Feeding on the Mind of Robert Englund
As will be the case for many of you, Robert B. Englund means a lot to us here on Readers Digested. That’s why it was so cool of him to donate his time to talking to us. The interview itself is mostly brief (believe it or not, took like three months to conduct), but we have included further reading links as well. Dig in!
Although the year hasn’t been exactly ideal (with under-performing genre fare like The Grudge, Brahms: The Boy II, The Turning, and Underwater), for a while, it seemed like the horror genre was in an upswing, so-to-speak, with the success of series’ like The Conjuring and directorial talent like Jordan Peele. As I was watching Ed Skrein’s performance as Pennywise in the It series, I couldn’t help but notice the comedic quirks to his otherwise serious character, and how it reminded me of the Freddy Krueger character. Have you seen the film and, if so, what are your personal thoughts on the performance?
His performance is a wonderful addition to the horror pantheon!
A Nightmare on Elm Street started out as a horror film with small moments of comedy sprinkled in, the series saw a tonal shift as it progressed. Did this effect your portrayal of the character and do you prefer a more comedic Freddy (Freddy’s Dead), a harsher, more cut-throat portrayal like New Nightmares, or a happy-medium like Freddy vs. Jason?
Freddy always had a sense of humor. Throughout, the editors, given the choice of a scary or menacing take often they chose to highlight the humor. Sometimes I would have preferred they not rely so heavily on the jokes.
Do you think a film can be comedic and scary, at the same time? Where is the line?
Of course. I don’t think there is a line. Check out Evil Dead, Deadpool, etc. Humor relaxes the audience and sets them up to be scared again.
A Nightmare on Elm Street has stood the test of time as a landmark of the eighties and early-nineties. In some ways, a person could draw a parallel to the slasher genre in the eighties to the Universal Monster era prior. If this comparison follows through, then, do you think that, fifty years from now or whenever, we will have seen more unique portrayals of the character, like how Dracula was eventually “re-birthed” by Hammer Horror, and “re-imagined” in numerous very different approaches? Or, do you think Freddy’s an act that will, at best, stay where it is, with occasional reboots every decade or so?
Along with Pinhead, Jason, Michael Myers, Freddy will stand the test of time. There will be fresh, interesting version of Freddy the Dream Stalker. The medium is too rich not to be reimagined.
Further Reading: – Our reviewer John Clarke recently reviewed every installment of the Elm Street series in his Movie Retrospectives. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Freddy’s Dead, New Nightmare, Freddy vs. Jason, and the Remake)
What are some of your best memories of portraying the Freddy Krueger character?
The freshness of working with Wes on the original. The freedom Renny Harlin gave me in Nightmare 4 and the reunion with Wes, Heather and John Saxon in New Nightmare are some of the best memories.
You’ve been quoted saying that you’d be willing to portray Freddy Krueger in an animated film, however, have you ever considered a foray into the gaming medium? Whether as Freddy or a different character entirely? The motion-capturing of Supermassive Games in their slasher video-game Until Dawn suggests we have come a long ways from the NES games of yesteryear.
Check out my mo-cap performance in Dawn of the Dead with Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker, George Romero and Sara Michelle Geller. I also voice Scarecrow in Injustice 2. I provide the voices from lots of cartoon villains as well, including Riddler in Batman and the Vulture is Spider-Man.
You have appeared on many different slasher horrors in the turn of the millennium, like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Hatchet, The Funhouse Massacre, and The Midnight Man, in your opinion, what do you think makes a strong antagonist in film?
You have to defend the villain — they don’t think they are evil, they think they are right.
You have had a decorative career in the horror genre, however, some readers may only associate you with the man with the burnt-face and sweater, what are some roles of yours that you’d recommend as your best?
I’m proud of my work in Stay Hungry and Great Smokey Roadblock. More recently Last Showing and Inkubus. Fans enjoy discovering me in my Phantom of the Opera and as Wilie the good alien in the TV series “V”.
Further Reading: We’re working on a review of Last Showing, Inkubus, and Phantom of the Opera. Stay tuned!
What’s one iconic character you wished you could have portrayed (of any genre)?
I understudied but never had the chance to play Iago in Othello.
What’s one passion (or hidden talent) you have that some people might know of?
If I hadn’t been an actor I might have been a surf bum or a teacher of contemporary fiction. (I am a voracious reader.)
Abruptio is one upcoming film of yours. What can you tell us about this film, if anything?
I don’t know what happened to that movie. My most recent project was the virtual reality project Campfire Creepers for Alexandre Aja. All I can say is that it is really slow to shoot with that many cameras and Aja is brilliant.
note: Abruptio stars now-famed horror director Jordan Peele, as well as the final acting role of Sid Haig. The film is scheduled for release next year, likely as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
What advice would you offer anyone looking to make it on the horror genre (either as a filmmaker or an actor)?
To make it in horror, you need to know and respect the history of horror films, respect the genre and the source literature (ie Stephen King). And study other genres as well. These days anyone with a phone can make a movie so learn to be a story teller.