Robert Englund: “My own reflection gives me nightmares” | Movies


Did the filming of A Nightmare on Elm Street give you nightmares? Mrblancmange

In the first part, I didn’t have my movie star trailer; I had a tiny honey cart the size of a urinal, with a formica table, plastic chair, and mirror surrounded by light bulbs—the classic backstage makeup room. The lights were on a dimmer. I had them low when I was taking a nap around 4am with my head resting on a tightly rolled towel so as not to smudge my makeup. I was waiting to be called on set and I heard a knock on the door. As I sat down, I saw this disfigured face staring at me in the mirror. The shock startled me. I raised my hand and realized, “Oh my God, that’s my own reflection!” But it was such a startling moment that he still inhabits a variety of nightmares.

In the behind-the-scenes photos of freddie, there seems to be a great bond between you and the young cast. Did it make it hard to kill mostly on screen? Ker555

By making films, you certainly develop a relationship of actors. We would all wake up at dawn, eyes puffy, full of caffeine, worried about the day’s work. I remember teasing Heather Langenkamp [Nancy Thompson in Nightmare 1 and 3], who was a Russian major at Stanford University. I was telling dirty jokes, which I think put her off, but correlated to Freddy’s meanness and innuendo, and helped break the ice. I know Marc Patton [Jesse Walsh in Nightmare 2] agreed that we should play on the sexual innuendo of Freddy circumcising his mouth with my blade.

In the days of practical effects, so much was left to the imagination. You’ll step over puppeteers and crawling animatronic teams dressed as ninjas. So that behind-the-scenes goof really helps when they say, “Action,” so you can get down to acting reality.

Do you have a Freddy’s favorite iteration, of the dark origins of the first two to the wisecracking sequels and the return of a darker Freddy in New Nightmare? little wink

Fans loved the clown’s dark and cruel sense of humor, which became evident when people started quoting Freddy’s lines, like, “I’m your boyfriend now.” So we leveraged that as the franchise progressed. But by the time we got to part seven [Wes Craven’s New Nightmare]we made it very dark again: what if Freddy, the manifestation of evil, has been really outside?

But Freddy has always been a sage. In the original Nightmare, Freddy sticks his tongue out of a phone, guts a girl, and wears his face like a mask as a cheap thrill. He cuts his fingers and wisely snaps as green pus and blood spurts out. I know Wes thought we had gone too far, but we were responding to fans who loved this shamelessly politically incorrect asshole exercising his nightmarish revenge mode.

Watch the trailer for Englund’s latest film, Choose or Die.

Do you dress up as Freddy on Halloween and scare the kids? Top Tramp

No. I leave Halloween to the fancy dress lovers and I leave New Year’s Eve to the amateur drinkers. But while filming, we were definitely having fun. While doing the first movie, I got sick of the food service, so Nick Corri, Johnny Depp and I walked across Sunset Boulevard and sat in the back of this dark Thai restaurant. I took the hat off, we ordered and when the waiter opened the kitchen doors I was illuminated by bright fluorescent lighting. The waiter looked at me intently, dropped his tray, backed into the kitchen and we never saw him again.

I sometimes worried that I was no longer afraid, so every once in a while I would hide behind the landscape and watch in the dark an unsuspecting crew member as he headed for the bathroom. I think a few 6-foot-2 handfuls got their underwear dirty, so I knew I still had them on.

Did you really audition for the roles of Luke and Han Solo in Star Wars? How far have you gone? Top Tramp

No. I really wanted to be in Apocalypse Now. I wanted to read for Chef – played by the great Frederic Forrest – but that role was taken. They heard I was a surfer, so I read for surfer, but I think they thought I was too old. As I was leaving, one of the producers told me that they were casting across the hall for this George Lucas space movie. George Lucas was my hero, so I thought, ‘Hell, I’m going. At the time, they wanted Han Solo to be played older, like a cool uncle who lets you smoke marijuana on Christmas. They looked at me for five minutes, took some Polaroids; I did not read. That’s all I remember.

But on leaving I ripped the sides off the audition [script excerpt] for this much younger character called Luke Skywalker. I went back to my apartment in Hollywood Hills and my pal Mark Hamill’s cowboy boots were on my porch. He was working down the hill in CBS studios as a very successful television actor. Mark was watching Bob Newhart or Mary Tyler Moore. We would watch together in the afternoon, then call our agents at 5 p.m. to see how our auditions had gone. I remember saying, “Guess what? George Lucas is making this movie about space. We both loved American Graffiti, so Mark called his agent and pressured her to audition. It’s kind of like the Tarantino movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I was living at that time with Jan Fischer, who then toured in The Lost Boys; our best friend became Luke Skywalker; and I became Freddy Krueger. Back then, we were just three young people living in the Hollywood Hills with big dreams.

It’s Englund…Robert behind the mask. Photograph: DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy

Did you really sing backing vocals on Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight with Gary Barlow and Rick Astley for The Lion King? Princeton

I think it’s an internet rumor. I did a million different voiceovers, but I had nothing to do with The Lion King. Besides, I can’t sing.

What can you tell us about your role in the fourth series of Stranger Things? Top Tramp

This season is a tribute to 80s horror. I think this is their scariest season. I’m coming to episode four. [The series debuted on 27 May.] When Covid hit, I was making a few personal appearances and some Stranger Things fans were asking me such specific questions that I just assumed other actors had already talked about it. So I got my hands slapped for it.

Are you, in fact, a gentle reptoid from outer space in human skin, as the 80s TV series V suggests? Random_Dan

No, I’m not a reptile. Snakes are one of the things that give me nightmares. In the early ’80s, they still had an old-fashioned make-up lab on Warner Bros grounds, with all those men in white medical jackets making gloriously designed prosthetics. On one occasion, because I was playing a reptile that could handle extreme cold, I was able to save an Earthling and they had to do some sort of frozen light bulb effect. They literally glued grapes on half my face with wax so it looked like it had been blistered on one side.

Later in the series, I find out that my resistance comrades are going to experiment on me to see what’s toxic to aliens, like an alien allergy test. I had my entire back covered in reptile skin, down to my hairline and behind my ears, with fake skin on top. Then they did this weird operation where they removed my fake humanoid back and saw that it was made of shiny, scaly reptile skin.

Zsa Zsa Gabor
With Zsa Zsa Gabor in Nightmare 3. Photography: Cinetext/Sportsphoto/Allstar Collection

What are your memories of appearing on a Halloween Special 2012 from Come have dinner with me? Unknown here

I remember asking for a fillet of fresh tuna, to add my secret ingredients: shallot, sweet pickle, finely chopped red pepper, a hard-boiled egg, a little gourmet mayonnaise and a little honey mustard. I whip it all up, put it on a grilled sourdough with a little butter, then the stock on the cheese; it’s an old bachelor recipe called tuna fondue. But that only works if you use very high quality tuna. The crew brought in this terrible canned tuna. I ended up serving glorified cat food to my poor fellow competitors.

The problem with British reality shows is that sometimes I know exactly who the people are – I know all the gossip and the scandals – but sometimes I don’t. Put me on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! with someone from QI or the host of Tipping Point [Ben Shephard]. I’m doing anything to get to London, because I’m an Anglophile. Many times I’ve been to London, had a few cocktails and gone back to my room. When jet lag kicks in, I find Tipping Point and it’s comfort food for me, as are the reruns of IQ with Alan Davies and Stephen Fry, joking around so wonderfully.

Robert Englund stars in Choose or Die, on Netflix

This article was edited June 2, 2022 to correct Englund’s statement that Frederic Forrest had died.

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