The genesis of this ground breaking new type of horror movie lay with it's director, Wes Craven and his friend Steve Miner. They had read news reports of children who had been suffering with nightmares so terrible that they were unable to sleep any more through sheer terror. Having been given sedatives to send them to sleep, they thrashed horribly in their sleep and... died. Craven mused that "what if there was a killer that stalked you in your sleep?"
Freddy Kruger was designed by Wes Craven to be the typical "silent" serial killer such as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. But in the sequels Freddy developed a cheeky persona that enabled him to be the black humored villain. This movie was the only time that Freddy wore this particular sweater, which had solid red sleeves. All those worn afterward had green stripes on the sleeves as well.
Wes Craven used his memories of being a virgin and having to listen to friends in the next room making out for the love scenes. He does recall it being one of the worse times of his teenage years and was able to reflect that in Glen's face (Johnny Depp).
The scene where Nancy is in the bath and Freddy's hand reaches up was actually shot in a swimming pool and Heather Langenkamp was replaced by a stunt girl who was actually Bob Shaye's girlfriend at the time! She was resting on two slabs of wood to make it look like she was in the bathtub.
Jim Doyle, mechanical FX artist on the picture kindly wrote in to clarify:
The bathtub scene... Only the bits of Nancy underwater were shot in a swimming pool. The stunt girl was also an assistant on the film. Not a producer's girlfriend. All the above water shots were on a set onstage. The bathtub was about 36" deep. Nancy either sat on a plank for static scenes or sat on the effects guy's knees for scenes with the glove or where she is pulled under.
During the set up for most of the sleeping scenes, Heather Lagenkamp (Nancy) had a habit of actually falling asleep since she didn't have to do anything. Wes Craven used to put things in her nose while she was sleeping according to the commentary on the DVD.
Heather Langenkamp cut her foot in the scene where she is dreaming that Rod is about to be murdered and is running back to her house (just before she runs up the gooey stairs). If you watch, when she's running to her front door, she starts to hobble on the one foot.
Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss auditioned together, both winning their parts. The scene they rehearsed was the one in which Nancy and Tina realize they've dreamt about the same guy in Tina's house.
Wes Craven had to sign away all the rights to the movie to NEW LINE CINEMA in order for him to direct. He intended the film to be a one off, but after NEW LINE aquired the rights, Robert Shaye insisted on the 'open ending' for sequels.
All the clothes for the movie were purchased at Wal-Mart, except for Rod's leather jacket and also Nike gave the movie lots of new trainers. Wes Craven kept many of the clothes and other objects, some were used in 'Wes Craven's New Nightmare'. Heather Langenkamp managed to keep the pyjamas she wears when she ask's Glen to watch her while she sleeps, however.
When the movie was previewed for the first time, lots of the actors couldn't get in because Heather Langenkamp had invited everyone around to her home for a party beforehand and they arrived five minutes late. The cinema finally seated most of them on the floor though, and they got to see it.
Amanda Wyss (Tina) couldn't get in to watch the movie on the big screen as she was late with most of the actors, and so watched the movie weeks later on VHS, she stated that she had to fast forward most of the scary scenes because she didn't have the stomach for it. Stated on the special edition DVD.
Lincoln Heights Jail was used for the boiler room scenes. It was also used in several other 'Elm Street' movies and Wes Craven's horror movie, 'Shocker' which also starred Heather Langenkamp. Although, all the areas that were used in the original are now banned because of asbestos.
While filming Glen's death scene. The crew used the same rotating room as used for Tina's. However the blood which was gushing up from the bed started to tilt the room and the whole thing wen't the wrong way (they later used the scene of blood rushing sideways in the movie because they thought it looked surreal).
It was dangerous though, and all the FX people including Wes Craven were covered in blood and had slight electric shocks.
The myth goes that when they wrapped filming at twelve at night, mechanical FX artist, Jim Doyle's son, was given ten dollars to go on set and mop up the fake blood. He was still there the next morning when filming resumed at six a.m.
BUT Jim Doyle himself kindly wrote in to clarify:
"Jim Doyle has no son. Everybody who was available pitched in cleaning up mopping and vacuuming. We couldn't wrap with all that stuff on the floor."
Before filming started, Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) bonded with several of the characters. She and Ronee Blakley went to the mall shopping for prom dresses because they would be playing mother and daughter and she travelled to the Hollywood hills with Johnny Depp (above the Hollywood sign) so they could discuss their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend.
Robert Englund used to arrive on set before everyone else to have his make-up applied, so many of the cast and crew only saw him in character. On one occasion, when he was queuing for lunch, he was asked who he was? And could he please leave the set, because no-one recognised him without his Freddy make-up applied.
During the scene where Freddy attacks Nancy in her bedroom and rips apart the feather pillow, all the crew watching were given the choice to wear masks over there mouths because their was a rumour that if you inhaled feathers they could kill. Sara Risher, who was pregnant while filming, accepted a mask.
The original poster for the movie was of a street with four razer cuts through it and a girl's mouth screaming through them. As Wes Craven and Robert Shaye were deciding if they liked it, a teenage mail boy came into the office and they asked his opinion. "It sucks!" He said, and they both agreed. An artist was then hired to do a painting of Nancy jolting awake for the American poster. The British quad poster showed a portait of Heather Langenkamp asleep, above Elm Street, with Freddy's glove slicing forward and him in the shadow. Both are now considered classic movie posters and are worth a large sum of money.
In the scene where Nancy confronts her mother over Freddy's hat in the kitchen. Ronee Blakley slapped Heather many times to get the perfect take. Heather joked that it was painful because Ronee was wearing a ring.
There was an alternative scene filmed where Nancy tells Kruger she doesn't believe in him, to take away his power. The scene is exactly the same as the final version, apart from Nancy telling Kruger to "So just f*ck off!" - It was edited to keep Nancy more innocent.
An interesting scene which was edited out is when Ronee Blakley (Nancy's mother) is telling her about who Fred Kruger is, she originally tells Nancy that she, Tina, Rod and Glen all had a younger brother or sister that was murdered by Freddy. This was taken out because Wes Craven realised that the characters would remember an older brother or sister being that they are only fifteen in the movie.
In (Amanda Wyss) Tina's nightmare where she is killed there were many cut scenes. One where she walks out into the allyway and finds a mound of worms in her hand. One where Freddy walks up to her and says, "You can't get past me Tina" - this was when his arms where originally suppossed to stretch out. One where she pulls his face off and his tongue comes out, and one where we see Freddy walking up along the wall and ceiling above her when she is being murdered.
There was a scene filmed where Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) has a nightmare and is shown walking through her home with all rotting food on a table. The scene was cut and the idea used later by Craven in 'Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors' in Kristen's opening nightmare.
There was an alternate version to Johnny's death scene. They were originally going to have a shot where you see him emerge from the bed, blood drenched. I found this out on the two tape deluxe edition set (tape two).
1. Where Nancy and her friends simply drive away happily. 2. One where Freddy is driving. 3. One where the hood comes up and Nancy and friends scream, but her Marge just waves and 4. The ending that is.
Heather and the rest of the cast were very shocked by the ending chosen. But Robert Shaye wanted to make sequels.