'Freddy Krueger' (aka Robert Englund)
'Ready, Steady ... Here Comes Freddy!'
Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is in hell – literally. It’s been nearly ten years since Krueger, one of the scariest horror movie characters of all time ('A The Nightmare on Elm Street'), invaded peoples’ dreams to exact his deadly form of revenge and murder. But now, his memory has been systematically erased by a town determined to put an end to Freddy once and for all. Like an inmate with a life sentence, Freddy’s been reduced to plotting a fantastic revenge that will never happen.
Until, that is, Freddy resurrects Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger), the equally iconic madman from the 'Friday the 13th' film series. Jason is the perfect means for Freddy to once again instill fear on Elm Street, creating a window of opportunity for him to emerge from his purgatory. Recognizing how easily manipulated Jason is, Freddy tricks Voorhees into journeying to Springwood to start a new reign of terror!
Sitting down, face-to-face with 'Freddy Krueger' himself, Robert Englund, I first asked him to start at the beginning and reveal more about where it all began for him. "Well, I'm just a Southern California boy. My dad worked as an executive at Lockheed Aircraft, and worked on the U-2 and things like that. My mother was a homemaker, and she was vice-president of the Democratic council of California back in the '50s. She was very active in Democratic politics with Adlai Stevenson and the late Alan Cranston. I was just your sort of basic, happy-go-lucky, '50s little kid."
And when did the acting bug bite? "At some point, one of my mother's closest friends had a beautiful daughter that was older than me, and I think about at that moment in time, my hormones were starting to arrive in all of their adolescent sort of lockstep. I remember having this girl as my chaperone or something like that, that summer. She was in a theater group, professional children's theater, and I tagged along. I wound up getting all the leading roles – the caliber of Peter in Peter Pan, Pinocchio in Pinocchio ... things of that nature, and I literally was just completely successful and bitten by the acting bug."
Do you feel that less people are trying theatre these days? "I actually think that more people are probably doing theater and making a living at it. I think more people are seeing it. I think what happened was – there was a generation and a half or so of young actors that didn't have that stuff in school. When I was in school, you'd walk out of elementary school and every kid was dragging a cello, or a trumpet, or a clarinet – they were just there to have, to go home and practice with for the band or orchestra or whatever. I can remember getting dragged to opera, and getting dragged to theater with my little trip slip from my parents when I was a kid in grade school!"
Are there any times you ever regret not getting the role on E.R.?! "I think my one great regret, and listen to me – I love Randy Quaid, I think Randy Quaid is one of our top character actors and I defer to Randy Quaid and his talents, and I'm a big fan of his brother's, too. But, years ago, Randy did a movie for Nicholson called 'The Last Detail,' written by Darryl Ponicsan, and it's a great film. And Randy's great in the film, but that book is very close to me. I actually had the partial option on that book, for a brief moment of time after I did 'Buster and Billy' with another friend of mine, and I still think in my heart of hearts that I would have been more right in that part. Because I'd always imagined that that little recruit was little, and Randy Quaid's so big – just physically big, even though his acting was sublime. That was maybe the one role in the '70s I wish I had had."
Because of your role as Freddy Krueger, do you think you lost other roles throughout the '80s that you weren't even aware of?! "I think in the middle '80s, there were a couple of gigs in comedy, both as an actor and a director, that I lost because I was so, so connected with Freddy Krueger. This was when Johnny Carson was doing Freddy Krueger jokes, when there were Freddy Krueger jokes in Doonesbury, and – you know – action toys on every shelf in every toy store. Freddy Krueger sort of became synonymous ... it sort of became this catch phrase. Elm Street and Freddy Krueger meant something in the American culture there for about 10 years – until about '94, '95, you'd hear it used. I was so associated with it, because people knew my face from a couple of other TV series and because I had done the publicity mill. I think it cost me maybe one or two comedy gigs, which is really my forte. So I would be a hypocrite if I said that that didn't happen, and I wish it hadn't happened!"
