Robert Englund. His name rings like a bell in the night as a warning that the ultimate King Of Horror has returned. With an autographed copy of his book, Hollywood Monster, by my side, I decided it was time to take a walk down Elm Street with the man of our dreams...
His name is synonymous with giving us nightmares. He was the reason why sleep
eluded many in the mid-eighties. He is the undisputed King Of Horror. He is
Robert Barton Englund made his first appearance on June 6th,
1947, in Glendale, California. (Special Note: Robert’s father, Kent Englund,
was an aeronautics engineer who helped develop the Lockheed U-2 aircraft)
Taking an interest in acting from a young age, Robert joined a children’s
theatre program at California State University in Northridge at the age of
twelve and showed a lot of promise. From there his passion for the arts grew
and in high school, Englund attended the Cranbrook Theatre School. According to
his book ‘Hollywood Monster’ Robert states in the opening
chapter that his junior high crush was responsible for him going into acting.
“She was pretty, and sweet, and I had a tiny bit of a crush on her, so when
I found out she was involved with a semi-professional children’s theatre in the
San Fernando Valley called the Teenage Drama Workshop, I was intrigued. If
acting was cool to the cutest eighth-grade girl in the Valley, that was good
enough for me, so when she invited me to check out a show, I couldn’t
refuse.” – Hollywood Monster insert.
Robert has even gone on the record to say his love of acting probably came
about because he was an only child and he craved the attention. Of course, he
says this with his trademark smile and twinkle of mischief in his green
After high school, Robert attended California State University for three
years before transferring to Michigan’s Oakland University where he trained at
the Meadow Brook Theatre which was at the time a branch of the Royal Academy of
Robert admits that in his early years he was a struggling actor, often living
with others and sleeping in shifts. His first film didn’t come around until
1974. Buster And Billie (starring Jan-Michael Vincent and
Pamela Sue Martin) was about a dimwitted but sweet high school girl of easy
virtue and the most popular boy in the school share an improbable romance. It
also caused quite the controversy when Jan-Michael Vincent stripped off on
camera and provided America with one of the first mainstream movies to show full
frontal male nudity.
In 1975, Robert became a little star struck himself when he starred with Burt
Reynolds, Catherine Deneuve, Eileen Brennan and Ernest Borgnine in the movie
Hustle which is about a bitter, cynical cop who investigates
the case of a dead stripper/porno actress found on the beach. Doesn’t sound
that exciting when I put it like that, but it is a great film.
In 1977, Robert entered the horror genre for the first time, starring as
Buck, a redneck, sex-crazed weirdo in Tobe Hooper’s, Eaten
Alive. In the same year, he made an appearance in The Hardy
Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries along side future Scream Queen, Jamie Lee
He got to work with Jan-Michael Vincent again in Big
Wednesday, a surfing movie, in 1978. Big Wednesday
also starred Gary Busey who Robert has said often came up against him
for roles. Big Wednesday, to this day, is still quoted to
Robert, who is still an avid surfer.
It wasn’t until 1984 that Robert became a household name. And no, it’s not for
what you’re thinking. That came a little later in the year. I’m talking about
the Sci-fi series V in which Rob portrayed the friendly alien
named Willie. Robert’s character was very popular on the show, so much so that
according to his book the studios received so much fan mail for ‘Willie’ that
they didn’t bother passing it on to him. He even apologises if he didn’t reply
to anyone who sent him a letter.
OK, now we’re at the good stuff! The stuff nightmares are made of!
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) saw Robert turn from friendly
alien into dream demon which in turn became one of horrors ultimate icons.
Everybody knows his name, so say it with me; Freddy Krueger!
Now, I was born in 1986 so I missed out on what the phenomenon of Nightmare
was, however from what I’ve been told, once Wes Craven and New Line Cinema
unleashed Krueger on the world, there was no stopping him. And as the sequels
progressed so did Freddy with lunch boxes, talking dolls (which were eventually
banned because children became too afraid to sleep at night – I am proud to say
I’m in possession of one of these dolls), even cough lollies. I’m fully
serious. At some point in the eighties according to Rob’s book, there were
Freddy Krueger cough lozenges. I bet they were some what hard to swallow.
Robert, while racking up the body count for the Nightmare series, also made
guest appearances on some well known TV shows. Knight Rider,
MacGyver and even the very successful North and South,
Book II which was a TV mini-series about the Civil War and featured
some very well known names like Patrick Swayze, Linda Evens, Morgan Fairchild,
David Carradine and Kirstie Alley just to name a few. (Robert was in one
episode for about five minutes, playing a southern solider)
But the eighties were all about Krueger to the point that Robert contemplated
leaving the franchise all together. (Side Note: He eventually decided to
stay on because Freddy paid the bills and he wasn’t just a character
that anybody could play. He had poured half his own personality into creating
the character and couldn’t imagine anyone else portraying the ‘loveable’ dream
demon – and yet Freddy was remade in 2010)
In 1988 Robert stepped out of the limelight of acting and got behind the
camera for his directorial debut for a film called 976-Evil.
