Robert Englund is best known for his role as Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. He had a recurring role in the orginal ‘V‘ TV series and was very recently in Workaholics on Comedy Central. This year marks forty amazing years as an actor and I jumped at the chance to chat with him for a few minutes about Freddy, nightmares, and social media.
I spoke to Robert over the phone on Monday and when I called through, he was watching the Emmy recap from the night before. He immediately gave me some insight into his generous character when he began our interview about him by telling me how happy he was for Bobby Cannavale for winning (an Emmy) for Boardwalk Empire and how he saw him on stage last year in a play with Chris Rock in New York and he was just amazing.
If you know me, you know I love supporting and talking gifted people up so I was already taken with him and his kind nature.
And so it began…
I write for a website based in Edmonton, and you’re coming to Edmonton.
I’m going to be at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo, this coming weekend (Sept 28th and 29th). Actually, I’m coming to town early so I can do some more publicity. We had great success meeting with the fans in Calgary a couple of years ago. They had a really terrific Comic Con up there. I’m really looking forward to seeing the memorabilia and meeting the fans in Edmonton.
How do you feel that the character (Freddy) that you portrayed was the reason for so many nightmares in the 1980’s?
First of all, I think we have to blame Wes Craven more than me. Wes came up with this great hook that this boogie man, this child killer, was burned alive by the vigilante parents and he somehow manifests himself as a myth, or a legend, or a rumour that the kids are talking about, and he manifests as a nightmare and he’s sort of taking his revenge on the children or the adolescents that are the offspring of the parents that did him wrong originally. There’s something; a real kind of strange (revenge) purgatory that I think Freddy operates from.
I think even if it’s kind of Freudian or psychological (whatever you want to call it), I think that young people are kind of haunted by it because they may not intellectualize that but the subliminal, the kind of undercurrent of Freddy’s evil attacking innocence really gets to them and there is nothing more private than your dreams. It’s like your secret diary or your drawer in your desk, it’s your own private place, and the fact that somebody can get in there and mess around with your own fears, and your own phobias, and your desires, and your secrets. I think that’s really unnerving to adolescents. I think that’s probably why so many people internationally reacted that way to the eight films.
Being dressed up and seeing yourself as Freddy, have you ever had a nightmare about Freddy?
On the original film, we were shooting nights and I fell asleep in the makeup and the costume. I rolled up a towel so that I wouldn’t lean my head to the left or the right when I was taking a nap on my dressing room cot. I didn’t want to smear the make-up because it takes four hours to put on. I had fallen asleep and the assistant director knocked on my door of the trailer and said “Mr. Englund, Mr. Englund, we’re going to try to get this shot before the sun comes up.” I woke up and I sat up, and I slowly pivoted off the cot and I looked into the mirror of my trailer. The makeup lights around the mirror were all on a dimmer switch, on low, and there in the mirror I saw this old, bald, scarred man looking back at me.
My heart jumped you know, and I jumped and I was startled. I realized I wasn’t completely awake and I had forgotten that I was wearing the makeup. So it was kind of like the old Marx Brothers dumb show where the two of them kind of do mirror action with each other for about five or six seconds. I just looked at this person. I was so disoriented and still kind of half in my subconscious state from my nap that it really, really startled me.
So what I remember of that, what I just told you, occasionally I do have a nightmare and it’s that nightmare. I dream of me sitting up and I’m looking in the mirror and it’s not me, it’s Freddy in the mirror.
You are on Twitter (@RobertBEnglund) and Facebook (Robert Barton Englund). How has social media either helped or hurt you?
Well, I decided on my Twitter feed, and I’m not on there every day, I’m on there a couple of times a week, because I’m an old dog actor and I’m not doing it constantly, but I love popular culture. I love good films, fun films, and all kinds of films and even more than that, I love character actors because that’s what I consider myself.
