Glancing at the desk in her home office, OHeather Langenkamp spots a head and a string of entrails. Few people are as prepared for this sort of thing as Langenkamp, who, as the star of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and two of its six Sequels, has seen bucketloads of lifelike viscera. This time, though, it’s just rodent remnants, a gift from her cat Lolli. “Ugh,” she says.
Nowadays Langenkamp, 37, who played scream queen Nancy Thompson, lives a much quieter, Freddy Krueger-less life with her husband, Dave Anderson, 36, an Oscar-winning special-effects makeup expert (The Nutty Professor, Men in Black), in Malibu. She keeps busy running Malibu Gum Co., a nine-month-old firm that sells chewing gum packaged with trading cards depicting local surfing stars. “From time to time, we just have these weird ideas about things we’d like to make,” says Langenkamp, who shoots many of the photographs herself. And it’s fun, she adds, “to make an average Joe feel famous for 15 minutes.”
As for her own fame, Langenkamp says she’d rather concentrate on raising kids Atticus, 10, and Isabelle, 6. “I’m on the PTA,” says Langenkamp, who also leads a local beach-cleanup effort. “When I’m around actresses who’ve put their careers at the top of their priorities, we don’t have much in common.”
The Zen side of Langenkamp isn’t the one her Nightmare nemesis Robert Englund remembers.
“Heather was very gung ho,” says Englund, 52, who played blade-fingered Freddy Krueger in all seven of the Nightmare films. “She would jump into anything, even if it meant blood was splattering all over the place.” Yet it was the Tulsa native’s “strength and intelligence,” says director and close friend Wes Craven, that made her a deft foil to Englund’s villain. “Robert had the bravura,” he notes, “but her performance is the key to the film.”
The eldest child of Dobie, 65, an attorney who worked for the Carter Administration, and his artist wife, Mary Alice, 63 (they divorced in 1987), Langenkamp seems an unlikely candidate for slasher-starlet notoriety. (Her brother Matthew, 34, works for a financial firm in Hong Kong; Daniel, 32, is a graduate student in Pakistan; and Lucy, 26, is studying art in Tibet.) After graduating from high school in 1982, the Stanford-bound Langenkamp, on a lark, answered a Tulsa Tribune ad for movie extras. She landed bit parts in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders and Rumble Fish; even though her scenes were later cut, she was hooked.
Midway through her first year at Stanford, Outsiders producer Fred Roos persuaded her to come to L.A. to read for a part in the little-seen film Nickel Mountain. “When the movie wrapped in 1983, she decided to stay and pursue acting full-time. A year later she landed Nightmare. “I wasn’t a fan of horror movies,” she says. “The only ones I’d seen terrified me.”
During filming, Langenkamp, then 20, met and married Alan Pasqua, a musician 12 years her senior, but the pair divorced after only a year and a half. “I wasn’t very mature,” she says. “It wasn’t time for me to be settling down.” Nearly three years later she met Anderson, when friends introduced them at a party hosted by Craven. They wed in 1990, with Anderson’s high school pal Charlie Sheen serving as best man.
Langenkamp, who also played Marie Lubbock on the sitcom Just the Ten of Us (1988-1990), starred in the third and seventh Nightmare installments while earning a B.A. in English from Stanford. “It took seven years,” she says, “but I finished.”
Though motherhood now takes up most of her time (and no, she hasn’t allowed Atticus and Isabelle to see Nightmare), Langenkamp, who still auditions about once a month, says she hopes to land more roles—in a new genre, please. “I can’t do another horror film,” she says. “I’m Nancy. I’m very loyal to Nightmare that way.”
NF Mendoza in Los Angeles