Robert Englund, everyones favourite nightmare took time to chat with Grave Concerns. This year marks forty years of Hollywood for Englund. Join Grave Concerns as we celebrate the outstanding talent that is Robert Englund.
GC: If you had been cast as the Hans Solo role, do you think you would have taken the same path to becoming a horror icon?
Robert: I just don’t know. I’m at that stage in my career, especially now where I go where I am wanted. One week I am on the new Hawaii 5-0, or I am guest starring on an episode of Bones, then a week later I am doing Call of Duty where I am killing zombies. As I mentioned, I recently started filming a wonderful movie in London with Finn Jones from Game of Thrones.
When I did the series V, I was playing the good alien Willie, sort of a nerd character. I received fan mail from women who wanted to mother me. I often wonder, if that show had remained a hit and stayed on the air, would I be like a loveable, “Doctor Spock” kind of character?
You just never know. I used to go up for parts against one of the actors that was in Murphy Brown, I also used to go up for parts against one of the actors who is in Breaking Bad. I think back to that moment in time when I did Freddy, and I did Freddy just because it was the only thing that fit in my schedule because at the time I was starring in a TV show. It is always a twist of fate, you just never know. I know actors that were on great television shows that got cancelled and they have never done anything that good since. Yet I know the show was great, they really got to show their stuff and blow their horn. It’s tricky. I am really grateful for Freddy.
I went across the hall to be looked at for Hans Solo, when I was auditioning for Apocalypse Now. I remember after I auditioned, I went back to my apartment in the Hollywood Hills and Mark Hamil was on my couch watching the Mary Tyler Moore show and drinking a beer. I told him about the audition, and the breakdown of the character and I told him about Luke Skywalker. So he went, and got on the phone with his agent, got an audition, and was cast as Luke Skywalker. So, maybe that is what was meant to be. That’s sort of how it works with Hollywood, you never quite know.
GC: Is it difficult transitioning away from your iconic Freddy Krueger character and becoming different, more family friendly characters?
Robert: For me, it has been okay. When I did Freddy, which was in 1984, I had been starring in movies since 1974. Actually, ’73 in fact. This year marks my 40th year in movies. I starred in my first movie in 1973. So, I had done ten years of movies, twelve or fourteen movies before I did Freddy. I was on a hit TV series called V, so I was already established in Hollywood. I was already typed as a nerd, a redneck—I had already worked with a lot of big actors. But, if I had done Freddy really early in my career, I might have been really stuck. I learned from Wes Craven to respect the horror genre. I loved horror since I was a kid.
I kind of forgot about the inner child in me that loved the old horror movies. Forbidden Planet, Horrors From The Black Museum, Twilight Zone—I just loved that stuff as a kid. Wes made me respect it again. Because I am known in the horror genre now, I try and do at least one horror movie a year for my fans, my fans have been so good to me.
It’s easy to go back and forth for me. I just did some comedy on Workaholics, I just played a Vietnam vet on Hawaii 5-0, a good cop on Criminal Minds, a weird ‘old Janitor on Bones. I do a lot of stuff in my career, but I like to keep a hand in horror. Horror has been very good to me in my career. Doing horror films is for the fans and helps keep that part of my career alive.
GC: Well, you are certainly well rounded!
Robert: Most actors are. We were talking about Mark Hamil a second ago, Mark is known for Luke Skywalker, but Mark is one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. The same time I was hanging out with Mark, my girlfriend was doing comedy with Robin Williams. You know how funny Robin is, I love Robin! Mark Hamil sitting around in the living room, talking back to the television or joking around about our careers, he was the funniest person I had ever met. But, he doesn’t take the roles of comedy, he takes the roles of bad guys. People forget that we are character actors and we can do other things.
GC: From the entire Freddy franchise, which film is your favourite?
Robert: I think now, my favourite is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which we could call Part 7. It was a reunion film. It was a ten-year anniversary of the first film. It was a very smart film and it was made for the fans. It really deals with a kind of deconstructed horror; he made it just before he did his Scream franchise. It was really Wes talking about how the fans knew what we are up to and knew all of our tricks. We also wanted to pull the rug out from under them and scare them too. It is a movie about horror movies. It’s a movie about Hollywood and the people that make movies. It’s also a movie about the fans and it works to scare you. There is a great underlying tension in that film with the earthquake in California that Wes stuck in there that I love. I also like that there is a kid in it, the kid is so vulnerable. Similar to the great Guillermo del Toro director of Pacific Rim, has directed some of my favourite films like Mimic and Devils Backbone. Del Toro always has a kid in his movies. I love that. The kid is a weakness. That is what Wes used in a New Nightmare.
