Is it a remake, a reboot or a re-imagining?
Well, you can call it whatever you want but reinventing formally successful film franchises is clearly the latest trend in big budget Hollywood filmmaking. From comic book properties like “Batman Begins” and “Superman Returns” and James Bond’s “Casino Royale” and “Star Trek,” almost every franchise you can think of is fair game and the horror genre is no exception. With recent remakes including “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Halloween” it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided to take another stroll down “Elm Street.”
Robert Englund, the actor who’s played the demented Freddy Kruger in the “Nightmare On Elm Street” films for the better part of twenty years is finally passing the claw on to a new actor, Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”). While the world a waits the new film, Englund finds himself busier than ever continually working on films and TV. He’s the voice of the Vulture on “The Spectacular Spider-Man,” which he spoke with us about previously. Additionally, Englund has a new autobiography entitled “Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams” scheduled for released this fall.
CBR News spoke with the iconic actor about the upcoming “Elm Street” remake, its casting, the comic book “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash,” auditioning for “Heroes,” and how it feels to know that he will never play Freddy again.
CBR: The remake of “Nightmare On Elm Street” is currently in production, are you involved with the film in any way? What is your opinion of the new project?
Robert Englund: Well, they’re shooting as we speak in Chicago and it’s a real interesting cast. The actor playing Freddy, Jackie Earle Haley, I was a big fan of his as far back as a movie called, “Breaking Away,” which he did when he was older after “The Bad News Bears.” I had a friend that starred in that movie and I really liked that film and I thought Jackie was terrific in it. Then more recently, “Little Children” and I thought he was easily the best thing in “Watchmen.” I think because Jackie’s not real big, you know, I like the idea of his kind of energy and size. I always saw Freddy as kind of like an angry junkyard dog. I think there is something about Jackie’s size that will really lend itself to a kind of impishness and that kind of energy that I hope they let him bring to the role.
I hope they don’t completely mirror the original. I think it would be smart of them to maybe change the wardrobe a bit. You know, modify the claw and glove a little perhaps, I think if they’re going to have the fun of remaking it.
Clancy Brown (“Highlander,” “Carnivale”), who works with me on “Spectacular Spider-Man,” is in it and Connie Britton from “Friday Night Lights,” I think she’s playing the Mom and I really like her work. The lead boy (Thomas Dekker) is the kid from “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” a show that I was a big fan of that recently got canceled so I really like the casting choices. Michael Bay is producing and here’s a guy who can do anything he wants. He’s got the number one movie of the summer again and he must have some affection for the franchise or I don’t think he’d put his name on it. I’m not really familiar with the director’s work.
I think of any of the recent remakes, whether it’s “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “The Hills Have Eyes,” of all of them I think that the “Nightmare On Elm Street” original probably lends itself more to the new technologies that are available now with CGI and special effects just because of the inherent nature of the plot with the dream sequences and the nightmare sequences that take place in that kind of surreal fantasy nightmare world. We need special effects and CGI to create those worlds. I remember we ran out of money on the first one and certainly we would have liked to have more money for those sequences. They were a little handmade for us at the time. So I’m curious and kind of looking forward to it.
They’re also remaking one of my television series, “V,” and again I think it’s very, very different than the original. That’s interesting too. That will be a television series and maybe somewhere down the line I’ll have an opportunity to do a cameo on that or something. That would be kind of fun I think.
Any chance you’ll have a cameo in the new “Nightmare” film?
I think they’re shooting it right now. I just got back from Germany. Before that I’ve been working on a book for six months that comes out October 13th called “Hollywood Monster” from Simon & Shuster Pocket Books. So I’ve been just finishing up that which is really a different world for me to operate in. That was very difficult. I’m real happy with it but I had to go to New York and do the cover and get the publicity going. Then I was in Germany with Lance Henriksen from the “Alien” movies and “Millennium.” We were over there (doing a film) together.
I’ve also just finished an Internet television series called “The Fear Clinic” with Kane Hodder from “Friday the 13th” and Lisa Wilcox from the “Elm Street” movies. It’s just a really interesting cast. So this is a whole new world because we’re trying to wrap our minds around these sort of five to seven-minute “Twilight Zone” segments. You know, how to tell a little story and how to have it overlap into the next episode or as we call them webisodes. It was really kind of a shakedown cruise because trying to get storytelling consolidated into six or seven minutes a chapter is really kind of tricky.
So I’ve been pretty busy, I wouldn’t have been available for this “Nightmare” had they asked me, although I think they really want to distance themselves from the original because this isn’t a sequel, it’s obviously a remake and they kind of want to forge their own identity. I wish them well.
Is it safe to say then that fans have seen the last of Robert Englund’s Freddy Kruger?
I think so. I mean, there was a script floating around that was a prequel to the original “Nightmare On Elm Street.” At one time I had heard that John MacNaughton was attached. He’s the guy that did “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” which is one of my favorite films. I heard that it was a pretty decent script, now this was nine or ten years ago when I heard this. I probably would have to dye my hair now. Well I wouldn’t really have to dye my hair but I’d have to shave my beard. I think I could probably still play Freddy out of make-up. This was the whole story, before the parents burn him. I’ve always kind of wanted to have a crack at that.
