Exclusive Interview: Robert Englund
For years, Robert Englund has given audiences a wide range of characters to remember him by. Mostly known for his film work, critics and fans alike know him best as horror villain Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Though made famous from the Freddy role, other notable performances include that of Erik Destler in The Phantom of the Opera, Bill Gartley in The Mangler, and Raymond Beaumont in Wishmaster.
As a character actor who’s not limited by just film roles, Robert has also been involved in many television projects including his starring role in the sci-fi series V, various guest appearances on other programs, voice-overs, and the hosting of various television specials.
Robert has kindly taken some time out his very busy schedule to answer some questions about the Nightmare on Elm Street series, directing his own film, how he chooses roles, the upcoming Masters of Horror and more.
NOES Companion: As an actor, what do you find rewarding in playing a character?
Robert Englund: When I play a character, I can explore a new person. My most creative work on a project occurs when I am putting a character on his feet, when I am figuring out how this new person walks and talks and phrases the words on the page of a script.
How do you go about choosing what role is right for you?
I have always been right for certain movie “types”—the redneck, the best friend. Now I bring a certain horror baggage to the mix so am often cast as the red herring or mad scientist.
From the many roles you have played, what role has been your personal favorite?
Roles are like children, I can’t pick just one. Several of my favorites were when I was on stage in college in plays you have never heard of. Some performances I would play my role as part of a well oiled machine and the whole night would just click. Then there are the roles I’ve taken in part for the location in which the movie would be shot. A month in Spain or Hungary or southern Italy colors the memories of the movie.
Of course Freddy changed my life and took me from successful working actor to genre star. The fun thing about playing Freddy is that I get to use my physicality in a more “theatrical” style of acting. Most movie acting is listening and reacting and being still. For Freddy I get to do a gun-slinger’s swagger.
Do you believe it’s best to be “classically” trained as an actor, or is there something to the “you have it or you don’t” philosophy?
The hard part is making it look easy. Even if “you have it,” some training, be it formal classes or participating in regional theater, is important if you plan to make your living from acting.
Which do you prefer: stage or screen? Why?
I like them both for different reasons. On stage an actor has the opportunity to really master a role. Because movies are a collaborative process an actor gives his best performance and hopes the sound was OK and the light cue worked, etc., etc.
What made you want to step out from being an actor and step into the director’s chair for 976-EVIL?
I directed hundred of plays when I was in college. 976-EVIL was an interesting project I was offered that fit between Freddy movies. I was excited by the opportunity to direct Sandy Dennis and Stephen Geoffreys.
Which in your opinion is the most difficult: acting or directing? Why?
They are different skills. Acting is less collaborative so it can be more personally rewarding. Directing is like conducting an orchestra, there are a lot of elements that can go right or wrong.
From being involved in the industry for as long as you have, can you tell us what is Hollywood’s true attitude toward horror films?
Everybody is doing them now. Have you seen Skeleton Key or Hide and Seek or The Others? Horror is a popular, money making genre that exports well.
Personally, why do you believe the Nightmare series is so popular?
Wes Craven’s character of Freddy Krueger taps into something profoundly and universally disturbing. Like Dracula, Freddy is bigger than his story. Also, the Nightmare series exploited dreams and nightmares in a new way.
What has been your personal favorite Nightmare film(s)?
They were all rewarding in some way. The first one was exciting because we could kind of smell that the brew we were cooking up was going to be good and scary. Three and Four work nicely as a double bill roller-coaster ride of overlapping casts. The reunion made New Nightmare fun to work on.
Was it difficult performing some of your own stunts in Freddy vs. Jason? Did you perform any stunts in the previous Nightmare films?
Stunt men do stunts.
For Freddy vs. Jason, were you happy with the finished film? What are your thoughts on the ending?
The director Ronnie Yu brought his vision and energy to the franchise and made an exciting movie that fans loved. We filmed several versions of the ending and I like the ambiguity in the one that was used.
Do you think they should continue the versus formula with Freddy?
It is a natural movie formula and fans love it. I hope it doesn’t get silly so that some year you can go to the Hell-octoplex near you and see Freddy teaming with Jason to battle Chucky and Wolverine.
Have you been happy with Freddy’s evolution through the years?
Freddy got a little too wise-cracky for a while. I like it when he exploits your weakness with sadistic glee and humor.
Nightmare fans have very different opinions regarding the film Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. What is your personal opinion regarding this film?
When the New Nightmare was released, were you disappointed that it didn’t perform better at the box office? Did you believe at that time Freddy had run his course?
New Line [Cinema] watches the box office. And New Line is committed to making at least one more Freddy project.
It was announced that the CBS reality show Real Nightmares was shelved. Can you tell us why CBS has decided not to go forward with this project?
They have plenty of hits.
What new projects are you involved with that we should be on the lookout for?
I’ve got a fun little role in Kane Hodder’s new horror franchise Hatchet. I also worked in a little movie about the urban legend of a boy who returns to terrorize a town.
My movie for Showtime’s Masters of Horror was directed by Tobe Hooper.
The NOES Companion would like to thank Robert for his time. Special thanks also to Nancy Englund for all her assistance and patience. Be sure to check out Robert’s upcoming performances in Masters of Horror and Hatchet. You can also keep up-to-date with Robert by visiting his official website here. See Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams and the Internet Movie Database for more about Robert’s extensive career!