Imagine if the devil had a hotline where you could get your ‘horrorscopes’
daily. Cheesy but a fun film none the less. Robert has a good eye for
Now I have to bring up one of my personal favourite films of Robert’s:
The Phantom Of The Opera from 1989. Unlike the musical version
that I’m sure you’re all picturing right now, Robert’s version was a horror that
saw him dive under make-up again to play Erik Destler, better known as the
Phantom. This was the first version since the 1925 film to feature the
Masquerade Ball sequence, and the Phantom dressing as ‘Red Death’ as depicted in
the original novel by Gaston Leroux.
We’ve reached the 1990′s now which saw the reign of Freddy come to an end.
In 1991 Freddy’s Dead The Final Nightmare was completed and was
by far the worst performing of the Nightmare series. By this stage Freddy was
more known for his cracking one-liners and his hilarious antics rather than his
kills. He had gone from super scary to comedy legend which was a sad demise for
our beloved dream demon. Although, Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) does make Freddy’s
top five favourite kills (to be revealed at the end of this article)
By this time Robert was officially over Freddy and was relived not to be
playing him any more. That was until Wes Craven called in 1994 with a new idea
of taking Freddy from the movies and bringing him into the real world for
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
New Nightmare saw Robert team up once again with John Saxon
and Heather Langenkamp. This time, not only was Robert playing Freddy but he
was also playing himself. His naturally sweet persona gives way to the menace
that is Krueger. The transformation between the two is incredible and I have to
say, if Robert himself is anything like how he was playing ‘himself’ in
New Nightmare, then he seems like a lot of fun to work with.
(Side Note: The make-up artists who have been responsible for Robert’s
transformation to Freddy have all said that he loves a good chat and often, it’s
because of him talking that the application of the make-up takes so long)
In 1995 Robert found himself once again in the make-up chair, this time
preparing for his role in The Mangler. Based on a Stephen King
short story, The Mangler was about a laundry folding machine
that is possessed by a demon from Hell. Only from the mind of Stephen King,
right? Tobe Hooper directed, casting Robert as the owner of the factory and
despite all the make-up, Robert’s performance was flawless. He is a fantastic
actor no matter how much his face is covered by prosthetics and make-up.
Once again, the mid nineties saw Robert return to TV. Married With
Children, Babylon 5 and Sliders all
had guest appearances by Robert. (Fun Fact: Robert’s character in
Married With Children, episode ‘Damn Bundys’, was named
In 1997, Robert returned to horror in Wishmaster. Playing an
art dealer by the name of Raymond Beaumont, Englund was considered a good guy.
Immoral at times, but still a good guy. His performance was alluring and he was
able to steal focus from the leading lady, despite not having much screen time.
(Fun Fact: Both Kane Hodder and Tony Todd appeared in
In 1998, Robert left horror briefly to do a Disney movie entitled
Meet The Deedles which starred a very young Paul Walker. It’s
not an Earth shattering movie by any standards, but it is some good clean fun,
however Robert’s role as Mr. Nemo was completely beneath him. He is much more
talented than that movie would have you believe.
In the same year he did Urban Legends. Playing Professor
William Wexler, Robert was a teacher of Folk Law, specificity dealing with urban
legends. Once again, he’s a good guy but there’s a hell of a lot of suspicion
thrown upon him especially when the leading characters, Paul (Jared Leto) and
Natalie (Alicia Witt) find an axe hidden in a secret closet in his office. (Fun
Fact: Urban Legends was my introduction to Robert Englund as an
actor. It was the movie where I developed a massive crush on him. Also, Brad
Dourif – Chucky from Child’s Play – is uncredited as the gas
station attendant right at the start)
At the start of the new millennium, Robert tackled one of his own fears which
is snakes by doing the movie Python. Python
which featured, well, a giant man-eating python is somewhat of a horror-comedy.
It was a laughable movie in general but once again, Robert dazzled, stealing the
limelight and evidently trying to save the day (and the film). His character
played with a baby python throughout the entire film which according to his book
was very fear-installing. While he’s no longer deathly afraid of snakes, Robert
still doesn’t like them and is happy if he never has to touch another one
Skip a few years and Robert returned to the big screen as his alter ego, Freddy
Krueger, in Freddy Vs. Jason. Now I’m sad to say that this was
my introduction to Freddy because before 2003 it was rare to find the Nightmare
films floating around in Australia (Fun Fact: By early 2004 I had the complete
collection which didn’t start officially selling in Australia until early 2005 –
thank you USA for sending them to me and my secret horror store)
Freddy Vs. Jason would be Robert’s last film appearance as
the dream demon (and his largest paycheck), however fast forward two years, and
Rob donned the make-up and the red and green stripped sweater again for
A Nightmare On Elm Street: Real Nightmares TV series.
