Robert Englund is an American leading actor of a number of horror films, notorious as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and all of its sequels. Englund became a cult favorite after that film but had started working in the 1970s. Then came his big break as Freddy Kruger in “Elm Street”, the man of nightmares with the disfigured face and a red striped shirt with his right hand as razor-sharp knives. The movie was directed by Wes Craven and was so successful for New Line Cinema that the studio had Englund reprise Freddy in all of the succeeding and prosperous sequels. Englund added the SyFy original movie Lake Placid: The Final Chapter to his résumé this year. What an absolute thrill it was to speak to the legendary horror master and it was rather chilling.
Have you ever done anything that maybe gave you nightmares or something? And if not, was there something that maybe you’re scared of?
Nothing really scares me. When I did the first Nightmare film, I mean there’s films that scare me, I just even got a jolt the other night watching Cabin in the Woods. And I remember the original Alien got me several times, and I was a grown up when I saw that, and I dragged my poor father to see it. But now, when I was in the makeup for the original Freddy, I fell asleep, we were shooting nights. And I fell asleep trying to get a nap and the AD banged on the door and said, “Mr. Englund hurry up we’re going to try and get this shot before the sun comes up.” And I sat up, and I forgot, this was during the first film, forgetting I was in this make-up.
And I sat up with, you know, that kind of bad breath you have after a little nap, and I rolled off of my cot in my little tiny, you know, honey wagon dressing room. And there in the recesses, in the forced perspective of my make-up mirror, opposite my bunk, surrounded by dim light bulbs – make-up light bulbs, that had been cranked down on the dimmer. I saw this old bald man with scars and burns all over him looking back at me.
And I kind of went, “Oh geez.” And I put my hand on my head and so did he. So it became this sort of nightmarish Marx brothers routine. And it literally took me about the count of 5 or 6 to kind of come out of that semi-conscious state you’re in when you wake up real fast. And, you know, when you’re fighting for the alarm clock. That kind of moment of time. And I was very disoriented.
The point of this story is that moment, looking into the mirror, which I recovered from in 5 to 6 seconds, but that moment, I can remember it like it was yesterday. And occasionally, and I don’t want to like guilt the lily here, but occasionally that does enter into my subconscious and it does get into a dream, or it comes in as a random image that’s still stored in my brain somewhere. Because it was so disorienting.
There’s that funny distancing of where I was sitting, and then the mirror 2 or 3 feet from me. And then in an equally far back and deep in the mirror Freddy, looking back at Robert. Because I was Robert obviously.
But that really was a strange moment, and it was so early in the film experience for me, of horror films. I had been doing a lot of very normal fair up until then, except for science fiction (unintelligible). That really did disorient me, and it did stay with me, and do a little kind of a – I think there’s a definite crease in my gray matter that makes a home for that image.
Was there anything unusual about Jim Bickerman as a character that appealed to you? Or that you identified with to play him effectively?
Well, you know, I’ve seen all of the Lake Placids, and I came to a couple of the sequels a little late. I found them on the Syfy channel, and I think they’re a lot of fun. I think one of the things that attracted me, even sense the original, there’s the element of horror but there’s also that little bit of disorientation about there being freshwater alligators in Maine, which is a great kind of hook.
But there’s always also been room for a little bit of comedy, and a little bit of over the top in them. Because, after all, it is a giant – in essence, it is a giant alligator story. And I played roles like this when I was much younger. I played a lot of rednecks, and a lot of white trash, and a lot of sidekicks. I wanted to be for many years, Strother Martin, you know, you rides down the mountainside with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Strother Martin, who tells Cool Hand Luke that we’ve got – what we have here is a problem of communication.
And I wanted to be LQ Jones who steals a scene from Robert DeNiro in Casino, and who is in all those movies like The Wild Bunch and everything. And I wanted to be Warren Oates, and I did a little bit of that in 70s when I was young. But I quickly became the best friend, and the sidekick, and the nerd. And this was before I had done any science fiction or horror, and I was sort of typed as that for a while.
So it’s fun now, in my early 60s, it’s fun for me to return now to those roles. With the lines in my face and my gray beard, and my balding hairline. It’s fun to get to play those roles again, because they come kind of easy to me. Which means I can spend more time really getting into the moment, and getting into the tone of the piece and having fun with it.
So, you know, Jim Bickerman for me was like the poor country cousin who was left out of the will, you know, and he’s trying to get his piece of the action. And I almost imagine him coming up from Kentucky or somewhere to Maine, and he’s sort of always been the embarrassment of the family and he’s up there poaching gators, you know, as a side line and making some money.
But he’s, it’s a pretty concrete motivation to hang on to. He kind of got left out of the will. He’s the one in the family that nobody likes, he’s the black sheep of the family. So that’s just what I used, so that becomes kind of fun then. It becomes – when you are the outsider, it’s kind of easy then to kind of be defensive with everybody else in the picture, or all the other members of the cast.
Thank you to Robert Englund, NBCUNIVERSAL and the incredible Syfy family. I’m Diane Morasco and I love Syfy…You better believe Morasco and Alwayz Therro Magazine Imagine Greater!
For more on my interview with Robert Englund, please grab the October 2012 issue of Alwayz Therro Magazine!
Diane Morasco may be reached on Facebook: Diane-Morasco and Twitter @DianeMorasco.
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