You can’t have self-loathing so I decided my Twitter account is a snark-free zone so I only do tweets of praise when I see a new TV show that not enough people are watching, or a new cable show that I don’t think has been discovered, or a great performance on a show that’s not being mentioned. I like to talk about those and I also do a little kind of shout-out when older character actors that I’ve loved for years or that influenced me when they pass on. Actors that have really influenced me and some of them are getting old now and when they die I like to give them a little kind of ‘rest in peace’ on my Twitter feed and also mention my favourite performance of theirs, hoping that some of my followers will Netflix one of those movies or go buy the DVD.
I hope that I am kind of passing the baton and shining the light a little bit on people before they get discovered, much like I started this conversation and told you about seeing Bobby Cannavale on stage and in Third Watch and most recently he was so great as the guest star as the Mafioso on Boardwalk Empire.
So I love social media because it’s an opportunity for me to share that gift that I have for spotting talent and respecting talent with all different generations of people that may be following me for different reasons because they love me as Freddy Krueger or they loved the last movie they saw me in, or they just saw me on Workaholics on Comedy Central or something. So I love to share because I have so many different projects over the years, I’ve done over 75 movies I think now and four TV series and lots of guest stars, so it’s fun for me to be the same consistent Robert Englund and talk to my unknown fans.
I will admit that I have help on my Facebook from my wife because I wouldn’t have any free time if I did both of those all of the time, but I do read it all. I do read the things that are there.
I’ve had a website for 10-15 years (RobertEnglund.com) so I was one of the first people with a really nice website. By today’s standards it’s not that fancy. I’ve had it updated a couple of times, but I did get in there early to share what I was doing with my fans.
I think for actors, it’s a real necessity these days and also it’s a great way to get feedback, although I prefer feedback like by going to a show in Edmonton. What’s fun for me is I can ask people up there if they’ve just seen one of my new movies, or one of my recent guest stars (like Hawaii 5-0, Bones, or Criminal Minds). I get that one-to-one feedback, which I really like. Plus I love seeing all of the memorabilia that people bring in that I haven’t seen before.
What’s next for you?
This is so great, this summer was my 40th year making movies. I did my first movie in 1973; I starred with Jan-Michael Vincent and Pamela Sue Martin in a film by the wonderful Daniel Petrie called Buster and Billie. It was a little controversial because it had some violence in it, but it was a very wonderful period movie.
And this year, this is 40 years later and I starred in my 76th or 77th movie. I was invited to star in a movie called The Last Showing in England and I just got back about 10 days ago. I star with Finn Jones from Game of Thrones and this beautiful young actress, Emily Berrington, who’s the star of Wiped Clean, which is a big hit in the United Kingdom. Those are my costars and I play the old projectionist who’s been fired from his job and forced to sell popcorn in the lobby and I have my revenge at the midnight movie.
I love that.
I’m very proud of it. The director was discovered by Steven Spielberg. His name is Phil Hawkins. He’s English and he has his own film company, and he is very, very gifted. I’m very lucky to, 40 years later, still be in demand.
You are definitely in demand. You are such an icon in the horror industry. When anybody thinks ‘horror’ it is your name and Freddy that immediately comes to mind for me.
There were eight movies and they were spaced out really nicely for me in terms of a career. They came at half way through the second chapter of my career. I’d done maybe 15 movies and starred in one TV series before I did Freddy. What it did for me was that it opened doors for me internationally. This is a great happy accident that Nightmare on Elm Street did for me because horror movies, like science fiction, and action movies, and fantasy movies, they sort of speak the language of film and cinema so that they travel much better to foreign countries.
I’m on to my third generation of fans now and I think the great gift is that my character is sort of the logo for this entire experience of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, all eight of them, and I get all of that credit which is nice.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and we will be seeing you at the Edmonton Expo this weekend.
In Edmonton, I used to have a lot of friends and my ex-girlfriend had a comedy group years and years ago and a couple of members of that group had been at SCTV when it was in Edmonton. There are all sorts of stories about Edmonton winters and about the big mall and about all of them together going to their favourite pubs and writing sketches for the classic SCTV. I’m glad I’m coming. It’s always been one of those places I’ve wanted to visit. Like Aberdeen, Scotland because one of my favourite movies was shot there. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the fans.
Robert will be at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo this Saturday and Sunday. For more information or to grab up some tickets, go to http://edmontonexpo.com/. Until then …