But you know I’m getting a little long in the tooth now. I’ve got a full beard of white hair. I look kind of like a cross between George C. Scott, Trevor Howard and Ernest Hemmingway. I’m sort of playing a lot of doctors, scientists, mad scientists, fathers, sheriffs and things like that now. You know you always feel younger than you look and I look myself in the mirror, you know I was in the make-up for so long and I’ve been so busy that all of the sudden one day your face is different than the face you started with. I mean when I went into the make-up of Freddy Kruger I was a boy and I CAME OUT A MAN! It’s great you know I love playing bad fathers, sheriffs, professors, physiologists, mad scientists and everything because they’re really fun. That’s sort of what I’ve become now and it’s great to be able to have that kind of arc to your career but I think we’ve probably surrendered Freddy to a new generation.
This comes with the territory in Hollywood, they remake everything. I mean, I think they remade “A Star Is Born” a half a dozen times and even I’m in one of those. I did the one with Barbara Streisand so this has always been part and parcel of the Hollywood cycling and I wish them well. I’m kind of curious to see it. It will be interesting to see what they do with “V” too. I don’t know if they consulted with Kevin Johnson or not. It sounds interesting and maybe they’ll have me aboard for a cameo, I don’t know.
I’ve been going up for “Heroes” but I’ve struck out a couple of times. I’ve been going up recently for some really great roles on “Heroes” the last couple of months. I keep getting closer and closer maybe I’ll wind up with one. I was actually up for Sylar’s Father. I didn’t get that but the wonderful actor John Glover (“Smallville”) got that part. Then more recently I was up for another role and the wonderful actor Robert Knepper from “Prison Break,” who played T-Bag, beat me out for that. But you know, I’m in good company. I mean those two are both actors that I really like and think are very interesting. They’re both younger than me. I think T-Bag (Knepper) is probably like twenty-two years younger than I am so I might have just been too old, I don’t know? But it’s fun to get back in the room again and use those audition juices, especially since I like the show.
My old buddy Jack Coleman (HRG) is the star of “Heroes.” He and I did a series in the middle ’90s together and I’m a big fan of his and I’m really happy for his success on the show.
It might be fun to do something like that but I’m pretty busy. I’m off to Romania in September to do a real interesting little horror movie called “Web Cam.” I think Adam Rodriguez (“CSI: Miami”) is in it and Michael Madsen from “Reservoir Dogs” so I’m looking forward to that. I’m not looking forward to Romania. We were supposed to shoot it in Argentina, which sounded a lot more fun than Romania. Still I kind of like it, I play a real sick, rich businessman so that will be fun.
Finally, have you had a chance to check out WildStorm’s “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash” comic book or “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash 2: Nightmare Warriors?” If so, what did you think?
Well, I love the artwork. I absolutely love the artwork. I like the storyline but I love the artwork. I think the cover art is just phenomenal. I understand Bruce Campbell is a little disappointed. That maybe due somewhat to licensing, I don’t know? This was a feverish high-concept idea that had been tossed around at New Line for a while. I had some connections over there and I knew it was legitimate. I think perhaps one of the reasons (it wasn’t made) was because there was a decision for Sam Raimi to remake “Evil Dead.” I think he didn’t want to muddy the waters with “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash” if in fact he was going to do his remake, a big budget remake of “Evil Dead” which I think is a great idea to do for a new generation of fans. That’s probably why they put the kibosh on it as a movie but I certainly don’t think there’s any problem in having it out as a comic book. I think it’s kind of interesting and fun. But I understand though that Bruce Campbell’s nose is a bit bent out of joint about it because nobody consulted him or perhaps there were some licensing issues there, I don’t know? But I just think it’s a lot of fun and I’m really a fan.
There have been lots of Freddy comics over the years. Some of them are really nasty and violent about Freddy and some are less so. I have a couple of my favorite covers up on the wall in my office. But yeah, I always thought it was a natural progression. You can get a little more violent and a little more sexual with the comics. I know that fans and illustrators have been obsessed with Freddy since day one. I can’t tell you how many giant paintings, portraits and drawings I get from children and from professional artists all over the world sent to me of Freddy. He’s really sort of captured illustrator’s imaginations. When I go and do a convention or a personal appearance people are always giving me portraits that I have to ship home.
I think that probably the best place for the sort of magnification of that is in the comic book or the graphic novel. I’m waiting for a great graphic novel of one of the “Nightmare On Elm Street” films to finally arrive on a real coffee table book level. Like the ones I always see over in Europe, Brussels and especially in Paris in the comic book stores there. I really think that the image of Freddy, the imagination of the dream and the actual graphic nature of storyboarding lend itself to telling the “Nightmare” story. With “Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash” I think its fine, I think it’s a lot of fun. Again I just like the artwork, I think the artists working on that are great.
“Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams” is scheduled for release on October 13.