Ready to decide who's a SELL-OUT OR NOT? Last time out, the majority of you felt that we either made too weak a sell-out case for the great Wes Craven, or that the man has simply NOT become a Hollywood sellout over the years. Well this here column, not unlike the last, will unofficially indict either an actor, director, producer, writer - basically anyone who at one time or another held clout in the genre world - only to ultimately kowtow to the powers that be and give in to commerce over artistic integrity. We'll present the case before you, weigh the pros and cons of the career decisions made, and leave it up to YOU, THE READER, to decide if the person under the hot interrogation lamp is indeed a Sell-Out Or Not. It's entirely your call!
THE CULPRIT: ROBERT ENGLUND
THE SELLOUTS: STRIPPERS VS. WEREWOLVES, THE MOLEMAN OF BELMONT AVENUE, LAKE PLACID: THE FINAL CHAPTER, "Charmed", "The Justice League", "The Batman", "The Spectacular Spider-Man", "Bones", "Supernatural", "Hawaii 5-0", "Criminal Minds"
Horror hall-of-famer Robert Englund has some 140 screen credits to date, many of which he tallied before becoming a horror icon in the mid-80s or so. However, not very many of those credits belonged to, outside his wildly popular ELM STREET run, a mega-successful blockbuster per se. Even for FREDDY VS. JASON, which opened with over $36 million in U.S. box office sales, Englund reportedly only earned $1 million for his reprisal of the iconic Freddy Krueger. You'd think the figure would be higher. Because of this, it's hard to accuse Englund of being a Hollywood sell-out, at least in the traditional sense of the word. He hasn't really abandoned the identity he's known so well for in return for piles of dough. Or so it seems.
No, the curious nature of Englund's career has more to do with his choice of projects post-Freddy, most of which reside in far inferior horror territory than his pal Wes Craven cultivated early on. Most actors fear being pigeonholed, but Englund seems to embrace his status as a legendary boogeyman, perhaps a bit too much, essentially being unable to say the word "no" whenever offered an asinine part. Danny Trejo style. Michael Madsen. But does knowing your role in the realm of horror cinema make you a sell-out? Has Englund really milked the genre cow too often, or, like most working actors, is he simply pleased to get a gig? Any gig. Even if it means doing a slew of voiceover work in the last ten years in more commercial, non-horror fare, or popping up on the tube in various pop TV shows ("Hawaii 5-0", "Criminal Minds", "Workaholics", etc) most recently. Is he at least trending toward sell-out status?
Anyone who's listened to Englund talk at length about his acting career knows he's a well trained performer (having attended the Academy of Dramatic Art). His background is far more varied and eclectic than his resume would suggest, and his intentions beyond genre cinema have been expressed clearly. I've even heard him talking about wanting to play a range of bit character parts through the twilight of his career, regardless of genre. So is the opportunity to do so simply un-afforded? Will horror cinema be the only place for Englund to play substantial parts? If so, it's hard to blame the cat for make a living any way he can. That is, until you see him in shite like STRIPPERS VS. WEREWOLVES, THE MOLEMAN OF BELMONT AVENUE, LAKE PLACID: THE FINAL CHAPTER, ZOMBIE MUTATION and many other listless direct-to-disc and TV horror joints he's recently appeared in. You start to wonder, Bob, what is up already? You're a goddamn legend, you should be able to be more selective about your projects. So maybe that's it. Maybe the powers that be have rendered him UNABLE to be so choosy? If so, he's hardly a sell-out. But if big Bobby E. is choosing such lame ass projects under his own volition, arguably phoning it in many times to boot, the answer just might be opposite.
THE GOOD STUFF: EATEN ALIVE, DEAD & BURIED, GALAXY OF TERROR, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (ENTIRE FRANCHISE), "V", 976-EVIL (directed), Many Others
For all the dreck and schlock he's appeared in over the decades, let's face it, Englund's highlight reel is stuff of legend. His longevity of playing a single, globally iconic horror villain (1984-2003) has to rank among the all time runs for any actor, much less one in the horror genre. It's the kind of feat of consistency that instantly catapults Englund into the horror pantheon alongside Karloff, Lugosi and Price...and no one can ever take that away from him. He earned it. In fact, most surely believed he earned the right to reprise his signature role in the 2010 Platinum Dunes remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, yes, even at 62 years old. The fact he was pushed aside for Jackie Earle Haley certainly seems like a stupid move in hindsight, though the last laugh likely went to Englund over what a terrible flick that turned out to be. And like his pal Wes Craven, Englund really had nothing to do with the ELM STREET remake, and whether it was his choice or not, you can't really call him a sell-out. Michael Bay, sure, but not Englund. Not for the ANOES remake anyway.
More, Englund has never really strayed too far away from his own persona, for good or bad. Sure, we most associate him with Freddy Krueger, but what do we most associate Freddy with? Irreverence, tongue-in-cheek humor, classic one-liners, etc. Well, no matter what non-Freddy role Englund plays, he never really leaves those traits behind. He knows his audience, knows his wheelhouse, by and large sticks to it, and stays true to himself in that way. He hasn't sold out his persona, regardless if he's slashing bitches up as Freddy or doing an evil guest spot on "Workaholics."
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK...SELL-OUT OR NOT?
As you can see, it's a bit harder to indict Robert Englund as being a typical sell-out. That's why we need your help. Is the man guilty or not? Sure he may have fed at the horror trough far too often to allow himself to branch out dramatically, but a sell-out? He may have played Freddy a bit too long, or made poor acting choices post-Krueger, but can you really label him a sell-out? Your call guys and ghouls. The gavel has dropped. Time to turn in your vote!