I think if we took a poll of all the fans of Nightmare for the past 30 years and asked for fan favourite, it would be Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
GC: The third was utterly brilliant I can agree.
Robert: Three and four are great to watch together, they go together with an overlapping cast.
GC: 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Freddy, are there any plans for a celebration?
Robert: I’ve got a really great Halloween experience happening this year in Chicago. I’ve heard various rumors; I would love for there to be a marathon somewhere. That would be fun. It would also be nice to reunite the cast somewhere. I know sometimes when I go to a convention or a film festival occasionally people bring me really valuable and really rare memorabilia that I have never seen before. Stills of Heather and I, photos of Johnny Depp and I sitting around director’s chairs. It would be really great to get everybody together so that people could get both those autographs together on those items. We are rarely together; at a convention it is difficult. I might go to Comic Con and be doing a panel, and then proceed to a signing and meet very passionate fans that just bring me such great stuff and I wish we could all be together to sign it.
GC: Freddy Vs. Jason drew in a new generation of fans. If Freddy were to take on another film villain, who would it be and how do you think it would make the fans feel?
Robert: Well, I’m getting old, so it may be Freddy Vs Viagra! It’s kind of hard for me to do stunts anymore, all my old surfing injuries have kind of come back to haunt me.
But, I can certainly joke about that. I certainly don’t want to fight Chucky. I always make that joke; Chucky was invented by the same guy who did my makeup, Kevin Yagher. Ronnie Yu who directed Freddy Vs Jason, directed Bride of Chucky, which is my favourite of the Chucky movies. I think it turned out great, it was punk and over-the-top.
We became really close to making Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash. Which would of reunited Freddy and Jason, and have them being attacked by the hero from Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell. This was right after Hollywood, and Sam Raimi was like the king of Hollywood. I think what happened was, Sam wanted Ash to win. He wanted Bruce to kill himself, which I thought was kind of a cool idea. I could just imagine the posters with Bruce standing there with his shirt off saying ‘keeping the world safe from sequels’ while holding both Freddy and Jason in a headlock.
It never happened. Of the three franchises, Freddy was the most successful, and I don’t think Newline Cinema was ready to kill Freddy off yet and end the franchise. So, my opportunity to get my ass kicked by Bruce Campbell never happened.
I think there would be something interesting for Freddy to take on Michael Myers. I think I am a little too old now. Maybe they could bring me back for a prequel, maybe before Freddy was burned, the old janitor—that sort of thing.
I think I have now passed the baton onto Jackie Earle Haley, who did the remake. I think if they make anymore, it will be Jackie.
GC: What did you think of the remake?
Robert: I have some distance on it now. I think the only problem was they maybe did it too soon. With all the new technology, DVD’s, Blu-Ray’s, NetFlex, everyone has access to older movies. There is a new generation now of Freddy fans. Fathers that saw the movie originally, these guys are dads now, and they let their kids watch them. When you watch these on BluRay on a flatscreen, these movies hold up and look great. There is not too violent for the young generation now because there has been so much in-between. Now girls dress up as the ‘sexy’ Freddy for Halloween where they wear the sweater as a dress.
I loved the cast of the remake. It was great casting. Connie Britton as the mother was well cast. I’ve worked with Clancy Brown a few times before in voiceover work, and he is great. I worked with one of the kids several times, the boy who was in Jennifer’s Body as well as the Nightmare. I love Rooney Mara, I just saw her in another film with Casey Affleck. I am a big fan of Rooney Mara. I love the cast. Maybe a problem was, the kids are too haunted by Freddy from the get-go. So we never get to know them beyond the spectral fear of Freddy.
I am very happy to pass the baton to Jackie. He was great in Shutter Island, Watchmen. I have been a fan of Jackie’s for a long, long time and I am pleased he was the one chosen.
GC: How do you feel about the evolution of horror films? From classics such as Nosferatu, which focus on cinematic techniques and storyline, to films like Saw where gore and computer animations are the main forces behind the film.
