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INT: Robert Englund

Feb. 7, 2003by: The Arrow

The Arrow interviews Robert Englund

Robert Englund has been on the scene since the 70s. He's been in films like Tobe Hooper's "Eaten Alive", "Dead and Buried", "Galaxy of Terror", "The V series", "Wishmaster", "Urban Legend" and way more. But it's his incarnation of dream killer Freddy "the freakin' man" Krueger, originating in Wes Craven's genre classic "Nightmare on Elm Street" that immortalized him as a horror icon.

Let's face it, the Big K is now amongst the ranks of all the horror greats: we have Dracula, Frankenstein and yes...we have Freddy! That's quite an accomplishment and Robert deserves all of his success. He has always been really good to his fans throughout the years, while being a fervent horror fan himself. Now, as we all know, the long awaited "Freddy vs Jason" will soon be upon us. The film is done shooting and has now entered post-production. PART 1 of this interview concentrates on "Freddy vs Jason" while PART 2 will be about Robert's other upcoming projects and more! Freddy vs Arrow is on! Here's what this great man had to say.

ROBERT: (in a Freddy voice that freaked me out): Hello?

ARROW: Hello Mr. Englund, how are you?

ROBERT: (in a Freddy voice that freaked me out): Fine.

ARROW: First, I'd like to thank you for giving me years and years of nightmares as a child.

ROBERT: (still in Freddy voice): Well, it's a dirty job and somebody had to do it. What can I tell ya!

ROBERT'S FAV HORROR MOVIES

ARROW: (laugh) I'll start off by asking you what your favorite horror movie is?

ROBERT: I actually have a couple-- I sort of like to do old school/new school, you know?

ARROW: Yeah.

ROBERT: I'd have to say right now the ones that are in memory the most are "The Innocents" with Deborah Kerr, a black and white film, sort of what I would call old school. More recently I really liked "The Devil's Backbone".

ARROW: Yeah, great movie!

ROBERT: Those right now are my favorites and both of them are what I like to call at this stage in my life: the classy end of horror. Sort of like "Rosemary's Baby" and stuff like that. But I don't want my fans to think that I don't like them down and dirty too-- I also recently saw a great little English film called "Dog Soldiers" that I really liked and going back to the early eighties, I loved John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing" with Kurt Russell, I haven't seen it in a while but it's a movie that I hold very dear. I also loved Brian De Palma's "Sisters" back in the 70's. The film had a great use of split screen, blended comedy, horror, thriller and had some great nightmare concepts. Have you seen De Palma's new movie?

ARROW: Yeah, I have actually...Femme Fatale.

ROBERT: Did you like it?

ARROW: Yeah, I did. It's Brian De Palma going back to his old way; "Body Double" kind of vibe.

ROBERT: I like that stuff, my friend Greg Henry is in that.

ARROW: Oh yeah! Have you seen the film yourself?

ROBERT: I haven't seen it, I literally wrapped "Freddy vs Jason" on the last week of November and they were still shooting when I left. I missed the cast party and all because I had to fly down to Laguna Beach where I live. Once there, I threw the wife and the dog in the car and drove all the way back to the California coast because I had to do Thanksgiving with my wife's family. I just drove back 2 days ago and my face is still swollen around the eyes.

ARROW: You relaxing now?

RE: Yeah, I'm just taking it easy: sweeping up the leaves, getting ready for the holidays to hit.

FREDDY VS JASON: DIRECTORS AND SCRIPTS

ARROW: Well, let's hop onto what everybody is mucho looking forward to, me included, which is "Freddy vs Jason".

ROBERT: Sure.

ARROW: What was it about this specific screenplay that made it be "the one", as opposed to all of the other scripts that strolled through over the years?

ROBERT: I think it wasn't just the scripts delaying the production...they also went through a bunch of directors. I have been set to do this movie since 2000, that was the goal. Sort of like Freddy 2000 you know?

ARROW: Yeah.

ROBERT: So the first director was Rob Bottin the genius effects guy--

ARROW: Yup, The Thing...

