The word "legend" is used all too often in the entertainment industry, but when applied to Robert Englund who could argue? He was the finest Freddy Krueger, the most believable alien in V and has created a legacy of film, theatre and TV appearances that his peers can only stare at in green-eyed envy. In this exclusive interview Robert chats about his big break, the much debated remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street and his role in the corking shocker Inkubus.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?
RE: Yes. As a child I was obsessed with Disney's animated Peter Pan and the Broadway production with Larry Hagman's mother, Mary Martin. I staged Peter Pan twice in the garage of our home with neighbourhood kids and improvised scenery, props and costumes. By 12 and a half, I was starring in semi-professional children's theatre in summer stock in roles such as Hansel, Pinocchio, and Aladdin.
HC: Was your family supportive of your chosen career?
RE: They introduced me to the theatre but I think they were disappointed when I chose acting over law. My father came around after he saw the family name in single card, starring billing on my first feature film, Buster And Billie back in 1974.
HC: How did you get your big break?
RE: Although I'd received good reviews in the Hollywood trade papers in the mid '60s for off-Hollywood theatre work, my first big professional break was replacing Dirk Benedict (who'd gone to Broadway to star in Butterflies Are Free with Gloria Swanson) in a revival of Life With Father in repertory theatre. A year later I was starring as Judas in the hit musical Godspell in Cleveland, Ohio. And in 1973 on my first movie audition in Hollywood I landed a starring role with Jan Michael Vincent and Pamela Sue Martin in Columbia Picture's Buster And Billie, directed by Daniel Petrie (A Raisin In The Sun, Sybil, Fort Apache The Bronx).
HC: Let's come up to date with your latest movie to come to the UK, Inkubus, can you tell us a little about your character?
RE: Well as you might imagine, I get a lot of horror scripts sent to me. Inkubus was one of the most original concepts I’d read in years. I loved the timelessness of the character; a minion of evil who influenced serial killers in a hundred year old host body.
HC: How did you prepare for such a role?
RE: I chose to downplay the magical because the Inkubus exists with the knowledge of his power; therefore he is casual about his magic. I chose to pepper his speech with somewhat anachronistic vocabulary because he’s been around for a while. The same with his wardrobe; frock coat from the turn of the century, left over from his last host/victim, an ugly 70s black leather jacket with the sleeves cut off which served as his vest, (perhaps lifted from the apartment of the Son of Sam), a rakish, soiled scarf and motorcycle boots. Voila, a steampunk countenance based in reality.
HC: It's a very bleak movie, what was the atmosphere like on set?
RE: It was great fun for me because I had the opportunity to work with one of my favourite actors, William Forsythe who is currently rocking HBO as the Butcher in Boardwalk Empire. I also enjoyed Jonathan Silverman's humorous company and plying Joey Fatone with rock star questions. We also were liberated by using the new digital Canon camera, which enabled us to move fast and improvise thanks to our sympathetic director Glenn Ciano.
HC: Two bodies of work that you’re very famous for, V and A Nightmare On Elm Street have recently been remade, or should I say re-imagined? What are your honest thoughts about these?
RE: Well, having two of my greatest hits remade the same year made me very aware of how much time has passed since we originated them. Makes you feel old. However remakes have always been part of the Hollywood paradigm. You learn to expect them eventually. I am quite happy to hand over my claw to an actor as gifted as Jackie Earle Haley. And I must say I have a sustained crush on the lovely Morena Baccarin who I thought was very risk taking as the evil Anna in V. I’m currently addicted to her performance in Homeland on Showtime.
HC: Is there a remake you'd like to star in?
RE: I'm getting a little old but the Vincent Price cult classic Theatre Of Blood might be fun.
HC: Recently you came to the UK to act in the wonderfully titled Strippers Vs Werewolves, sounds like a fun movie; can you tell us about your part?
RE: I was brought in to give a little back story to the comedy/horror film. I think the producers and director were so happy with the film that they thought my character might possibly set up a sequel. The film is in the vein of Shaun Of The Dead but a lot sexier. Unfortunately I didn’t get to work with my old pal Sarah Douglas from the original V, who manages the strip club and is the nemesis of the werewolf pack. However, I did get to go toe to toe with the wonderful Billy Murray when he visits this alpha male in his jail cell.
HC: Would you like to work more in the UK?
RE: Oh yeah. I am a closet Anglophile. I’ve been coming to the UK for more than 40 years. I am such a theatre fanatic that I spend most of my time in London; however, in the last decade personal appearances and publicity tours have enabled me to visit Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Penarth, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. My wife and I loved Manchester although I didn’t get to meet Lisa Stansfield we had great Indian food. We found a great B&B in Penarth courtesy of a Torchwood star, toured Rennie MacIntosh architecture in Glasgow, and walked the royal mile in Edinburgh. I hope to work in the UK again, even if I am a spear-carrier in a holiday panto. Puss In Boots, anyone?
HC: If you could appear alongside any of the great horror movie stars of any era which one would you choose and why?
RE: As a child I was obsessed with Lon Chaney, the man of 1000 faces, so I guess he'd make my list. Also Boris Karloff, Klaus Kinski, Anthony Hopkins and Bill Mosley. Karloff to see what he was really like off camera, Kinski to tap into his madness, Hopkins to observe and Mosley to improvise with. Oh yes, and Vincent Price so I could check out his art collection.
HC: So what projects are you working on at the moments and any chance you’d direct more movies?
RE: Fans can currently use me as their avatar in the hit game Call Of The Dead, along with George Romero, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michael Rooker and Danny Trejo. I just finished guest starring on Hawaii Five-0, and recently completed my starring role poaching giant crocodiles in the latest Lake Placid instalment for the SyFy Channel. So heat up your popcorn, piggies! It also looks like the Fear Clinic feature will come to fruition in 2012.
HC: Robert Englund, thank you very much
Inkubus starring Robert Englund will be available to buy on DVD from Monday 13th February thanks to Trinity X.