Horror movies have been around since the late 1800s, yet not all of them are remembered as fondly as others. In 1984, horror meister Wes Craven introduced moviegoers to not only one of the most iconic horror movies of the decade, but one of the most iconic figures in horror in general. Fred Krueger was his name and he took teenagers' lives in their sleep. Even if people don’t know Freddy’s backstory, most people will recognize his appearance. Freddy has a horribly burned face, a dirty brown fedora, a green and red sweater, and a glove with knives for fingers.
Robert Englund was the actor under the makeup who played the character for nearly twenty years in eight movies and a TV show. The series would eventually be rebooted in 2010 with Jackie Earle Haley; however, most fans despised the reboot and weren’t interested in a Freddy flick without Englund.
Since 2010, there hasn’t been another A Nightmare on Elm Street movie, but Englund will be reprising his iconic role one final time for the Halloween special of The Goldbergs. Even though the original set of movies is beloved by horror fans, most of the sequels can’t live up to the first film that Craven put together 34 years ago. That being said, there are fascinating tales behind the making of not just the original movie, but all seven of the sequels as well.
Here are the 30 Secrets Behind The Making Of A Nightmare On Elm Street.
30 Real Life Events Inspired The Story
While A Nightmare on Elm Street is a work of fiction, real-life events did inspire the story.
For the story itself, Craven was inspired to make the movie after hearing about a boy who passed away in his sleep after having nightmares in an article from the LA Times.
As for Freddy, Craven crafted the maniac’s name after a boy who used to beat him up in Elementary School. Craven further explained in Never Sleep Again that he also based Freddy off of a man who once stood outside his window and purposely scared him at a young age.
29 Heather Langenkamp Was Stalked By A Real Fan
When Wes Craven returned to the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise for New Nightmare, he brought Freddy back by having him invade people’s dreams in the real world. To elaborate, Heather Langenkamp played Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund played Robert Englund, etc.
Before Freddy was fully revealed in New Nightmare, Langenkamp was being stalked by a crazed fan. What’s even more chilling is that the documentary Never Sleep Again revealed that Langenkamp was actually being stalked in real life and Craven decided to include it in the story of the film.
28 Wes Craven’s Daughter Got Johnny Depp His First Acting Gig
Some people might not know, but the original A Nightmare on Elm Street was actually Johnny Depp’s acting debut. Depp landed the role of Glen Lantz, who was Nancy Thompson’s boyfriend and her neighbor across the street. While it might not be a secret to everyone that Depp started his acting career in horror, it may surprise some that Wes Craven’s daughter was actually responsible for choosing him.
Wes Craven explained in the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy that he thought Depp looked sort of “sickly and pale” but his daughter thought that Johnny Depp was beautiful, so he got cast in the movie.
27 They Started Freddy’s Revenge Without Robert Englund
Anybody who is a fan of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series knows that the movies would not have been what they were without Robert Englund. Wes Craven crafted something extraordinary in 1984, but filmmakers later derailed quite a bit from his original vision. When the second movie, Freddy’s Revenge, was being filmed, the filmmakers didn’t yet know that Englund was crucial to the story.
This caused them to begin filming scenes with an extra in a rubber mask, but it quickly became apparent that they had to bring Englund back.
According to the cast and crew in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, the extra was much too stiff to play the role and walked around like Frankenstein.
26 Jennifer Rubin Accidentally Stabbed Robert Englund
When it came to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, an entirely new cast was brought in to play teens at a mental hospital who called themselves the Dream Warriors. They got this name after Nancy Thompson convinced them that they were strong enough to battle Freddy in their dreams.
One of these teenagers was named Taryn, and was played by Jennifer Rubin. She and Freddy have an elaborate dream sequence where Taryn attacks Freddy with switchblades. Rubin confessed in the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy that she accidentally stabbed Robert Englund for real in one of their fight sequences.
25 Patricia Arquette Didn’t Return, Possibly Because Of Money
One of the biggest who that made an acting career after Dream Warriors was the young Patricia Arquette. Arquette played the character Kristen Parker in Nightmare 3, but was replaced by Tuesday Knight for Dream Master. That being said, it isn’t quite known why Arquette didn’t return for Part 4.
Director Renny Harlin, producer Robert Shaye, and actor Ken Sagoes admit they don’t know why Arquette didn’t return, but Englund has said it was simply because she had other acting gigs.