ROBERT: They had problems with the budget with Rob, so then I think they brought on Guillermo del Toro...but he went on to "Blade 2". They were tweaking the script all this time too. I actually went to Europe once and sat across one of the producers of "King of the Hill", the animated show, and he had also done a draft for the film! I thought that was great! So after Michael De Luca left New Line, there were new people that had to be agreeable on the script and maybe there were changes in attitude as to what the script should have.

I always felt there had to be a great "Jason nightmare" or the movie wouldn't work and how Jason and Freddy would get together was always a problem for me. As time went by, we needed to re-integrate the back stories on both monsters in the script. Now all those things are accomplished amazingly and amazingly fast, I think. You're going to have to surrender a little bit to the contrivance of how Freddy and Jason get together. Freddy literally needs Jason.

HYPNOCIL DRUG, FREDDY DOWN AND OUT &
THE LOOK OF THE FILM

ROBERT: There's also a subplot about "Hypnocil" in the film which is a drug. The script kind of makes a statement about today's drug culture: Prozac, Viagra and everything. So the parents of Springwood have developed a drug to prevent them from dreaming. So by preventing people from dreaming, Freddy can't get to them and people have now forgotten Freddy, the fear, the legend, the myth. The portal in which Freddy can enter has sort of been sealed shut, because people don't dream anymore. But there's also side effects with this drug, this pill, this hypnocil...as in hynotioc and this is a subplot in the film.

ARROW: Actually, wasn't "Hypnocil" the drug that Nancy took in "Nightmare on Elm Street 3" to not dream?

ROBERT: Yeah, they brought it back. The adults are manufacturing it now and the lead girl Lori, played by Monica Keena, her father is a pharmaceutical guy. So Freddy is sort of impotent now and he can't reach his revenge on the siblings and the survivors of the vigilante parents that burned him alive, so he needs someone to instill fear, so he uses Jason since Jason operates in the real world. Jason becomes Freddy's sort of "Frankenstein monster" and Freddy eventually loses his control over him as Jason begins poaching on Freddy's victims. And there's also all sorts of nasty stuff in the film, there's a nasty back-story on Freddy, a nasty back-story on Lori's family and a nasty back-story on Jason...and Freddy gets inside Jason's nightmares.

ARROW: Wow, I'm now officially anxious to see this.

ROBERT: It's great. This is not anything new, the critics are saying this is another way to exploit the franchise and all, but it really goes back to "Batman Vs Superman", "Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein" or the "Wolfman meets Dracula" and all that. This is like an old tried and true, wonderful, fun Hollywood popcorn concept and it isn't anything new. Because of Ronnie Yu, the director who did "Bride of Chucky", and more recently Samuel Jackson's film "Formula 51", I look at this film as a great, state of the art-- almost like a coffee table comic book, just by the way it looks.

Fred Murphy who was the DP on "The Mothman Prophecies" and "October Sky" was the DP on the film and between he and Ronnie, they sort of came up with this beautiful, and yet twisted, look to the film. It's like some gorgeous, twisted, violent Dutch comic book you know-- Asian, Cyber Japanese Cyber Punk, illustrated comic book with Scorsese camera angles, Orson Wells camera angles and film noir style...it's REALLY interesting! There's also lots of different colors plays, kind of like Paul Schrader's style. It's just really a great classy, violent popcorn movie. I've been calling it a gourmet popcorn that's spelled...G-O-R-E (in a scary ass Freddy voice that made me jump).

ARROW: (laughs) It sounds like a freakin' visual treat!

ROBERT: It is, and I think that the audience just has to surrender itself to the comic book mentality of it. I don't mean like comic "funny", I mean like the graphic style. Once the movie starts, there's just a great rhythm to it...it's just cool sequence after cool sequence.

JASON GOES RAVING IN CORN

ROBERT: My favorite scene in the movie is a sequence I'm not even in. It's a sequence of Jason at a rave in a cornfield in middle America.

ARROW: OH YEAH! (I got excited there...big time!)

ROBERT: The scene is just phenomenal! When you read it, it has these great rhythms to it and when you see it visually: little rave nerd boys with day glow clothes being piped and speared by Jason and flung across rows and rows of corn glowing like meteors or comets through the night.

ARROW: Wow!

ROBERT: It's cool stuff...really cool stuff.

