Interview: Horror Maestro Robert Englund talks NIGHTMARE Doc NEVER SLEEP AGAIN
To celebrate the release of the prolific Elm Street documentary Never Sleep Again, My colleague and horrorphile Zak Hepburn recently had the chance to have a discussion with Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) about his thoughts on it. Zak was kind enough to share this excellent and exhaustive (the man can talk!) session with me and Twitch, so read on folks...
Never Sleep Again is out on DVD in Australia the 23rd of May from Eagle Entertainment.
Freddy Krueger; the child killing, dream stalking horror culture icon is the centre piece of the four hour documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. The documentary chronicles the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series, including the Freddy's Nightmares television show, profiling each film and candidly discussing their inception, production and reception. Executive produced and narrated by Nancy herself Heather Langenkamp, this ode to Elm Street features new interviews with many key players of the series including Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, and John Saxton and of course, The Bastard Son of 1000 Maniac's himself - Freddy Krueger - AKA actor Robert Englund. I recently had the chance to speak with Robert over the phone about his involvement in the documentary, his remembrances of the series and the eternal legacy of the character of Freddy
It's amusing that this is a phone interview, because when I was a kid I actually wasted so much money - or not wasted, but I blew so much money on the Freddy Krueger Hotline.
Oh I remember the Freddy Hotline, yeah. They would have me - occasionally I would actually be there. I remember they flew me to; it's now, I think, CNBC. But at that time it was one of the earliest sound stages in New Jersey, right next to Manhattan and I remember going out there one day and doing a lot of - you know, they had me doing like all day, it was a special event. You would actually get through to Robert Englund! I did a lot of book-ending stuff, but I mean, they actually had me out there all day one day, I remember, because that same day I met a band called SOD - Storm Troopers of Death who were like a heavy metal speed metal band, kind of. And some of them became members of Metallica, some of them became members of other groups later on, but they actually kidnapped me at the end of the day and we went and saw the Ramones play. So it was this great day!
That sounds incredible! The hotline doesn't get a mention in the new documentary 'Never Sleep Again - The Elm Street Legacy' but just about everything else from the series does - I've seen the documentary and it's pretty impressive. It's just so exhaustive and in-depth.
I know, and you know, I'm so happy to do this for Tommy Hudson and for Heather Langenkamp because, you know, a lot of times you do something as a favour for somebody or you do something out of love, and you know, most of the time we're doing stuff for money. And I did these interviews in this little room, you know, up in Hollywood for Heather and Tommy and the questions were good and one day I even walked out and I ran into my old pal, Chuck Russell who directed The Mask. Chuck was there and I hadn't seen Chuck in a while. But I finally saw it, you know, and I know it was designed to be seen on two nights in a row or on four nights in a row on the cable channel, A&E. My wife and I sat down planning on watching an hour of it, and we ended up watching all four hours. Because it's not only a comprehensive definitive - it's also, not just for the exponentially grown fan-base of a Nightmare on Elm Street and all of the movies and the merchandising and everything else, but it's just a great Hollywood behind-the-scenes documentary. I mean who knew that Peter Jackson wrote a Nightmare on Elm Street movie?
There seems to be quite a few of these massive horror franchise retrospective documentaries appearing now, such as HALLOWEEN 25 YEARS OF TERROR and HIS HAME WAS JASON. NEVER SLEEP AGAIN appears however to have a deep respect for the source material and everyone involved with it seems to be still generally passionate about the series
They did such great research, yeah. You know, they went back to the right people on the crews. You know, technology was growing and changing so fast then. I mean I remember looking at some early computer stuff, even as far back as Part 1 and the models and the practicals, and they found so many instances of that stuff and again, home movies and they went to the right people. Because when you think back, you remember, there was always somebody filming. I remember, you know, before they were KNB. And they won the Oscar for Chronicles of Narnia. You know, I remember those guys were always filming everything and they were like just young heavy metal boys, but now they just - they do the effects for everything. And these guys were the sweetest, nicest guys, but I do remember them filming a lot back in those days and we didn't think much of it, you know. Now, with cell phones and everything, it's de rigueur but back then it was a little different because those toys cost a lot of money.
The documentary completely trumps the Six Disc Nightmare on Elm St Box set that came out in the early days of DVD for Nightmare Buff's there is so much new stuff included- did it bring back old memories of the series for you?
