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For Johnny Depp, acting was the last thing on his mind before he ended up in Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street. The feature ended up giving Depp the successful Hollywood career that he currently enjoys. But the actor was very fortunate to end up in the horror flick despite Craven’s unfavorable opinion towards him.

Wes Craven liked almost nothing about Johnny Depp before casting him in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’

Nick Corri, Amanda Wyss, Johnny Depp, and Heather Langenkamp posing beside car in a scene from the film 'A Nightmare On Elm Street'.
Nick Corri, Amanda Wyss, Johnny Depp, and Heather Langenkamp | Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Audiences first saw Depp on the big screen in Craven’s 1984 classic Nightmare on Elm Street. The actor ended up being cast as the boyfriend to the film’s final girl Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp. It was a role he acquired that even Depp would tell people was a fluke.

“It was divine intervention. When I moved to L.A., one of my buddies introduced me to Nicolas Cage, and he introduced me to his agent,” Depp once told Splice. “She sent me to read Nightmare. It was so strange. I’d never done drama before, not even in high school. All of a sudden, I’m talking to my family on the phone and saying, ‘Hi, how are you? I think I just got a part in a feature film.”

Perhaps what gives even more credibility to Depp’s ‘divine intervention’ theory was the fact that he made a horrible first impression on Craven. Craven had nothing nice to say about Depp’s initial audition, other than Depp seemed like a nice guy.

“I could make up all kinds of stories about why I had the perception and presence to cast Johnny Depp, but I would be a liar,” Craven once told Inside Haunted Hollywood (via Johnny Depp Zone). “We were looking for someone in the role as Nancy’s boyfriend . . . the boy next door . . . and in comes Johnny Depp with a friend–the long hair, his fingers were yellow, and I thought, ‘This isn’t the boy next door and he can’t act and he’s so nervous. Sweet, but . . .”

Johnny Depp owes his career to Wes Craven’s daughter

Despite Depp ticking off all the wrong boxes for Craven, he was still cast in Elm Street thanks to the filmmaker’s daughter. Craven’s child Jessica took an immediate liking to Depp.

“‘He’s beautiful,'” Craven remembered his daughter saying.

It was a story that Depp corroborated during his own tribute for the late director after his death.

“Wes Craven was the guy who gave me my start, from my perspective, for almost no reason in particular. I read scenes with his daughter when I auditioned for the part. At the time, I was a musician. I wasn’t really acting. It was not anything very near to my brain or my heart, which is pretty much how it remains to this day,” Depp wrote according to Variety. “But Wes Craven was brave enough to give me the gig based on his daughter’s opinion. I guess she had read with a bunch of actors, and after the casting sessions, she said, ‘No, that’s the guy.’ I always think of her for putting me in this mess, and certainly Wes Craven for being very brave to give me this gig.”

Heather Langenkamp didn’t think Johnny Depp would stick to acting


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Depp wasn’t the only person who thought he’d go back to making music after his first acting gig. Elm Street star Langenkamp also didn’t believe he’d be a full-time actor. This was based on her own assessment on Depp’s attitude while filming the horror flick.

“I could not tell if he liked acting or not because he seemed kinda tortured by it, the pressure of… I know that he really worked hard to be Glen,” she said in an interview on Inside of You. “He worked very hard on this part. So I couldn’t tell if he was enjoying himself frankly because he was always so dedicated and serious. We all joked around and cracked smiles and stuff. He was a musician, he was a guitar player in a band, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s just going to go back to that.’ … I thought, ‘He’ll give this up, this won’t keep him satisfied or fulfilled.’ If you’re a great musician, you’re not going to turn it all in for acting.”