ARROW: That's like a crowd pleasing Jason scene for the fans.

ROBERT: It's a great Jason scene with Freddy getting in at the end of it. It's just structurally such a wonderful relentless, Jason the mindless shark feeding at a rave scene. It's just the perfect thing. The rhythms, the geometry of the corn field. It's really going to be a famous sequence, I think.

DOES FREDDY GETS HIS DAY? BABY JASON?
FREDDY AND JASON SELLING OUT OR NOT?
TO GORE OR NOT TO GORE?

ARROW: Does Freddy get his own famous, crowd-pleasing sequence?

ROBERT: Freddy has a couple of great sequences in the film, but he's kind of like the puppet master in this for a while. What's great about Freddy in this is when he gets to comment and manipulate the back stories and the fears of the characters-- especially with Jason. I'll just give you a hint: Freddy meets baby Jason. Ok...it's great, it's just really sick stuff.

ARROW: I wanted to address this. Being on the Net a lot and hearing all the feedback about "Freddy Vs Jason", I picked up that the younger teens, the newer audience are really, really looking forward to the film...while some of the long time, more hardcore fans are a little afraid that maybe Freddy and Jason are being watered down or "mainstreamed" for today's target audience.

ROBERT: All I can tell you is this: Remember what I told ya before? Gourmet popcorn?

ARROW: Yeah.

ROBERT: There's more violence, Freddy is less funny and more violent...

ARROW: Nice! (fanboy body rush happened here)

ROBERT: Freddy is a little older here, Freddy is not uber-Freddy like he was in "Wes Craven's New Nightmare", he's not a jokester either. He's a little slower, he gets yanked in reality, gets an ass kicking. Freddy is also a little more afraid and his powers are a little diminished. But he has an agenda and there's more violence and more twisted shit in this film than in the last 4 Freddy movies.

ARROW: Well, that's very good news! Would you say that the film is more axed towards the fantastic, the gore or a little bit of both?

ROBERT: I think it's a meld of both. The film is really stylish but it's also really violent. It's got lots of effects and lots and lots of good gore. Sometimes it gets a little "Monty Python" gore, but that's intentional because it's dream world shit. So you get both values out of it.

KANE HODDER, JASON'S MOTHER AND THE DOGS OF HORROR

ARROW: Now I want to address this. Lots of fans, me included, are pissed that Kane Hodder is not Jason and...

ROBERT: Let me tell you what I know about this.

ARROW: Shoot.

ROBERT: It was never meant as an insult to Kane except for the reality that Kane is not in it, which you can perceive, as an insult because Kane was certainly responsible for the popularity of Jason in the last 10 years. Director Ronny Yu, who has lots of strong stuff out there, I mean we loved "Bride of Chucky"...well, Ronny had this image of Jason. Now I'm not sure if it derived from a Friday the 13th movie as much as from an illustration, a comic book what-not, but he always presumed that Jason was gigantically big and because it's "Freddy Vs Jason", he always thought that in this comic book style that he was going to exploit, Jason would be larger than life, almost basketball player-like. He's just absolutely huge in this movie!

(Arrow Note: Ken Kirzinger, who plays Jason in FVJ, is 6"5 and Kane Hodder is 6"3... they should've given Kane elevator shoes for those 2 inches. COME ON!)

I always serve the writer first because I'm English trained, even though I'm American. I don't protect my own ass, I protect the writer's ass first. That's where it all starts: writer knows best and the writer is my first god, then I serve the director, then I serve myself. Actually Jason's mother has this piece of dialogue I've been using as an image. I always get inspiration from whatever characters say about my character. So I use this piece of Jason's mother's dialogue where she calls him a "big stupid dog". I've been thinking of Jason as a huge stupid dog and Freddy as just like a little yap-yap junkyard dog.

ARROW: (laughs) That's hilarious.

ROBERT: That's the imagery I used for the whole movie. And there's a little bit of sympathy for Jason in the movie even though he's a relentless killer, because his back-story is more sympathetic. So I played into that, I made Freddy a real asshole in this movie, even more so than usual. He's that little yappy dog that you want to see get his and Jason is like the big stupid dog with a little bit of sympathy in him. Now you can quote me on that, but that might be a trap, don't print this as the result of the battle necessarily, as I like to say Freddy takes a licking...but he keeps on ticking.