Rodney Eastman, who played Joey, said in Never Sleep Again that Arquette didn’t return for Dream Master because they wouldn’t pay her the amount of money she requested, even though the amount was small and she deserved it.
24 The MPAA Cut Out A Lot Of Scenes In The Dream Child
When it comes to horror movies, filmmakers and editors have to be careful with how much gore they show on screen. Even if the special effects department creates a stunning scene for a movie, it could get cut in order to avoid an X rating.
When it came to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, a lot of the movie had to be cut out thanks to the MPAA. The director of the movie, Stephen Hopkins, admitted in Never Sleep Again that the film had to be resent to the MPAA around 20 times because they kept cutting scenes out.
23 They Had A Real Funeral For Freddy
When filmmakers were working on Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, they really did think that this would be Freddy’s last outing. They marketed the movie with the premise that Freddy would be gone for good, hence the title. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, but they pulled out all of the stops when it came to marketing for Freddy’s Dead.
In order to promote the movie and the fact that it was really the“Final Nightmare”, the filmmakers hosted a funeral for Freddy Krueger with several of the cast and crew members attending.
Englund would obviously return to Freddy in New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason, but the marketing ploy was genius none the less.
22 Pinehead Was Originally At The End Of Freddy vs. Jason
Freddy vs. Jason never stood a chance at becoming an Oscar-nominated movie, but the film achieved what fans wanted it to. For years, people had wanted to see the two horror icons in an epic fight, and in 2003, fans finally got their wish.
The end of the film doesn’t give a true winner, but in early drafts of the movie, Pinhead from Hellraiser was supposed to show up and ask Freddy and Jason what they were fighting about. It would have been an incredible ending, but sadly, New Line Cinema didn’t own the rights to the character, which meant that it never could have been.
21 Freddy Did A Music Video With Dokken
Two things were incredibly popular in the '80s: horror movies and music. One rock band that was well known when Freddy was growing in popularity was called Dokken. Due to Dokken and Freddy’s appeal to teenagers, they ended up making a music video together in 1987 called “Dream Warriors”.
The song was not only featured on Dokken’s “Back for the Attack” album, but it was also the theme song for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The video combined scenes from the movie and the band playing their instruments, but Robert Englund filmed more scenes as Freddy for the music video as well.
20 Freddy’s Dentures Fell Into Toy Newkirk’s Mouth
Freddy Krueger is known for ending the lives of teenagers in some pretty unique ways. One of the strangest moments of Dream Master came when it was time for Toy Newkirk to movie her character’s final moments.
For her final scene, a robotic hand comes out of her desk at school before Freddy appears and literally sucks the life out of her by giving her a kiss.
In the Never Sleep Again documentary, Newkirk revealed that right before Robert Englund kissed her, Freddy’s dentures accidentally slipped out Englund’s mouth and went straight into hers.
19 Johnny Depp And Alice Cooper Had Cameos In Freddy’s Dead
While the first A Nightmare on Elm Street launched Johnny Depp’s career, he didn’t return to the series until Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Even then, he didn’t appear in a very big role, but simply had a cameo as a spokesperson on TV doing an anti-substance commercial.
Rock legend Alice Cooper also had a role in the movie and played Freddy Krueger’s abusive father for flashback sequences. Even though Freddy’s Dead was far from the best of the Nightmare sequels, it did have some awesome cameos.
18 Miko Hughes Got To Keep The Playground And Rex
Miko Hughes may not be doing a ton of acting today, but in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he was a hit. The child actor starred in many movies throughout his career, including Pet Sematary and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Hughes was only eight years old when New Nightmare came out. The child star got to keep some of the props from the set.
According to Hughes in the documentary Never Sleep Again, the playground used in the film was going to be torn down so his family decided to save it and give it to Miko. The stuffed animal Rex also got to go home with Hughes and he still has it to this day.
17 Monica Keena Was Terrified Of Freddy Krueger As A Child
When A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984, it horrified a lot of people who saw the film. Freddy vs. Jason actress Monica Keena admitted in the documentary Never Sleep Again that she was actually terrified of Freddy when she was a child.
She explained that seeing Freddy in the original movie traumatized her, and for years, she had to look at a photo of Robert Englund next to a picture of Freddy Krueger before she went to sleep so that she remembered Freddy wasn’t real.
In the end, it worked out for Keena since she got to chop Freddy’s head off in Freddy vs. Jason.
