Why ‘Greasy’ Johnny Depp Got a Role in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

Many horror fanatics know Johnny Depp’s first role was in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Wes Craven thought Depp looked “greasy” when he first saw him. However, an interesting conversation with his daughter led Craven to cast Depp as Glen in the film.

Johnny Depp wearing glasses
Johnny Depp | Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Why Wes Craven thought casting Johnny Depp was a bad idea at first

According to Vulture, Glen in A Nightmare on Elm Street was originally going to be played by another well-known actor: Charlie Sheen. Sheen wanted $3,000 per week for the role. Producer Dan Shaye could not pay Sheen that amount. Then, actor Jeff Levine helped Depp get the role.

“The actor who played the coroner came to me and said, “I have a friend who’s in town. His name’s Johnny Depp, he’s in a band, and he’s interested in getting into movies,” Craven told Vulture. “He gave me Johnny’s headshot. I read with Johnny, and I remember his fingers were yellow from constantly smoking unfiltered cigarettes, and he was greasy and pale and sickly.”

The trailer for A Nightmare on Elm Street

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Later, Craven showed his daughter and her friend headshots of the actors auditioning to play Glenn. Both Craven’s daughter and her friend picked Depp for the role. “I said, ‘Are you serious?”’ He looked like he needed a bath. They both said, ‘He’s beautiful.’”

Johnny Depp’s involvement with ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and its sequels

Depp was nervous on the set of the first Nightmare on Elm Street film. However, Robert Englund — the actor who played Freddy Krueger in the film — commended Depp for being polite. He recalled Depp would call him “sir.” Though Depp didn’t play the film’s protagonist, his character dies in a memorable way. In a famous scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Glenn gets swallowed by a bed. Afterward, his blood shoots up out of the bed and onto the ceiling. 

The trailer for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

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Depp didn’t appear in any subsequent Nightmare films, save for a brief cameo in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. According to Syfy, Craven wanted Depp to play a role in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare but he was too nervous to ask since Depp was a star by that point. However, Depp later told Craven he would’ve been happy to appear in the film.

What Johnny Depp thought of Wes Craven and his daughter

Craven passed away in 2015. Variety reports Depp paid tribute to Craven and his daughter at the Toronto International Film Festival that same year.

Johnny Depp wearing a necklace
Johnny Depp |Rich Fury/Getty Images

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“Wes Craven was brave enough to give me the gig based on his daughter’s opinion,” Depp said. “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. But he was a good man — so rest in peace, old Wes.”