ART FILMS IN THE HOUSE AND SPIELBERG'S "TAKEN"

ARROW: Setting Freddy aside, what else do you have going on movie-wise at the moment?

ROBERT: I have 2 films that I finished in Europe that are coming out but they won't come out in the States: they're like "art films" and I'm very proud of them. One of them we're calling "Who Started All This", I have a better title, but it's about the war in Bosnia and Serbia and what it's done to people over there. It's in English, but I'm sure it will be mostly a European art film. We have some really amazing actors in it and a brilliant director who had films at the Cannes Film Festival. It was beautifully shot by a Polish cinematographer, it was a real international experience for me. I play a sort of decadent European Professor in it. The other film I just finished before I started Freddy Vs Jason came about through these two eccentric, wonderful directors from Sicily, they're like notorious for outrageous stuff on Italian television. They did sort of like a bogus game show before any of the reality show hit the States, they shot all of their films in black and white until mine, they don't use women, they use men in women's parts....

ARROW: (laughs) That's pretty kool.

ROBERT: They usually use a lot of non-actors, but in this film they used a lot of known actors and they used me. I play a B-movie star from Hollywood in the early 50's who goes to Italy in hopes of reviving his career. So I play a famous American actor who's been to all the Beverly Hills parties and knows mobster Lucky Luciano. He goes over there to star in a movie but they're really laundering mob money through the production. The film becomes this great Italian comedy about the mafia, the catholic Church, Hollywood and Italian filmmaking. It was kind of cool at this stage in my career to be shooting this film, taking three hour lunches and drinking a bottle of wine everyday with the Italian crew under the Palm trees of a beautiful villa somewhere. It was an adventure and I hope to do more of that in my career. It's just so much fun to travel and do that stuff.

ARROW: As an actor, you played Freddy for so long, it must be great for you to tackle different kind of roles.

ROBERT: Yes, but Freddy is part of it. I wouldn't be able to do it if it hadn't been for Freddy. You see, in Europe there's' no stigma about horror, horror is like Jazz, Levis, it's something they love from America as opposed to George Bush and all that. It's like rock and roll or rap, it's a great American import, it's something they love. I've been going there for years, doing publicity, film festivals and I've gotten to know a lot of people over the last 20 years. Since "Urban Legend 2", I've been doing lots of non-horror which is really fun for me. On these low budget films, it's sort of like being in a Robert Altman movie. You're in Paris, Prague, Rome...it's really been a treat. By the way, I just saw a great horror sequence last night, I don't know if you and your friends watch Steven Spielberg's "Taken".

ARROW: The TV show?

ROBERT: It's on Sci-Fi.

ARROW: We don't get that up here in Montreal, Canada.

ROBERT: It's absolutely phenomenal. There's a sequence set in 1950 at the Roswell lab, there's a guy that's been abducted and they go to take out the thing the aliens planted in his head. Now the subject can make people have every memory they ever had of their fears surface all at once. So as they do the operation on him at a primitive 1950's used car lot, all the German Nazi scientists that have been brought there by the Americans and all the military guys go absolutely berserk while operating on him. They take the probe out...oh my god, it's like one of the best sequences in recent years in horror. You've got to look for some bootlegs out there. It's called "Taken"-- a 10-hour mini-series. It owes a lot to "V" my old show, Close Encounters, Roswell...it's really terrific stuff.

ARROW: Those are great influences, I'll try to check it out. Kazaa here I come!

ROBERT: Yeah...TAKEN.

976-EVIL, FUTURE IN DIRECTING?

ARROW: Last question, 976-EVIL.

ROBERT: Yes...

ARROW: I thought the film was flawed, but I also thought that you had a great eye.

ROBERT: Why thank you.

ARROW: I was just wondering if you're ever going to direct again.

