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Exclusive: Robert Englund Gives Us The Lowdown on Nightworld

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Nightworld

If you’re even 1/100th of the horror fan that you should be, then this man’s face to you is one of legend, especially for the character that he brought to life some 33 years ago. Freddy Krueger was his name, and aside from that wretched remake (personal opinion only – don’t have a fit), the charred pedophile that terrorized people in their nightmares was as entertaining as any charred pedophile could possibly be…sorry, but there was no other way to describe that. However, Robert Englund has maintained a lengthy career in television and film, and as hard as it was to nail down an interview with this man, somehow the evil gods smiled upon me and I got a call about 10 days ago, and Mr. Englund was on the line – he was packing for a trip to Spain, and was generous enough to talk to me for a few about his latest, Nightworld.

DC: What can you tell us about the film, as well as of your character Jacob?

RE: Nightworld was fun, man – I’ve always been a fan of Jason London’s and both he and his brother were with my agent a while back when they were younger, and I’d worked with the producer, Loris Curci previously in Romania, Spain and Italy before on a big project that lost its financing in Rome when the recession hit, so whenever he does a movie in Europe he calls me. This film was intriguing, and there’s always that aspect of “lost in translation” whenever you work in Europe, especially with a Chilean director and a Chilean director of photography with a Bulgarian crew and Italian producers, so it was tricky but I knew some people, and I’ve had both good and bad experiences over there. Sometimes in post-production when you have an editor that isn’t really on top of the language, they don’t know where the beats are, or where the joke is, or how to avoid the cliche because they’re not familiar with idiom, but with this film I felt pretty good. I think this is essentially a ghost story, but they really found that throughline with the wife – she’s spun Jason’s character out and he’s been drinking too much, and he goes all the way to fucking Bulgaria (laughs) to be a security guard, and it’s almost like she’s lured him there for some reason. Almost as if the seal has been broken in that particular portal to purgatory, I like that – she’s trying to get to him, and he’s somehow been lured there, cosmically with her in the void. I like the fact that he goes there to recover, and he then falls in love with this other girl, which ultimately enrages her and makes her jealous – I like the idea that the dead can possibly become jealous if we were ever to fall in love again, or do something like throw their clothes out – it’s all in the interpretation of the afterlife.

I’m playing a lot of these types of roles: the old scientist, the old father, the old doctor, and this one was just different enough to make me see Jacob as a Middle-European, contemporary Van Helsing-type. It’s funny when you’re an actor that sometimes the simplest things can help you figure stuff out, and I had him in my mind’s eye, and I was a little worried about playing a blind character, then I found a pair of glasses that wouldn’t let you see the sides of my eyes, and I have a relative of mine that’s blind, and he doesn’t act blind – he can barbecue and flip steaks (laughs). But there’s a certain tilt of the head that sightless people use because their auditory skills are more amplified, and I wanted to play a little bit of that, and the thing that saved me wasn’t going to “blind school” or anything like that…it was the hat! I wanted him to be timeless, and some old people aren’t really into clothes anymore, and in Europe especially, men are more elegant while we’re wearing Tommy fucking Bahama shirts and thong sandals with cargo shorts and bellies hanging out, so when you see a man overseas they’re more dressed up and elegant with clothes that are 30-40 years old, and it brings about a timelessness. So I found a Homberg hat and a jacket, and I thought “this is just right – I’ll just keep it on all the time” – I could imagine him coming out of some tiny, elegant apartment somewhere, and he’d gone blind and lost his job as a guard. The kind of guy that doesn’t really go out anymore, listens to classical music all day and sips cognac, and I envisioned him as getting excited to be called back into action – putting on his best suit and dress hat and good gloves, then going off to save the day. I find that in a lot of these parts I have to pitch the exposition and the backstory, but it’s fun, and had I not been loyal to genre work such as this over the years I might not have stepped into these roles at my age because in the 70’s when I was A-list, I was most likely the sidekick or best friend to Jeff Bridges or Susan Sarandon, playing the nerd, and those roles don’t really age as well, and they don’t really write for those roles much anymore, unless it’s someone like Morgan Freeman, but since he’s mostly playing God or the President now, that doesn’t happen! (laughs) It’s just a lot of fun to still do all this, and it’s really a pleasure to just be asked.

DC: Over the course of your career, you’ve had the innate ability to play the bad guy, the mysterious guy – those types of roles. Do you feel like those roles are more rewarding in essence than that of the “good guy?”

RE: Well, when I was in the theater, I realized early on that the bad guys are much better written and a lot more fun to act. The villains are always better written than the good guy, and there’s a place where that starts to shift, and the anti-here can really be fun to act if you’re the leading man, but I’ve learned that early on, and even though I was the good guy and sidekick I was a character actor, so I could always infuse a little something into each role – I was an albino best friend, and a redneck best friend – even a Flannery O’Connor southern-misfit best friend. Another gift that I’d gotten was when I came out of the makeup back in 2003, I’d had aged and my face had become a little Vincent Price, and a little George C. Scott – a little Max Von Sydow – a combination of all of those, almost a kind of Scottish lord, and it lent itself to playing these older types of roles, and it’s been real fun for me.

DC: There’s no doubt that you’ve etched your name into the annals of horror movie history, so at this point in your career what would you see as your “dream role?”

RE: Well, I don’t think I have the physical chops to sustain a long run of a play, and there comes a time when you want to control your ulcer and your stomach ache, and your nervousness and tension and worry, so I just go where I’m wanted now. I might want to direct a play – I’ve turned down directing movies recently because it takes at least a year of your life away, and I just can’t commit to that because who knows what else you’re going to be asked to do, and I’m constantly being surprised. In the last two weeks I’ve had to turn down a huge television show and a low-budget movie up in Oregon – it was a leading role, but I just couldn’t do it because I had other projects – you can’t be in two places at once, which is the actor’s nightmare – which is also why we make so much money, because you’re paying us for our time and we’re not allowed to get into bidding wars – you can’t make promissory notes to two different projects at the same time. I look at shows like “The Deuce” and “Narcos” or even “Game Of Thrones” and I see stuff that I could do in each of those. What I love about the new platforms and the limited series on Netflix and iTunes and Amazon is that they’re stretching our attention spans and taking time with the story, and we’re almost reading along with the characters, and it gives you an opportunity as an actor to surprise the audience. It would be fun to be on something like “Stranger Things” as a doctor as well.

It was at that point that Robert unfortunately had to cut our interview short as he was coming close to missing the window for his flight to Spain, but wanted to make sure that I’d gotten the pertinent info that I was looking for in this interview, to which I agreed. Perhaps some other time I’ll get the opportunity to wrap this chat up with a few more questions, but for now – Adios, Mr. Englund – can’t wait to see what you’ll be keeping yourself busy with in the future.

Nightworld

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