Robert Englund: An Exclusive Interview


Robert Englund is, without doubt, a man who loves what he does.

A few years back a colleague asked me if I’d like to tag along for an early lunch break.  I declined, opting for a later lunch in the hope of splitting my day a little more evenly.  He returned an hour later with the biggest grin – way too big for someone who just got back on the clock.  After asking him how his lunch hour was, his reply was this:

“I just met Robert Englund.”

Of course, I didn’t believe him, but indeed he did meet him and had even managed to grab camera phone evidence – there was my friend, who stood next to the bastard son of a hundred maniacs himself.  Englund’s hands extended and wrapped around his neck in a classic mock monster movie strangling pose that Karloff himself would have been proud of.  If only I’d have gone to lunch a little earlier, damn it!

After being timidly approached, the Nightmare On Elm Street legend was apparently more than happy to chat about all things horror while he waited for his ride, in no way bothered by the star struck geek quivering before him.  It seems that Englund really does embrace everything that Freddy has brought him – undying legions of adoring fans and an illustrious career in a genre that never stops wanting what the man has to offer ever since Nightmare had shocked audiences way back in1983, spawning one of the biggest horror franchises in history, propelling him to world-wide icon status with his likeness appearing on everything from shirts to kid’s lunch boxes.  You would be hard-pressed to meet someone who didn’t know Freddy’s name.  Fans can look forward to another bout of Englund-brand villainy with the recent release of Inkubus and a cameo appearance in the impending UK exploitation shocker Strippers Versus Werewolves.

Shock Till You Drop had the distinct honour of sitting down with Englund for a Q & A as he touches upon the recent reboot, performing in horror and all things Freddy.

So, what’s in the pipeline for you that we can all look forward to?

Robert Englund:  The DVD of Inkubus is being released February 21.  I did a little horror movie in the UK called Strippers Versus Werewolves which should be out this summer, also the movie of Fear Clinic is in development.  I am working right now on an episode of Criminal Minds.

What are your feelings on new actors taking over iconic roles such as Jackie Earle Haley?

Englund:  Remakes are a part of the Hollywood tradition.  My first big payday was on the remake of A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.  For the remake of the Nightmare series, I am just glad the studio went with an actor and not a stunt man for the role.  I admire Jackie as an actor.  He practically invented the “slacker” character in Breaking Away.

Did you like the Nightmare On Elm Street reboot? What did you think of Haley’s take on Freddy?

Englund:  I thought the movie was a little cold.  We weren’t really given time to see the kids when they were normal, before they were frantic and haunted by Freddy.  That made it harder to connect with them, harder to care what happened to them.  Haley made Freddy his own.  I think the change to a more “realist” burn make-up with melted features took a lot of the strength away from the character.  The strong nose and chin in the make-up I wore gives Freddy presence and power.  And I played Freddy as if he liked being evil, he liked his work.  Jackie went a different way.

Krueger changed drastically over the course of the sequels – from dark villain to wise cracking anti hero.  What are your feelings on the gradual change?

Englund:  The change in the way Freddy was written was a response to fans’ appreciation of Freddy’s evil humor. I think we sort of jumped the shark in number six, but returned to the form for New Nightmare.

Do you think Freddy would be accepted in today’s cinematic climate and accepted by the younger generation of horror aficionados?

Englund:  The concept of a dream stalker is very original.  Freddy is accepted by the younger generation.  At conventions, I am often introduced to second and even third generations of Freddy fans as the stories and tradition of watching the Nightmare on Elm Street movies is handed down.  Parents want to share something from their childhood with their kids so they introduce them to Freddy. 

Did you resent being typecast?

Englund:  I was first typecast as a Southerner or a best friend in the ’70s.  By the time Freddy came along, I was wanted to counterbalance my identification as Willie the good alien in the mini-series and TV show V, also remade recently.   And for every door Fred closed, he opened a hallway of opportunities.  Horror exports.  Freddy made me an international star.  I continue to work in Europe and beyond.

How much of a difference is there between performing in horror and acting in drama?

Englund:  Playing Freddy was very liberating.  I could be operatic.  Most dramatic acting is re-acting.  Freddy on the other hand has a gun-slingers swagger, a whole dance of postures and gestures that is larger than life.  It was fun to use my theatre tricks on the screen. 

Your career in horror is as strong as ever – does the genre still excite you?

Englund:  Film is the literature of the 21st century and horror films remain a powerful way to tell a story.  I just saw the Matthijs van Heinjnigen Jr’s 2011 version of The Thing.  I thought it was great.  Good effects, effective scares.   Hanna was a fierce fairy tale, complete with a big, bad witch.  Kill List had great style.     

Do you have a favorite Elm Street chapter? Least favorite?

Englund:  New Nightmare is my favorite for a couple of reasons.  I think it stands the test of time, a fun reunion with original cast members like Heather and John Saxon.  Wes’s script is clever and original, the self-referencial horror story.  The first sequel had flaws.  Nightmare 2 broke the rules by bringing Freddy out of the dream and into the real world. 

Freddy vs. Jason?

Englund:  That was conceived as a graphic novel so my acting accentuates that.  And yes, throwing down with that big dog Ken Kirzinger was harder than fight scenes with little Heather.

Which do you prefer, acting or directing?

Englund:  Acting.  Directing eats your life.  Acting is a job with a start and a finish.

You’ve been scaring audiences across the globe for years – people want to know what exactly scares you?

Englund:  Teenage drivers texting.

What kind of career would you have aimed for if Nightmare never happened?

Englund:  I would probably have been a character actor, a best friend. Couple of sit-coms, you know the guy.

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