16 Freddy’s Weapon And Sweater Were Meticulously Thought Out
While some movie maniacs wield a giant machete or a kitchen knife, Freddy truly has a unique weapon. Wes Craven thought hard about what Krueger’s weapon would be to make him stand out and, in the end, he decided on a bladed glove. In an interview with the American Film Institute, Craven explained that he thought back to the first danger a human would have encountered - the teeth and claws of an animal.
As for the sweater, Craven had learned that those specific shades of red and green were the two most difficult colors for the eye to process, which is why Freddy has a Christmas colored sweater.
15 The Writer of The Walking Dead Worked On Dream Warriors
Horror movies are often a good place for actors, writers, and special effect artists to start their careers. The TV show The Walking Dead is often considered a great example of zombie horror - or at least its earlier seasons were.
It turns out that the famous writer Frank Darabont, who writes for The Walking Dead, penned the screenplay with Chuck Russell and Bruce Wagner for Dream Warriors. Likewise, one of The Walking Dead’s makeup artists, Greg Nicotero, also worked on A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
14 Robert Englund Was Very Talkative
It is very clear to anyone who interviews or meets Robert Englund that he is nothing like his on-screen character Freddy Krueger.
Englund is known for being a great storyteller due to his extensive knowledge of film, which often makes him chatty behind the scenes.
Englund often had to undergo hours of makeup applications before the cameras could start rolling which was the perfect time for him to share stories with the makeup department. In the documentary Never Sleep Again, make-up artist Howard Berger confirmed that there were times where he had to physically hold Englund’s head still so that he could apply the makeup since he was talking too much.
13 Robert Shaye Used The Nintendo Power Glove, Even Though Nintendo Said No
Before Nintendo released the Wii, they had the Power Glove. Nintendo’s Power Glove debuted in 1989, just a few years before Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was released. Anybody who has seen Freddy’s Dead will recall the scene where Freddy is using a knock-off Power Glove and even says the line “Now I’m playing with power.”
According to the documentary Never Sleep Again, Nintendo actually said no to New Line Cinema using the Power Glove in Freddy’s Dead, but Robert Shaye included it in the movie anyway because he thought it was such a good line. Nintendo never sued New Line and the movie actually helped sell more Power Gloves, according to director Rachel Talalay.
12 The Beginning Of New Nightmare Was A Tribute To Roman Polanski’s Repulsion
It isn’t uncommon for horror directors, or directors in general, to be inspired by other filmmakers. Many people were likely inspired by Wes Craven’s work on the horror genre, but Craven himself actually paid tribute to Roman Polanski in New Nightmare.
Craven confirmed in the documentary Never Sleep Again that the scene near the beginning of New Nightmare where the walls are splitting apart is actually a tribute to Polanski’s Repulsion. In Repulsion, when the main character Carol begins to go mad, the walls in her bedroom start to split apart, which Wes included in New Nightmare.
11 The Director Of Freddy vs. Jason Thinks Freddy Won
Often times when two horror series have a crossover movie and pit two monsters or maniacs against each other, people want a clear winner. That being said, when New Line Cinema released Freddy vs. Jason, fans weren’t given an obvious winner.
At the end of the movie, Jason is seen walking away with Freddy’s decapitated head, but at the last moment, Freddy winks at the camera, indicating that he has some more tricks up his sleeve.
Fans of Jason will probably think that Jason won, while fans of Freddy probably thought that Freddy won. However, in Never Sleep Again, director Ronny You announced that he truly thought Freddy won the battle.
10 David Warner Almost Played Freddy
While Robert Englund has become synonymous with the role of Freddy Krueger, he actually wasn’t the first choice. Actor David Warner was originally cast in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street, but he dropped out at the last minute due to a prior engagement.
Craven revealed in the documentary Never Sleep Again that he originally envisioned Krueger as an old man, which is reflected by early makeup designs for Warner. Even though Warner could have been great in the role, it’s unlikely that he would have been able to outperform Robert Englund.
9 Peter Jackson Wrote A Draft For Elm Street 6
Peter Jackson is a name that movie buffs are pretty familiar with now a days. He has worked on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, along with movies like King Kong and District 9. Peter Jackson co-wrote a script with Danny Mulheron, which revolved around Freddy as an old man in the dream world that people were no longer afraid of.
