Beyond Death: What Happened to Nancy Thompson
Nancy Thompson, portrayed by Heather Langenkamp, is one of horror’s most notable female heroines. She has elements of the common “final girl”: virginal, the last surviving girl and the one to defeat the villain. Yet Nancy is very different, as Wes intended for her not to be the victim or the girl who falls. She’s resourceful, level-headed and learns to set up booby traps for cryin’ out loud!
Nancy is known to be Freddy’s ultimate opponent or penultimate, depending on who you talk to. Her death in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a devastating deaths in horror. Her end seems undeserving of Nancy, who gave Freddy quite the fight and understood he wasn’t vanquished after their faceoff in the first film.
But few know what Nancy’s original end was intended to be and what happens to Nancy after her death.
Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner wrote the original script to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. This variation is darker, more crude and different in many ways from the film audiences have come to know and love over the years. In the original ending, Nancy Thompson knows it’s Freddy and the two go down in a death grip. Below is an excerpt from the script. Notice, Donald Thompson is referred to as “John,” Freddy is “Freddie,” and Kristen is “Kirsten.”
Fearful, the girls stay behind the boiler, listening for any sound.
Nothing. All strangely quiet. Then; we HEAR something.
Nancy stiffens, dips and snatches up a jagged shard of steel — a piece of Freddie’s glove’s original fabrication — the girl instantly afraid again.
But then there’s a voice.
But the voice is not Freddie’s. It’s another voice entirely, familiar and warm. And Nancy straightens and looks. Sees her father standing out from the smoke, a shadowy but real figure.
Be grins, blackened by soot but alive.
He opens his arms for her. She takes a closer look…he steps a bit out of the smoke, closer to her. It’s really him. And the two move to each other, the jagged steel blade almost falling from Nancy’s hand. The two reach out — lovingly, longingly — and then — almost at the same instant — Nancy plunges the steel blade deep into the man’s chest — as the man snaps upward with the steel-bladed glove he’s kept so well hidden till now. And both jolt together in a death dance as Kirsten screams and Nancy reaches up and pulls at the face — the skin pulling away to reveal FREDDIE.
They collapse together, Freddie screaming a terrible cry of mortal injury, already beginning to dissolve and break apart. Kirsten races in, snatching Nancy out of this horrible embrace, pulling, dragging her away, cradling her at last in her arms.
A more fitting ending. Kristen then does something similar to what we see in the film and says she won’t let Nancy die, and that she’ll dream her “into a beautiful dream forever…forever…”
In the final scene of the original script, Neil and “Kirsten” have dinner. Neil is anxious to rush her out. So Kirsten asks a question.
Do you two still… see each other?
Neil tries to keep a straight face, but then a little smile escapes his eyes.
Yeah, we do. In fact, I’m seeing her tonight. That’s why I’m in such a rush to get to sleep.
Kirsten nods. She knew it.
Will you say hi?
(he smiles that he will)
Kirsten is so powerful that she dreams Nancy into this “beautiul dream,” and Nancy doesn’t fully die. This concept did not make it into the films, but it is speculated that the light that turns on in the paper mache 1428 Elm Street house is Nancy as a nod to this original ending. Despite coming from Marge’s room, the light shines through the window onto the Malaysian dream doll. Considering this theory, the wrong window being chosen can be credited to appearing better on camera or to a crew who didn’t consult the first film. After all, the crew for Dream Warriors gave Nancy her a streak on the wrong side because they wanted to make her look older, not because she had one in the original film.
The concept of Nancy in the Beautiful Dream, however, does appear somewhere else: the comics. The series Nightmares on Elm Street (1991–92) “was a six issue original series serving as the official lead-in story to Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Written by Andy Mangels with art by Tonny Harris, Patrick Rolo, and Ray Kryssing.”
In this series, one of Nancy’s roomates from college, Cybil, is haunted by Freddy. Nancy reveals herself to be alive in “the Beautiful Dream,” and has now become Freddy’s equal, guarding good dreams and protecting dreamers. Nancy discusses what Kristen did and what her role is now to Cybil and Neil. She also shares what happened to her after the events of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street and before the events of the third film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
This story of Nancy’s life during this time was interpreted and made into a fan film called Don’t Fall Asleep, narrated by Heather Langenkamp. Nancy also appears in this form in the comics Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors (2009).
While many Nancy fans may be upset that she died and that she was never mentioned again in the films, maybe there’s some comfort in knowing she lives on. In the Beautiful Dream, Nancy is now able to better protect a larger number of dreamers and take on Freddy on a similar wavelength. Fans just have to dig a little deeper to get to this chapter in her story.