Nevertheless, it doesn't seem to have harmed your income in the slightest! "Oh no, for sure money is money. For me, the big bonus is I never knew I was such a travel junkie, you know? I just love the adventure of going off on location in foreign countries and all that, whatever the project is. It's just great fun for me. I know sooner or later I'm going to have to put my nose to the grindstone here in Hollywood and suck my tail between my legs and kind of reintroduce myself to the new kids on the block, and that I'm really an actor. The good thing about that is a lot of them will remember the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' movies with incredible fondness – as some great outlaw project that they remember from the '80s when they were young. In fact, I actually sometimes get more respect on a memory level from them than I do on people closer to my generation, who sort of ignored that whole phenomenon – while 'Friday the 13th' was paying all the bills over at Paramount and New Line Cinema was building itself on the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' movies. I'm proud of the fact that money from the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' movies certainly went into Fine Line features, and it was responsible, probably partially at least, for the renaissance of the independent film. Because the profits were plowed back into that company, which is certainly a good thing. It's that old thing about you've got to make bad movies to make good movies!"
Can you tell me something about 'Freddy Vs. Jason' that not a lot of people would know?! "Well," he pauses to think, "I was in a first-class cabin going to Italy last year, and I sat with a guy who's the exec-producer of 'King of the Hill' – a show I love – and also he worked on 'The Simpsons' for years. Apparently, he was the co-writer – the only time he ever wrote a movie – of the original script for 'Freddy Vs. Jason.' The one that Rob Bottin was going to do, which had the duel endings – in one 'Freddy' won, and in one 'Jason' won – which I thought was sort of a great, matinee, John Goodman, Joe Dante gimmick. Kind of a retro-fabulous gimmick, that might make the jaded kids today have fun by trying to figure out which ending they were going to see – either 'Freddy' or 'Jason' winning. Apparently, Rob Bottin's budget was just too high and they just couldn't go with his budget, and he didn't want to lower it. Then they were going to go to Guillermo del Toro – who directed another favorite film of mine, 'Mimic,' but then Guillermo apparently had been transferred to 'Blade II'!"
Any behind-the-scenes secrets? "Looping," he laughs. "I had to go back and do more looping for 'Freddy vs. Jason' because Fred's false teeth made me sound like Daffy Duck!"
What is the one project that you've always wanted to do, but have yet to be able to? "Play Iago in Shakespeare's 'Othello.'"
Tell me more about your work with Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his first films, 'Stay Hungry'! "Well, that wasn't Arnold's first feature, but he played a sort of a strong-armed man in one of my favorite Robert Altman movies, 'The Long Goodbye.' But then he did 'Stay Hungry' with Bob Rafelson, based on a great book by Charles Gaines – who was the sportswriter for Esquire Magazine in the '70s. This was that Jimmy Carter moment of time when we were all from the South. It was called the New South, if you remember? So this was this best seller that was made into a film. All the heat was on, because it was the follow-up to 'Five Easy Pieces,' I believe. In fact, at that moment in time, I think I beat Sylvester Stallone and Gary Busey out for the role. It was about the hottest project going in Hollywood!"
What was it like working with John Milius on 'Big Wednesday'? "Well, it was great. I sort of have the great distinction of not only narrating that movie and being in it, but one of the great lines of that movie that the kids all quote is, "Stay casual, Barlow," and that's one of the few moments in the entire movie that were improvised. I was all verboten to change a line of Milius's dialogue, because it's, like, written in stone. I just threw that out in this sort of improvised scene one day, and it wound up still in the movie. Guys still pull up next to me on the freeway and quote that line to me. Not as much as I get, "Yo, Freddy," but I get it a lot!"
Which project do you feel didn't live up to what you envisioned? "The 102-minute cut I turned in for '976-EVIL' was superior to the 92-minute version that was released."
Finally, I hear that you've got one mean redneck, white trash, ghost Colonel Sanders voice buried inside your throat! "You know, that's something that I did all through the '70s, and I haven't really done it much lately. I'd like to sort of remind people that I can do that better than – I hate to mention any names, but I see some New Yorkers out there struggling with playing Southerners, and it's really painful ... good famous New York actors, that I think do the suckiest Southern I've ever seen. It just fits better in my mouth, and I look the part now. I look like the father of the guy playing the banjo in 'Deliverance.' I figure I should at least get some money for my hairline!"
Interviewed by Vincent Landay for Exclusive Magazine
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