ROBERT: I was actually asked yesterday to direct a werewolf movie, but here's the thing you have to understand. I love horror and I respect my fans and I'm grateful to my fans and I go to see every horror movie the day they come out. I'm like out there the first day "The Ring" comes out. I'm a good horror fan but it's not my best talent as a director. Suspense, thriller and effects are not my gifts, my gifts are in casting, camera, art direction and script. I should be doing movies like "Tender Mercy", that's really more my style. With 976-EVIL, I was so paranoid with all the effects in the movie, that I didn't have enough time to direct my exposition scenes and my character development scenes as well as I would've liked.

I did them all very simply, heads and tail to length the editing. It was a very low budget movie and the producers cut that all out in post because they thought a horror movie had to be the same running time as an action movie, when in fact with horror movies you can take lots more time. But my producers didn't know that rule and thought it had to be 90 minutes and that's not true. I could've had the movie down to 103 minutes.

ARROW: That would've been fine!

ROBERT: Nothing wrong with that. The point is that they didn't let me and had a trailer editor come in to do the job. So all the production values on the length of the exposition scenes were lost. Now my special effects came out pretty good, I budgeted enough time to get them in there and I had some really good actors and called in a lot of favors from Kevin Yagher and people like that.

ARROW: So what did you get out of the experience?

ROBERT: I loved doing POST on that movie, I loved shooting most of it and I turned in a really great rough cut and when it was taken away from me, it kind of freaked me out. I'm kind of like a junkyard dog in real life, I bear a grudge. Also, I had in my contract ever since 1985 that if I did television, I automatically get to direct a certain amount of episodes so I don't have to go knock on doors and beg. So consequently, I've been a bit lazy about pursuing directing.

STOLEN SCRIPTS AND ROBERT'S DREAM JOB

ROBERT: I also had, without divulging too much info...a script ripped off from me..

ARROW: That sucks! What happened?

ROBERT: From a very famous company who shall remain nameless. I had a script ripped off and the guy that wrote 976-EVIL, who is a partner of mine, he had two scripts ripped off and one of them was the one I was working on with him. It's just weird and I don't know if I want to go through that. Should I get angry and sue, or should I just keep acting and be a character actor? By the way, I was actually a character actor before Freddy, but Freddy made people learn my name which is great for an actor because before that I was just that face, you know?

ARROW: That face with no name we all know...

ROBERT: Exactly. People actually were worried that I was going to get stereotyped as a monster after Freddy, but my God, I got stereotyped as white trash for 5 years, the best friend for 5 years, the redneck for 5 years, the nerd for 5 years and let me tell you...it's better to be a monster than to be a nerd.

ARROW: (laugh) I can imagine.

ROBERT: We go through different incarnations in my our careers and now I play the Professors, the Mad Scientist, the Doctors and Teachers which is kind of fun. Having said that, I'll probably direct again, but my feelings say that it will either be on the stage or on television. Obviously if I could have anybody's career it would Jeff Bridges', Donald Sutherland's, or Gary Oldman's...somebody like that. These are guys I really love, but right now I just want a dream job.

I wouldn't mind being in "Tremors" on the SCI-FI channel, you know co-starring on that, directing a couple of episodes and not beating myself up so much. That's what I think might happen after the big Blockbuster Freddy Vs Jason comes out. I'd love to be second billed or third billed on a series like Buffy or Angel. That and directing a couple of episodes because it would be easy as opposed to spending a year of my life knocking on doors and making preparations for a movie. It's so collective when you direct. Now I'm a team player, but when I want to direct, I want to be boss. When you get to be my age, I'm a real nice guy or I'm a real son of a bitch: I don't have a middle anymore. That middle area got beaten up by road rage or something.

ARROW: LOL

ROBERT: That's sort of my feelings on directing right now.

ARROW: Fair enough Robert. Well, I won't take up any more of your time. Thanks a lot for the interview!

ROBERT: No problem and see if you can check out "Taken".

ARROW: Will do Robert. Take care!

ROBERT: You too John.

You haven't lived until you've heard the TRUE Freddy Krueger's voice cackle at ya over the phone! I expected a burnt tongue to pop out of my receiver at any moment. I've never felt so "fanboy" during an interview...I mean, here I am talking with a man who scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. Robert lived up to his positive rep, he was way cool, funny and very pleasant to interview. Thanks A BUNDLE Robert and New Line and keep kicking it dude! I now can't wait for Freddy Vs Jason!

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