Enrich your annual Halloween viewing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic, with these fascinating tidbits.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street is Johnny Depp’s film debut.
During casting, it came down to Johnny Depp, who was then 21 years old, or another young actor to play Glen. Director Wes Craven asked his teenage daughter which actor he should cast as the heartthrob boyfriend—she chose Depp.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street was inspired by real-life events.
Craven decided to make A Nightmare on Elm Street after reading a series of Los Angeles Times articles about a group of teenage Khmer immigrants who, after moving to the U.S. from refugee camps, died in their sleep after suffering from disturbing nightmares.
3. Freddy Krueger is an amalgamation of Wes Craven’s childhood terrors.
“Freddy” was the name of a bully who beat Craven up in elementary school, and his signature hat was based on one worn by a neighborhood drunk who scared Craven when he was young.
4. Freddy Krueger’s sweater is scientifically scary.
Craven designed Freddy’s striped sweater after reading in Scientific American that the human eye has difficulty recognizing those particular shades of red and green side by side. Therefore, looking at it is subliminally unsettling.
5. Freddy Krueger’s weapon of choice was inspired by house pets and infomercials.
Craven didn’t want Freddy to wield a simple knife like Michael Myers in Halloween or Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, so he drew on his fear of his own cat’s claws and a series of late-night commercials selling sets of knives to create Freddy’s iconic knife glove.
6. Wes Craven’s other influences include surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel and director Roman Polanski.
He drew on their works, particularly Polanski’s The Tenant and Repulsion, for the dream sequences in the film.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street was shot in just 32 days.
Principal photography began in June 1984 and wrapped in July.
8. The boiler room in A Nightmare on Elm Street was an actual boiler room—in the basement of a jail.
The scenes where Freddy attacks his victims in a boiler room were shot in an actual boiler room in the basement of the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles. Soon after shooting ended, the building was condemned because of asbestos.
9. It took A Nightmare on Elm Street's makeup artists three hours each day to apply and take off Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger makeup.
The makeup consisted of 11 separate pieces applied to Englund’s face and upper chest.
10. Robert Englund based his performance as Freddy Krueger on a horror icon and musical theater star.
Englund was inspired by Klaus Kinski’s performance in the 1979 remake of Nosferatu and the work of actor James Cagney.
11. British actor David Warner was originally supposed to play Freddy Krueger.
He was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
12. One of A Nightmare on Elm Street's most famous scenes was inspired by Stanley Kubrick.
The famous scene in which a geyser of blood shoots out of Glen’s bed was inspired by a similar scene of blood pouring from an elevator in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. To create this effect, the blood was created from 80 gallons of water mixed with red paint, which was then was poured through a set built upside-down.
13. Nancy was almost killed by breakfast foods in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The sticky substance that keeps her from running up the stairs away from Freddy was in fact a mixture of oatmeal and pancake batter.
14. The movie that Nancy watches to try to stay awake is Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.
Craven added the nod to Raimi because Raimi had previously included a poster of Craven’s second film, The Hills Have Eyes, in a scene in The Evil Dead. Raimi eventually returned the favor by hiding Freddy’s knife glove in a scene in a tool shed in Evil Dead II.
15. The sleep doctor who tries to cure Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street is played by Charles Fleischer.
Fleischer provided the voice for Roger Rabbit.
This story has been updated for 2020.