EVERY actor is looking for a role that they will be remembered for, and Robert Englund is lucky enough to have two – Willie in V and of course Freddy Krueger.
As beloved as the friendly alien lizard is, there’s no doubting which has had the bigger impact on popular culture, something Robert had ultimate proof of in – of all places – St Petersberg in Russia.
He remembered: “I was in a tiny kiosk in the Summer Palace of Catherine the Great and saw a tiny pillbox with my likeness on. Underneath in cyrillic script it said ‘take one of these and he’ll come for you!’, which was about as strange a manifestation of Freddy as I’ve seen, and there have been loads all over the world.
“I get it every Halloween in the States when instead of boys, you get sexy Fredettes with fishnets and stilettos and a red and green sweater as a dress. I even saw two new action figures of myself just this week.
“He’s really entered the culture and he’s all pervasive.”
As an afficianado of the horror genre, Robert admits he is delighted with Freddy’s popularity.
“He’s up there with the horror greats and I love it when I’m mentioned in the same breath as Karloff or Vincent Price or Lon Chaney. I remember as a kid looking at a coffee table book and there was a section about Lon Chaney – the man of 1000 faces and I wonder if that inspired me, if there was a sense of childhood challenge to play under the make-up, so I’m happy that it happened.
“It enabled me to have some success and make a dent in the genre too. That’s down to Freddy and it has been a wonderful adventure I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t said yes to Wes Craven all those years ago.”
As well as those childhood memories, Robert had other influences for the character too.
He added: “When you add in the physicality and humour, that really makes him unique. Freddy was the first monster to have that humour – he always had an attitude, although I know Wes Craven bridled a bit at how far we took that in the sequels.
“He definitely struck a chord and as I said I still see that every day.”
As with V, that is something which is only going to increase when the remake of A Nightmare of Elm Street comes out in 2010.
Although obviously very proud of his creation, Robert wishes the new film and cast – especially Jackie Earle Haley who has picked up the famous glove and fedora – nothing but the best.
“I’m not the guy to criticise remakes because one of my biggest paydays was the remake of Phantom of the Opera in the early 1990s,” he said. “If you work in Hollywood it is always recycling its hit stories, especially when fans embrace a narrative. That’s the nature of the game and you have to make peace with that.
“Of course I’m very curious – who wouldn’t be – but I think they are really on to something with the great cast they have got together for it.
“I’m very happy to hand over the Freddy baton to Jackie too. He’s a real actor and I’ve been a fan of his since a movie called Breaking Away about cycling. It was a very sweet film and he practically invented the slacker/ stoner character for that, before Bill and Ted and Clerks were even heard of.
“Recently I thought he was the best thing in Watchmen and he was wonderful in the Kate Winslet film Little Children, so I have great hopes for the new Nightmare movie.”
Robert added he also hopes to meet up with Jackie for dinner as soon as possible, where he hopes to offer him a word of advice – but not about the role.
“We were supposed to have dinner at Mr Chows, but this book tour has taken me away and taken up my time so I haven’t met Jackie yet.
“I hope to give him a list of all my favourite genre festivals I have been going to for years in Brussles and Spain and Italy. They are wonderful and I want him to know that they are not full of crazy Trekkies being obnoxious, but serious fans of the genre in beautiful cities all over Europe.
“He should definitely feel the love and come along because it is fantastic to have a three-hour lunch with Christopher Lee or hang out with Sam Raimi. I’m really glad that opportunity came about for me by not being stand offish.”
He added: “I can remember hiding from the rain drinking coffee with the French Elvis Presley, Johnny Hallyday, the actress Asia Argento and Christopher Lee as we watched the very first of the Japanese horror movies and it was a great experience to share.
“That’s the fun that comes along with it and now Jackie is assuming the Freddy mantle, I want to encourage him to attend some of those. I’ll be drawing up a Robert Englund master list for him.”
That meeting – no need for cutlery on their table! – may have to wait for a while yet, as Robert remains massively in demand around the world.
He also continues to augment his already vast knowledge of the horror genre, with one recent story catching his attention.
“Let The Right One in is a great Swedish horror vampire film and I just finished the book before I set off on my book tour,” he said. “I want everyone to surrender to the subtitles and see it and find the book as well.
“When I read it I felt like a 15-year-old under the covers using a flashlight to read my first Steven King or my first Clive Barker or my first Ann Rice. That is one of the great things about horror – it can still thrill and scare you and long may that continue.”
And just like that he was gone, as he was whisked away to another appointment. I can honestly say he was one of the nicest and most interesting people I have ever interviewed – and based on our chat, his book is going to be absolutely fascinating.
What’s more, he even did a message for my wife as Freddy, which I have cannabalised here a bit for the readers of the blog – have a listen and feel free to pinch it for your mobile phone ringtones!
Coming soon – win a copy of Robert Englund’s autobiography, Hollywood Monster.