That same year Robert would channel his inner hillbilly by playing Mayor
Buckman in 2001 Maniacs. Now, I actually enjoyed this film.
The deaths were very elaborate, unique and fun. And if all that failed you can
try and spot Kane Hodder in the background (it took me 28 attempts of watching
this movie to find him) or else just stare longingly at Ryan Flemming or
Giuseppe Andrews. And for the guys, there’s a bunch of nudity on behalf of the
2005 was a busy year for Robert. As well as hosting Real
Nightmares and starring in 2001 Maniacs Robert also
loaned his voice to the character of Felix Faust in the Justice
League TV show which ran from 2002 right up until 2005. (Fun Fact:
Robert also lends his voice to the Batman animation by voicing The Riddler)
In 2006, Robert made a ten minute guest appearance in
Hatchet along side old friends Kane Hodder and Tony Todd. Kane
was the bad guy and this time, Rob didn’t make it.
He also starred in a fantastic, original movie called Behind The
Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon in which his character, Doc Halloran,
was very reminiscent of Donald Pleasence in Halloween. From
the facial hair right down to the long coat he wore, Robert became all that is
good in humanity as he confronts Leslie on his killing spree. If you haven’t
seen it, go and get it. Great film that is completely worth the watch. (Fun
Fact: Kane Hodder is also spotted in this film, trimming a hedge at the start
and then entering Freddy’s house – 1428 Elm Street)
Taking a leap from cinema and television, there was only one avenue that
Robert hadn’t tackled head on: the Internet. But this all changed with a little
webcast show called Fear Clinic in which Robert plays Dr.
Andover who hopes to save people from their phobias by getting them to confront
them. Starring with him in this impressive series was none other than Kane
Hodder, Lisa Wilcox (Alice from Nightmare On Elm Street Parts 4
and 5) and Danielle Harris of
Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without Robert’s own personal
views about being replaced as Freddy in the 2010 Nightmare On Elm Street
remake. Quote “I was not very engaged by the characters, the movie
was slow and I thought the decision for a more “realistic” melted nose burn
make-up was nonsensical (Freddy is a dream phantom, why “real”?) and robbed JEH
(Jackie Earle Haley) of a strong profile, something a character seen mostly in
shadows and silhouette needs.” (I understand that entire sentence to read
as “I’m Freddy, you’re not”)
With his new movie, Inkubus storming cinemas, it marks a
return for him to the horror genre. Rob has addressed how he often seems
pigeon-holed in horror. He has stated numerous times that he is fine with being
type cast at a redneck, or a hick or a doctor with an agenda and being the ‘bad
guy’ is quite invigorating.
Robert Barton Englund is a rarity when it comes to the
acting game. Classically trained, he is both funny and serious, his
performances can be laughable or frightening. He delivers 110% each time
showing that he is fully committed. And every time, regardless of how bad the
movie, Robert Englund still manages to steal the spotlight.
In his book Robert says, quote, “If only one of my movies survives the
test of time, that’s wonderful, but if I can make you forget your problems for a
minute or three, I’ve done my job. My goal as an actor, writer, or director is
that you have a great time, then you go back to your life, hopefully in a better
mood, ready for a night of peaceful sleep and sweet dreams.
Or, better yet, a night of horrible sleep and brutal
Now, in his mid-sixties, Robert has no intention of slowing down. Still
travelling the world with his Freddy badge pinned proudly on his chest, Robert
is a hot commodity at conventions the world over and takes time out of his busy
life to meet with fans and to even sign their tattoos. Which is something that
he still find strange that people would ink Freddy’s face to their bodies.
“It just shows how much of a popular culture icon Freddy has become,”
“I am eternal!”
Freddy Krueger may have been the one to utter these words,
but they apply just as well to Robert himself. Yes, Rob, you certainly are
eternal and when it comes to the horror genre, no one does it bigger or better
Freddy Krueger's Top 5 Kills
1) Amanda Wyss (Tina) Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
2) Ricky Dean Logan (Carlos) Freddy’s Dead: The Final
3) Bradley Gregg (Phillip) Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: The Dream
4) Brooke Theiss (Debbie) Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4: The Dream
5) Kelly Rowland (Kia) Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
My Top 5 Robert Englund Films
1) A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) – Can’t go past what
ultimately started his career in horror
2) The Phantom Of The Opera (1989) – Rob’s performance as
the Phantom is both chilling and sympathetic
3) Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006) – Rob
as a Dr. Loomis type character – amazing!
4) Urban Legends (1998) – What started my love of Robert I
highly recommended to all – Directed by an Aussie too!
5) Dead And Buried (1981) – Didn’t get a mention in this
article, but it is a fun film. Gives a whole new meaning to zombies.