Exclusive Interview with Robert Englund!
Everyone knows who Freddy Krueger is. If you don’t, you’re not real person. Sorry. We got the chance to sit down with the man behind the glove for a chat at Oz ComicCon.
Robert is a very chatty guy, and had already started into a great story about fellow actor David Warner before we even started recording. The story had been inspired by our photographer, Emma, wearing a Tom Baker style scarf.
Robert Englund: …there’s a bit of a rumour that David (Warner) was also considered for the part of Freddy Krueger. Some people say it’s the best Hamlet of the past 50 years. He wore…it was contemporary dress…he wore a Doctor Who scarf as Hamlet, which I love. I set that picture up in my dining room. I shared a house with a bunch of crazy guys in California. So what are your questions?
G-Funk: Right, hello, I’m Gareth from the House of Geekery. This is Emma, who’s joining me today (as photographer) at Oz ComicCon Perth 2015. We’re with Robert Englund…
RE: Emma’s wearing nothing but a Doctor Who scarf.
GF: We needed a way into an interview somehow, this was out gambit.
RE: Well, it worked. She’s lovely.
GF: Thank you for sitting down with us this morning, how are you?
RE: I’m OK, I think I’m finally over the jet lag. My people in Hollywood, when we came, they scheduled press here on Friday and they thought my landing time in Brisbane was my landing time in Perth. So that extra five hour flight wasn’t in anyone’s schedule. It was 19 hours getting here.
GF: Now I have to ask: did you lose any sleep?
RE: Ah, no! Actually I slept a lot on the plan and I caught up on the first night. No nightmares in Perth. Although I understand there is an Elm Street in Perth.
GF: There is. Speaking of nightmares, you gave me nightmares growing up, even before I saw the films. How does it feel knowing that you’ve caused so much torment and fear for so many people?
RE: Well, it’s not something you set out to do as an actor but I was a fan boy to. I was quite a snob when I was a theatre actor earlier in my career. Over the years I’ve had these memories come back about the first time I saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a child, or the first time I saw Forbidden Planet and I remembered this great fanboy epiphany I had as a child. My parents would go and visit my god-parents and they would be having martinis and smoking cigarettes and little Robbie Englund would wander down the hall to my god-parent’s office. They were sales people on the West Coast for Simon and Schuster in America, they’re international publishers as well, and the whole office had been converted, and there was nothing but coffee table books. There was one called ‘Life Magazine Goes to the Movies’. There was a whole section about the golden age of horror from the 1930s with these extraordinary stills from the movie, including one of Frankenstein with the little girl he kills and throws in the lake, literally a two page fold-out, and a pre-Hayes Censorship Code Daughters of Dracula where you could see through the actresses nightgowns, the ‘daughters’ of Dracula. You could literally see, I don’t know how else to say this, their nipples. It was kinda titillating, no pun intended, for young Robbie Englund, but the one I loved the most was in the silnce section.
There was a two page spread of all the different make-ups of the man of a thousand faces Lon Chaney, including one where he played a blind man. He’d boiled an egg, cracked the egg, taken the placenta of a hard-boiled egg off and used pieces of it to make himself look blind – the first contact lens. These moments came rushing back to me early on the ‘Freddy’ phenomenon, late ’80s perhaps. I realised how much respect I had to give when attending San Diego Comic Con, and to my fans. I sort of remembered what I was like and how much those things meant to me as a youngster. Even the great camp Vincent Price movies like Doctor Vibes, or the great Hammer Horror movies of my adolescence with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Herbert Lom…I found that fanboy alive inside of me. Partly courtesy of Wes Craven and his respect for the genre and also these suppressed memories. Because I was Robert Englund with my Doctor Who scarf and my turtleneck and my corduroy jacket with patches on the sleeves doing Shakespeare and serious avant garde theatre, it was great to recognise that there was a fanboy in me as well, and it feels very good at my age to feel the love I get from my fans.
GF: It’s been decades since the original Nightmare on Elm Street…
RE: It’s the 30th Anniversary I believe.
GF: We’ve still got big line of people here to see you. At what point did realise that you’d become this pop culture icon.
RE: I was in this successful series called V, a science fiction show, and I was up for Best Actor in a Mini-Series at a festival in Italy, in Milan, Italy. I went over, my first tuxedo, and I was sitting between Dustin Hoffman and the great French actress Catherine Deneuve…and I won! I beat out Richard Chamberlain for The Thornbirds, the Aussie story with Rachel Ward. I went to the after party, and I was mobbed by heavy metal fans in Italy on the way to the after party, who had seen Nightmare on Elm Street. It was very liberating for them because there was still a lot of censorship in Italy. That was an indicated.
Then I was signing autographs for V with William Shatner in New York. Mid-town New York, in the diamond district. My line went from being my inquisitive, plot question asking sci-fi fans to lots and lots of young women and men in black leather. Those are my original Freddy Fans . I sort of knew this thing had taken off, and I aslo knew that it had international legs. That was when I was first aware that we were on to something with the films. That was probably the very end of ’84, very beginning of ’85 when that happened.
GF: This next question may require a bit of diplomacy but say what you want…
RE: It’s nine inches.
GF: Yes, that’s how big your feet are. Very good. There’s been a remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street with…I just dropped the name out of my head…
RE: A wonderful actor named Jackie Earl Haley. No-one knows this, what does that name tell you? Jackie Earl HALEY.
GF: Tell me.
RE: Have you seen Wizard of Oz? Jack Haley, what does he play in the Wizard of Oz?
I think so (Note: actually it was Tin Man. Oops.). He’s the grandfather. Yeah, he’s a showbiz kid. I discovered Jackie, not in Bad News Bears like most people, but in a great movie called Breaking Away. He’s a great actor, he’s the best thing in Watchmen, he has a great cameo in Shutter Island where he steals the scene from DiCaprio. But I think they made that movie to soon.
We’d just had a huge success, Ken (Kirzinger, who played Jason and was sitting nearby looking scary) with Freddy vs Jason, which had just come out in a box set of DVD Blu-Ray, so we got a whole other generation of fans. Twelve year old fanboys and fangirls that sat in daddy’s man cave and watched Part IV or Part V or Wes Craven’s New Nightmare or Freddy vs Jason in bBlu-Ray on a 50inch flat screen TV, when it looked better than anyone had seen them, the previous generation who saw them in a mall cinema. So I think they brought that film out to soon and I think that was why it had a disappointing box office.
They re-filmed the opening, apparently, at a later date and at great expense and I think it cast a pall over the kids in the movie. They were already under a sort of gloom and dark cloud of Freddy’s curse so you never got to know them before they were haunted by Freddy. I think you need to know the kids happy-go-lucky, so you invest emotionally in them before their decline, and being terrorised by Freddy.
GF: I didn’t get to ask my question, but you’ve answered it anyway!
RE: I though you were going to ask what I thought of the film! I’m sorry!
GF: I was going to ask why it didn’t click with the audience, but you got it down.
RE: I think it was just to soon. Audiences had just seen Freddy vs Jason in 2004, and they’d just seen the Blu-Ray of Freddy vs Jason and the box set of the movies all digitally remastered and then they bring out a remake – it’s just to soon. Hollywood is tripping over its own feet. Is it my imagination, my friend, or have they remade goddamn Godzilla three times in the last year?!
GF: We got our third Spider-Man now as well.
RE: I know, it’s ridiculous. It’s to soon.
GF: I think our time is at an end, thank you very much for talking to us!
RE: Thank you!
Photographs in this interview were taken by EMMA RICHARDSONS PHOTOGRAPHY who can be found HERE ON FACEBOOK.