FrightFest 2014: Robert Englund Career In Four Minutes

You don't get a much bigger name at FrightFest than Freddy Krueger.

Ever since he slipped into that red-and-green striped jumper for A Nightmare On Elm Street in 1984, Robert Englund has been a genre icon.

On the eve of that film's 30th anniversary, Englund attended FrightFest 2014 to promote his new movie, The Last Showing , in which he plays disgruntled projectionist Stuart, who traps a couple in a cinema and uses them as pawns in his own low budget movie.

It's fun, atmospheric stuff with a great turn from Englund as a more sympathetic baddie than we're used to seeing him play.

Total Film met up with Englund at a London hotel to chat about the film and his thoughts on his career after three decades in the industry...

My Career

“I was very lucky in the timing of my career. Not only had I done 15 movies before I did A Nightmare On Elm Street , but I had a hit series, V , that was international, so I was established in Hollywood. My career also came of age with the new technology, so I really benefitted from cable television, video, box sets on video, MTV, DVDs, Blu-ray, on-demand downloads, all of that stuff...

“There's a longer shelf life now for cult movies and franchises, and specifically genre movies. I just had this great happy accident of a career and it's made me an international actor. I went with the flow very early. I watched other people make mistakes, so I had some insight into how to play it. I'm quite happy to be a B-movie genre actor; I'm quite happy to have accidentally stepped into the boots of Klaus Kinski and Vincent Price.

“When I took the Freddy make-up off back in 2003, I'd done some other big make-up movies like The Mangler and Phantom Of The Opera . But when I finally got out of the make-up game, my face had aged, I had a little bit of George C. Scott going and I just naturally stepped into the old priests and the mad doctors and the old professors.

“I stayed within the genre because its lucrative for me, and it's for my fans. There are starring roles still for me. I'm playing leads which is fun. This year I had to turn down a great exorcism movie in Turkey with a hot new undiscovered director. I'm hoping to do his second film, Black House, which an old friend of mine is producing. Even at my age, you have to let one go – it's that actor nightmare, you always think your last job is your last job. You don't always have that light at the end of the tunnel.”

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984-1994)

“Part seven's my favourite; Wes Craven's New Nightmare. It can be watched more than once. It looks great on Blu-ray, and the memories that come to me when I watch it is I had all these wonderful lunches with John Saxon! I got to pick his brain about Marlon Brando and Robert Redford; he really transcends old and new Hollywood.

“Freddy's a little elevated in that one. Wes's theory on the movie was, What if there had really been a source to all these movies that was resentful for the success of us spoiled Hollywood types mining that essence of evil? There was a return to the mythology of evil. Freddy was less the cool clown and more a real threat. I love it.”

Urban Legend (1999)

“It's funny cos I was taken out in Soho two nights ago by the cameraman of The Last Showing to a little subterranean bar that was like a speakeasy, and on the wall was the poster for the original Alfie , starring John Neville, who I worked with on Urban Legend.

“We were in Toronto. You know, Jared Leto was in that cast, he just won the Oscar, and Requiem For A Dream is one of my favourite movies. There was also a very talented actress in that movie, Alicia Witt, who I still think has a few hits left in her. You know, she was cut out of Eyes Wide Shut. Apparently she had a much larger role, and she looked so much like Nicole Kidman... I think there was friction there. But she's a lovely actress and I see her all the time.

“And Rebecca Gayheart, she's terrific in it – really frightening at the end of the film. I think I owe a phone call to that director, Jamie Blanks. I have a couple of projects on the back-burner that he might be up for. He's really a gifted young director.”

Hatchet (2006)

“That was more a gesture to Kane Hodder, who I go way, way back with. I did that as a favour to Kane and I love [director] Adam Green. Kane had done a reciprocal thing on a film that I'm very proud of called The Rise Of Leslie Vernon: Behind The Mask. Kane did a cameo in that so I did him a favour on Hatchet . But it was great, hanging out with Tony Todd and Kane.

“Of course, Kane wore more goddamn make-up than I did, plus he had to act in the movie, and he was stunt co-ordinator! He was working around the clock. I was able to come in and out and Josh around with the young actor from Blair Witch Project, who played my son on that movie.”

The Last Showing (2014)

“You have to kind of understand why Stuart is having this revenge. I think it gets away from him. But by the time [ spoiler removed ], Stuart has tapped into his latent sadistic streak. I think there's a lot of people, and I'm one of them, I'm a lover not a fighter. I would rather buy you a pint than fight with you if you're behaving like an asshole in a bar. But I don't have a middle left anymore. I'm either the nicest guy in the world, or I'll fucking have you killed. I think it's because I've had to be so polite and deal with so much rejection over the years that it's that part of you, that buffer zone, gets eaten up. I think that's what happened with Stuart, he just ate shit for so long. He was humiliated at the cinema and that just broke him.

“I remember, I think I was tending bar at Universal Studios waiting for one of my early movies to be released, and I actually got upgraded to tend the bar in the VIP room with David Bowie and Bette Midler. I had to wear a ridiculous outfit and I'd already starred in two movies, but they took years to come out, so I went back to being an actor knocking on doors, living with unemployment. I was so humiliated, I was so afraid that one of the casting directors would come to buy wine or something and see me there in some silly little paper hygiene hat...”

A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Last Showing are available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.