’t speak to Harlin throughout the duration of film production. When it became the highest grossing film, and very well received by critics and movie goers alike, Shaye felt that he should’ve been a little more receptive towards Harlin. From the release date on a Friday to the next Monday, Steven Spielberg called Harlin and asked him to direct Die Hard 2. Pretty cool, right?

8 A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) - The Script Constantly Changed with No Concrete Ending

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With a new director in tow, Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2 [1990]), this script went through a number of screenwriters, another installment with a release date and no script, and a four week prep period to get it filmed. Hopkins wanted to make Freddy a scary character again as opposed to the funny sarcastic approach the couple of previous films went for. To add to the already hectic schedule, the script was constantly changing so the complete put together sequences ended up being solved via story board drawings. Hopkins was pulled in so many different directions there was little time for him to actually direct his actors. Sets were being built while other scenes were being shot; it was basically a mess. Although Hopkins was a great person to work with, the time line and inconsistent script writing led this installment to open to generally negative reviews and was the lowest grossing film of the series.

7 Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) - Lezlie Deane’s Real Life Trauma Was Brought to the Surface

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Lezlie Deane (she played the character Tracy) had a scene where her father was coming up to molest her (which I believe was in her nightmare, but it’s been a while). In the documentary she stated that when she shot the scene, it seemed normal to her, she was ready to go after it, shoot it and call it a day. Then after shooting, she started having flashbacks of something similar from her earlier years happening to her. It wasn’t until she filmed the movie that she realized she had suppressed those memories of being molested. How sad, right? I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for her to come to the realization that this was a very real experience for her. It also pisses me off that so many people (both male and female) get taken advantage of, and ultimately their innocence stolen from them. Yeah, it really infuriates me.

6 The Nintendo Power Glove Was Never Given the Green Light

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So Freddy uses a glove very similar to Nintendo’s power glove in the Spencer (Breckin Meyer) death scene. Spencer was in a video game, Freddy is messing with the controller and says the line, “Now, I’m playing with power!” It’s so ridiculously cheesy, but try and appreciate it for what it was, folks. Anyway, the new director (Rachel Talalay – who had been producing the films, and now stepped up to direct one) had asked Nintendo if they could use the power glove for the film, Nintendo rejected it and said no. Talalay then informed Robert Shaye (producer) that use of the glove was denied. Shaye didn’t care and greenlit the glove to be used in the film, regardless. End result? Freddy’s Dead helped Nintendo sell more of the power gloves than it had ever previously. I think Nintendo owes the franchise a little thank you.

5 This Was Supposed to be the Last Film in the Franchise

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It was an elaborate send off for Freddy. The release date for this film was September 13, 1991. To market this film, press was involved as they had a fake funeral for Freddy with a coffin and reunion of the cast members from all of the previous films to say their “goodbyes” to this fictional character. It was a marketing gimmick (obviously) and it worked. Even director Talalay was recorded after being asked if Freddy was coming back, saying “No. No, no, no, no.” Since there have certainly been movies after this film, it wasn’t the 100% truth, now was it? Talalay did have cutting edge tactics for its time, though. The dream demons were CGI, when no one around was using what we now call “CG.” She also decided on more survivors in this installment than any other in the franchise.

4 New Nightmare (1994) - Robert Shaye Asked Wes Craven Back

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And Wes Craven is back! Since he only directed the first film in the franchise, and never had any intention of Freddy being a series, Shaye (producer) asked Craven back to give him a fair shake on the series. By this time, Shaye and Craven had ironed out the differences they had years prior. Craven explained that there really was no logical place to go since Freddy had been in the real world, changed locations from Elm Street and became a father. He came up with a new nightmare by consciously taking the reality from the first film and bringing it over into a real life scenario, thus consistently quoting the original film. Craven wanted Freddy to be different for this installment. If you took notice, Freddy was now bulkier and his burned skin was much different from the initial design.

3 Miko Hughes’ Parents Helped on Set

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So it’s never really funny to make a child cry, right? Miko Hughes (who played Dylan; and also known for Pet Sematary [1989]) in general had a great time filming on set. Heather Langenkamp (who played herself) stated that she and Miko clicked right away. Everyone on set thought he was great. However, there was a particular scene in which Craven needed him to cry. His parents came to set and his father said he had a way to make him cry. Miko’s mother left the set, and his father whispered in his ear, “your mother just died,” which brought him into hysterics. I have to admit when I watched this behind the scenes fact, I did laugh. In all fairness, Miko seemed to be in really good spirits about them taking his acting to the next level for certain scenes. Also, his reward for hellacious scenes would be a Happy Meal. You all know when you were kids, Happy Meals were the be all and end all of your existence. As a bonus, the park that New Nightmare was shot at was being taken down. Miko had it moved to his house, in his backyard and still has it to this day.

2 Wes Craven Was the Presence Needed on Set

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It had been almost ten years since Craven helmed the director’s chair for this franchise. Turns out after the many different directors throughout Nightmare history, Craven became a master in his absence. By this point in his directing career, he truly had honed his craft. This was the first time I heard the cast say that there was no tension on set, everyone truly got along and was happy to be there. It was pleasant and fun, and there was a sense of love. Even Tracy Middendorf (Julie in the film) stated that even though it was her first film, she felt at home with the cast. This film brought a new life back to the franchise. After a lot of negative feedback from the previous couple of films, this was a much needed win for the series. It was released on October 14, 1994, and was hailed by the New York Times. It opened to glowing reviews and although it wasn’t a technical box office hit (opening opposite Pulp Fiction, so I get it), it was still a hit in every other sense.

1 A Good Portion of Heather Langenkamp’s Real Life Was in this Film

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We have reached the end, you guys! Heather Langenkamp, who portrayed herself in this installment, had some real world scares. With Langenkamp’s permission to use certain things that had happened to her in real life, Craven pushed forward in filming. One such scare? Langenkamp had a real life stalker that would call her at odd hours and threaten her life. As a result of this, Langenkamp moved to London for about five months to decompress from it all. Now, I’m not sure if she found out who it was before or after she left, but it turns out that this stalker was an angry fan who was mad the series had stopped. Like seriously, a crazy fan? Why is it Heather’s fault, anyway? When Craven called Langenkamp to ask her to come back (to be honest, if Wes Craven had ever called me and asked me to work in one of his films, with zero hesitation, I’d be in), she was working on more of a cookie cutter show, Just the Ten of Us. Funnily enough, two other actresses in the Nightmare franchise played her sisters in this show. The three in total were: Heather Langenkamp – played Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and New Nightmare. Brooke Thiess – played Debbie in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master JoAnn Willette – played Girl on bus in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge Last fun fact: All three of these actresses also had guest roles on the hit television show Growing Pains.

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