Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street impressed pretty much everyone back in 1984. Horror geeks went nuts, the box office exploded, and even the film critics seemed a bit jazzed about this dark, twisted, and consistently clever piece of horror cinema. And it's only gotten more and more popular over the years. There's no shortage of information available about this modern classic, but we've gathered a few of the coolest tidbits together in one creepy package.
1. THE IDEA WAS BASED ON A SERIES OF NEWSPAPER ARTICLES.
Wes Craven was inspired to write the screenplay after reading a few newspaper articles about "mysterious death dreams" reported by several Asian young men, including one who later died in his sleep. The federal government even looked into the disturbing phenomenon back in 1981.
2. THE FILM MARKED JOHNNY DEPP’S ACTING DEBUT.
Not only did A Nightmare on Elm Street mark the big screen debut of a certain Johnny Depp, but it's also his first acting credit of any kind. And while he looked nothing like the character described in the screenplay, it seems that Craven saw something special in the kid. “I was just totally not what Wes had written for the story,” Depp told John Waters in a Q&A for Interview. “He had written the part of a big, blond, beach-jock, football-player guy. And I was sort of emaciated, with old hairspray and spiky hair, earrings, a little f***ing catacomb dweller. And then five hours later that agent called me and said, ‘You're an actor.’”
3. CHARLIE SHEEN ALMOST RUINED DEPP’S DEBUT.
Charlie Sheen was originally cast to play Glenn, Heather Langenkamp's boyfriend, but he wanted too much money. The role ended up going to (you guessed it) Johnny Depp.
4. ROBERT ENGLUND WAS NOT THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY FREDDY KRUEGER.
Craven reportedly planned to have a stuntman play the seemingly immortal youth-hater known as Freddy Krueger, but (wisely) opted to go with an accomplished actor for the role instead. His first choice was the brilliant British character actor David Warner, who you'll no doubt recognize from Time Bandits, Titanic, and various incarnations of Star Trek. Warner had to pass on the project, which opened the door for the truly excellent Robert Englund. But a few photos of David Warner in some rough Freddy make-up still remain, and they're pretty darn cool.
5. THE MOVIE EARNED ITS BUDGET BACK IN 72 HOURS.
The final production budget for A Nightmare on Elm Street was somewhere around $1.8 million, which is about what the film grossed in its first three days of domestic release. By the end of its theatrical release, it had earned more than $25 million. Now that's what you call a hit.
6. LOS ANGELES DECLARED A “FREDDY KRUEGER DAY” IN 1991, WHICH ENRAGED SOME PEOPLE.
In 1991, then-Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed September 13th (a Friday the 13th) as “Freddy Krueger Day,” mainly because so much of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise had been shot there. But not everyone was pleased with the tribute. “It's absurd and embarrassing,” Tammy Bruce, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, told the Los Angeles Times. “Declaring a day in celebration of a character that exists to slaughter people is absolutely horrendous.”
While the mayor’s office played up the fact that the day was named in conjunction with the release of the franchise’s final movie and that “the fact that this movie details the demise of Freddy Krueger certainly had something to do with it," Robert Englund also chimed in, stating that, “we have to separate crime reality from movie escapism.”
Charles Fleischer, the actor who plays the sleep clinic doctor, would go on to provide the voice of Roger Rabbit in 1988.
8. WES CRAVEN REGRETS TEASING THE SEQUEL.
Craven was rather staunchly opposed to any sort of "sequel tease" finale, but the big boss (that'd be New Line's Bob Shaye) insisted on one. “Bob wanted a hook for a sequel,” Craven told Vulture. “I felt that the film should end when Nancy turns her back on Freddy and his violence—that’s the one thing that kills him. Bob wanted to have Freddy pick up the kids in a car and drive off, which reversed everything I was trying to say—it suddenly presented Freddy as triumphant. I came up with a compromise, which was to have the kids get in the convertible, and when the roof comes down, we’d have Freddy’s red and green stripes on it. Do I regret changing the ending? I do, because it’s the one part of the film that isn’t me.”
Shaye’s father didn’t like the ending either. “When I showed the film to my dad at a screening, he said, ‘The ending is weird,’” Shaye told Vulture. “I told him about the awkward compromise Wes and I had made. He said, ‘It’s not good. You gotta change it.’ I said, ‘Dad, I can’t.’ We’re in a bar, and he yells, ‘You’re gonna f*ck up this movie!’ We just left it the way it was.” The film’s success, and the success of its sequels, would soon lead to New Line becoming known as “the house that Freddy built.”
9. THE FRANCHISE GAVE A START TO MANY NOW WELL-KNOWN FILMMAKERS.
A Nightmare on Elm Street spawned seven sequels between 1985 and 2003, as well as a remake in 2010. The franchise helped kick-start the careers of directors Chuck Russell (The Scorpion King), Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger), and Stephen Hopkins (Lost in Space), and screenwriters Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), Brian Helgeland (Mystic River), Ken and Jim Wheat (Pitch Black), Leslie Bohem (The Alamo), and the writing team of Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, who would go on to pen the Friday the 13th remake based on the success of their Freddy vs. Jason mash-up.
10. THE SERIES HAS EARNED MORE THAN $630 MILLION.
Including the remake, the nine Elm Street movies have grossed $370,495,086 in North America alone. That's $720,511,900 if you adjust for ticket price inflation. This puts the Nightmare on Elm Street series between The Muppets and The Nutty Professor films in terms of highest grossing franchises worldwide.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Blu-ray audio commentary
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
This article originally ran in 2015.