Yeah, well I remember, I let and Tommy and Heather come down here just to film and I don't even have a great collection, because my tastes - see what I love is I love finding an old Thai Poster from, you know, from Thailand of me Swallowing Patricia Arquette as the Giant Freddy Penis, you know, and she's riding in ecstasy as she slides down my gullet, you know, and it's got all Thai lettering on it and saturated paint colours. So, I mean, that's the kind of stuff I love, you know, I have a different take on it all. But I do have some merchandise and some trivia and some stuff, so I invited them over to take pictures of some of my stuff - just a quick pop edit in - jump cut in, you know. But there was other stuff that they'd already had that was like amazing to me.
You mention in the documentary that the glove being such a sort of physical presence for you that kind of built around the character, I was just wondering if there were any kind of other influences that sort of helped you kind of create the posture of Freddy.
I discussed some of this in my book Hollywood Monster, but the glove weighs a lot and it's on me all the time and you tend to just lean - it drops your shoulder a little bit. I saw myself in the mirror one day and I realized I look kind of like a gun-fighter. So I embraced that almost as if Freddy had a six-shooter on that side, the same side he has the glove on. So that became, that influenced the posture of Freddy.
Then I had also recently seen the Klaus Kinski version of Nosferatu. With Isabelle Adjani, and I was so blown away by his work and I'm a big fan of Klaus Kinski's and so his freedom, his physical freedom in that film also influenced me to be freer and not be afraid to dance a little bit; to dance to Freddy a little bit or, as we say in the theatre, to wear the scenery a little bit. And sort of find my composition because so much of the scenery that Freddy is involved with is larger than life, it's surreal, it's the boiler-room, it's exaggerated, the set is mutating for whatever reasons and so Freddy, to kind of fill that frame, that rectangle, that picture frame, I wanted Freddy to be able to do that and kind of wear that scenery as if he was almost manifesting it himself in the imagination of whichever victim was hallucinating or dreaming it or having a nightmare in that landscape, so to speak. Yeah and that influenced me a lot and I would also use the hat a lot.
I liked to use the hat to reveal the bald head - I liked to use the hat as silhouette and shadow and I liked to use the hat to hide behind. I could like literally hide my eyes from the light under the brim, and then at other times I could just barely lift my head and let the light in under the brim to catch my own eyes. So that was really informed part of Freddy, and then I think there was a little bit of Jimmy Cagney in there. There was a kind of a plant your legs wide, almost a little bit of Jimmy Cagney gangster thing.
These are all like images that actors used, almost like having a bulletin board with scraps on them and they kind of inform you in your imagination and then they kind of manifest. I don't think anybody watching me would say Klaus Kinski or say Jimmy Cagney or say Bob Fosse or any of those things. But they did inform me a little bit. Because Freddy knows you're dreaming him, so it's almost like he's on stage. Freddy knows you're dreaming him and you're experiencing him as a spectre so I thought he would exploit that a little bit and milk it a little bit, you know.
I understand you are headed to the Shock Horror Convention in Australia in May. You must attend so many conventions in so many different locations aside from meeting fans and attending events, - do you ever actually get time to explore the area's you visit?
I'm going to be in Melbourne on May 5th and in Sydney May 6th and I think one of my leading ladies from Parts IV and V, Lisa Wilcox is going to be there. And she's beautiful, yeah. And I haven't, you know - I've been to Australia for publicity for other movies and I've been on Australian Talk Shows and for Radio and I when I grew up as a kid, I had pictures of Midget Farelly and Matt Young over my bed. I idolized the early long-board surfers. I just idolized them. They were my Gods and then when I did the surfing movie, Big Wednesday, which I also narrate, I got to hang out with the bronzed Aussies - Ian Cairns, Peter Townend, Mark Richards and everybody.
So, you know, the last time I was there I just had to go - I had to do my pilgrimage to Bondi Beach and I had to go to Bells by Melbourne just to see it, because I had those photos on my wall. So this time I think what we're going to do is we're going to meet the fans and everything and I think we're going to sneak up to the Whitsunday Islands.
Sounds great Robert. Thank you so much for making the time to talk to me this morning; it's been an absolute honour.