Robert: I am torn. I love the idea that all genres can have subsets. I love the idea of comedy in horror. I think this should be allowed. I actually liked the first Saw, then they got a little too, “torture porn” as the critics, say. I saw the original Hellraiser before they dubbed it with American accents, I saw it all alone on Hollywood Blvd and I loved it. More recently, 30 Days of Night with John Harnett was a terrific take on the vampire. The Swedish version of Let The Right One In was just brilliant. I am constantly seeing new horror that I like.
Nosferatu is a great film. That performance by Klaus Kinski is a great actor. His gestures, the way he used his hands, his baldness—I always wanted to take Freddy’s hat off more than I did. Klaus was very influential to me. I do love old horror, everytime I watch Rosemary’s Baby the performances just get richer and richer and more multi-layered, and I see images that are just so politically outrageous. I love it all. We have to open our minds and be ready for the changes. American Horror Story on cable now, it is terrific. There has to be room to re-invent. There is horror that’s too violent, too silly, too cheesy—but also, in all of those areas there is stuff I like. It’s like when people say they don’t like sequels; well I wouldn’t like to live in a world without Aliens 2 and that great bitch fight!
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But there is always a time and a place for the subsets within genres.
GC: Speaking of comedy horror. What was it like being in the film Zombie Strippers?
Robert: Well, speaking of experiments! The original script for Zombie Strippers was really smart. The whole joke was not only were they zombies, not only were they strippers, but they were all really funny girls that had different dreams and aspirations. Well, somebody decided to cut a lot of that out. It was really funny there were all these scenes where the girls would be sitting around half-naked in the dressing room before they went on, you could hear the music pumping outside in the strip club. These girls would be sitting around reading all the bestsellers, self-help books, classics—everything. They had all this really funny dialogue. Later you would come back and they would be further into the book, only one of their ears would be missing and they didn’t know it because they were turning into zombies. That whole part of the movie was cut. They were funny. They were trying to better themselves. But, that was all taken out. There was originally a lot of slapstick comedy planned, some of it is left, but some was ultimately cut.
The girls all had to wear the zombie makeup. Every given day they had to be in different stages of rotting. They were always being poked and prodded and having prosthetic “zombie” applied to their faces. I felt bad for Jenna Jameson and Roxy and the rest of the girls. I think I learned that Jenna practically invented pole dancing before she became a famous porn star. She is just amazing when you see her do it. She has made it an art. We know now pole dancing is part of popular culture as exercise. Jenna has perfected it.
GC: This may be personal, but it is quite uncanny how Freddy’s favourite victim is named Nancy, and the love of your life is also named Nancy!
Robert: I know!!! It is just a complete coincidence! The other odd thing is both my wife and Heather are both the same kind of beauty. The classic, Brooke Shields kind of beauty.
I always liked the skinny punk girls; I even loved them before punk. I liked girls with pale skin because I am a California boy, tanned and blonde hair. She is the love of my life. I knew it the moment I kissed her behind a famous bar in Hollywood. My knees literally buckled, I felt like a fourteen-year-old boy. I just knew, I was in love for the last time. I was lucky.
It’s hard for young people to understand when you tell them how great relationships are. Once you have a history together, it’s just another love for life. Everything is easier. It is just easier to live. Nancy and I have been together since 1988. It is our twenty-fifth anniversary this year.
Fans continually get confused. Heather and Nancy don’t look alike, but they are built from the same cloth.
Take a look! - The Best Quotes of Freddy
GC: You can hear the smile in your voice when speaking of your Nancy that is wonderful.
Robert: She was ‘post Freddy’ I met her on set when I was directing. She had never seen me in the makeup or any of that. She just saw me drinking a lot of coffee.
I am lucky. I am fortunate. I found the love of my life. I know there really is someone out there for everyone. That old rock and roll song, “looking for love in all the wrong places,” it’s true. I have some friends that just stick to the same criteria over and over again not realizing there are lots of other kinds of people and that may be what you like. People get in that mindset and put their blinders on.
GC: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us!
It was great talking to you. You had some very unique and refreshing questions. I love new questions. Thank you very much. To all the fans, I am looking forward to seeing you.
Take A look! Top 10 Freddy Moments!
Go watch the movie! A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)