The remainder of the plot revolved around kids taking sleeping pills to go and pick on Krueger, but Freddy eventually regained power. With the reputation that Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare has, many fans will agree that Jackson’s spin on the movie sounds like a much better idea than what fans actually got.
8 Wes Craven Never Wanted A Sequel But Worked On Two Of Them
When it came to the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street, director Wes Craven and producer Robert Shaye wanted two very different things. Shaye wanted to keep Freddy alive so that New Line Cinema could possibly make a sequel if the movie did well, while Craven wanted the film to end without the possibility of a sequel.
Craven ultimately didn’t get his way and Freddy was featured in seven sequels and a remake.
Craven mostly stayed out of the sequels, but he still worked on two of the films. Craven was brought back for Dream Warriors to write a first draft, which was ultimately rejected. Craven also came back to write and direct New Nightmare in 1994.
7 Producer Robert Shaye Has A Cameo In Several Of The Sequels
In the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, it is clear that Robert Shaye had a crucial role in making A Nightmare on Elm Street a reality. Shaye basically mortgaged his entire life to make the movie, and New Line Cinema was depending on A Nightmare on Elm Street to be a box office hit in order to stay afloat.
After the success of the first film, Shaye stayed on to produce all seven sequels and even got to act in several of the movies. He got to play a newsreader, bartender, lecturer, ticket-seller, himself, and a principal. In total, he acted in six of the films and once in the TV show.
6 The Freddy Snake In Dream Warriors Was A Giant Puppet
Freddy has taken many forms over the years. In a scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy is depicted as a giant snake. In the documentary Never Sleep Again, the special effects artists revealed that the prop was essentially just a big puppet. There were actually a couple of different puppets that were used depending on what part of the scene was being filmed.
In one scene, when Patricia Arquette is being eaten by the snake, they actually pulled off the effect by just reversing the footage, making it look like the Freddy snake was eating her when it was actually spitting her out.
5 Rick Fights An Invisible Freddy Because They Ran Out Of Money
Even though the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies were incredibly popular in the ‘80s, they were still restricted by a budget. While the filmmakers could still do a lot with the money at hand, certain scenes had to be altered because they ran out of cash. One of the most laughable moments of the Elm Street franchise happens when Rick, played by Andras Jones, is fighting an invisible Freddy.
As revealed in Never Sleep Again, this fight sequence between Freddy and Rick was supposed to be much more elaborate.
However, because they ran out of money, they just had Rick punch the air a couple of times and call it a day.
4 Robert Englund Accidentally Gave Lezlie Deane A Scar
It’s hard to make any movie without some type of injury on set. Jennifer Rubin accidentally stabbed Robert Englund in Dream Warriors, and Englund permanently scarred actress Leslie Deane in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Deane explained in the documentary Never Sleep Again that during her character’s fight sequence with Freddy, Englund accidentally hit her in the face with his glove.
The scene in question is towards the end of the movie when Freddy closes his gloved hand and hits Tracy with the back of the glove. Even though it was completely an accident, Deane says she still has the scar to this day.
3 They Scared Young Miko Hughes On Purpose
Even for the people working on the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Robert Englund was likely still scary when he put on the makeup since he got so into his character. For child actors, this is probably even worse since they are encountering the character of Freddy at such a young age.
For Miko Hughes, not all of his screams and jumps in New Nightmare were fake. In Never Sleep Again, Englund explained that he purposely hid and jumped out to scare Hughes for a scene towards the end of the movie, with Craven’s approval of course.
2 They Had A Press Conference For The Freddy Vs. Jason Fight
Fans of boxing matches know that the fighters often have a televised press conference where the fighters weigh in and talk about the upcoming match. When it came to promoting Freddy vs. Jason, they actually held a press conference with Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees.
The news conference in Las Vegas included the pre-fight weigh-in, trash talking, and questions from the audience.
The press conference was obviously all staged, but it was still a genius way to market the movie, much like the funeral for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
1 Practical Effects Were Mainly Used
Many horror movies today use computer-generated imagery in order to pull off special effects. What’s incredible about the first A Nightmare on Elm Street, however, is that the film was almost entirely made with practical effects.
For instance, the gooey stairway scene was created by using Bisquick, and the scene where Freddy pushes his face through the wall was done by using spandex, which had become popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In Never Sleep Again, it was revealed that in the 90-minute movie, 80 practical effects were pulled off.
Are there any other secrets behind the A Nightmare on Elm Street series that we forgot to mention? Sound off in the comments!