Anyone who has followed these Tech Rap articles knows I am a huge horror film fan. I have never been on a roller coaster and probably never will, but for me, a horror film is like being on a roller coaster with much more comfortable seating and no vomiting. I have had the great pleasure of meeting and/or obtaining autographs from many great horror-related stars over the years. Some of those celebrities include Tobin Bell (“Saw”), Gaylen Ross (“Dawn of The Dead”), Sid Haig (RIP) (“House of 1,000 Corpses”), Judith O’Dea (“Night of The Living Dead”), Kane Hodder (“Friday the 13th”), Linnea Quigley (“The Return of The Living Dead”), Bruce Campbell (“Evil Dead”), Adrienne King (“Friday the 13th”), John Landis (Director), Linda Blair (“The Exorcist”), Alex Vincent (“Child’s Play”), Heather Langenkamp (“Nightmare on Elm Street”), Andrew Divoff (“Wishmaster”), P.J. Soles (“Halloween”), Joe Bob Briggs (movie host), Rhonda Shear (movie host), Douglas Bradley (“Hellraiser”), and Brinke Stevens (80’s scream queen). Oh, and there is one other…
Twenty some odd years ago this month I met Freddy Krueger in person and it was not in a nightmare. Okay, I did not actually meet Kruger (if I had, I would not be alive to write this), but I met the man who played him in eight “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, Robert Englund. Englund was appearing at Spooky World in MA as himself along with other spooky celebrities like Elvira, who was dressed in character (thank you, Lord). There were two separate lines for each of them and both lines were very long. I knew I would be unable to get through both lines in time, so I had to make one of the most important decisions of my life…meet an extremely attractive TV host with ample cleavage, or a lanky child killer. I chose the latter.
Hours passed and I found myself still waiting in line when it was time for the celebrities to leave. I could not believe I had paid to stand in line all night and would walk away with nothing to show for it except serious pain from my sciatica. Elvira rose and in an elevated voice, apologized to her many fans standing in shock before her for having to leave. She was clearly distraught about abandoning her devotees. To everyone’s surprise, Englund remained at his seat, giving all of us in line the chance to meet him. Without even knowing it, it was at that precise moment I officially became a Fred Head. The very first thing I did when I approached Englund was to thank him for working overtime. I found him gracious and down to earth. I have since attended many conventions and I do not think I have ever seen a celebrity stay past their scheduled time (and more than a few were nowhere near as nice). Unfortunately for me, these were the days before cell phones, and I did not own a camera, so I never captured this once in a lifetime, momentous Kodak moment of me and Robert together. I should add that Englund had injured himself and the Spooky World staff had to wheel him in on a wheelbarrow as a sort of improvised wheelchair! Freddy would not have had it any other way.
“…I had to make one of the most important decisions of my life…meet an extremely attractive TV host with ample cleavage, or a lanky child killer. I chose the latter.”
Though Englund will forever be “Freddy”, he was actually a classically trained actor and has appeared in over seventy-five films, four TV series (including the original “V”), guest starred on a slew of TV episodes like “Criminal Minds”, “Bones”, and “Hawaii 5-O”, voiced a variety of animated characters, and has also directed. Much to the delight of Fred Heads everywhere, he briefly reprised his role as Freddy Krueger in a 2018 TV episode of “The Goldbergs”. He turned 73 years old four months ago and recently declared himself “too old” to play the character, suggesting such a film would have to be called “Freddy vs. Viagra”. His loyal legion of fans respectfully, beg to differ.
Becoming Freddy for “Nightmare on Elm Street” was no easy undertaking. It took Englund about four hours to get into the makeup (longer if he was in a chatty mood) which consisted of at least a dozen different pieces of latex foam glued to his face, Freddy’s rotten teeth, and when called for, contact lenses.
“…[he] recently declared himself “too old” to play the character, suggesting such a film would have to be called “Freddy vs. Viagra”.
“Nightmare on Elm Street” was released thirty-six years ago next month. It received rave reviews and according to Wikipedia, raked in $57 million worldwide. Not bad for a film that cost $1.8 million, was shot in just 32 days, and had been rejected outright by all the major Hollywood studios. In the end, New Line Cinema produced and released the movie, and its success earned the studio the nickname, “The House that Freddy built.”
For this secret Halloween Tech Rap, I present my exclusive interview with Robert Englund, immediately followed by an exclusive interview with Ronne Blakley who played “Nancy’s” mother, Marge Thompson.
Peter: Freddy’s voice and laugh were deep and sinister. Did you manage that naturally or was your voice altered afterwards?
Robert: “I did a character voice which was then slowed down using verispeed to make it deeper.”
Peter: Do you know what became of the original ‘knife glove’?
Robert: “Wes Craven loaned it to the production company for re-shoots on ‘Nightmare 2’. There was some hinky industrial espionage afoot, fan boys posing as crew members, so I took the glove home and ended up giving it to my agent who had it stuffed, outlined in red and green neon and framed.”
Peter: Please share a memorable blooper or a funny moment from shooting the first ‘NOES’ film.
Robert: “The prop glove was a new experience and I had to constantly remind myself I was wearing it lest I involuntarily pick my nose.”
Peter: Were you surprised at the first film’s success?
Robert: “I was elated that audiences discovered this little dark gem that we all worked so hard to create.”
Peter: As the sequels progressed, the Freddy character seemed to become more comedic. Did that bother you?
Robert: “Fans loved Freddy’s wicked sense of humor and demanded more. Many scenes were filmed with a dark ending or a laugh for a button and the editors often chose the joke.”
Peter: What was your strangest experience with a fan (so far)?
Robert: “My strangest experience was with a ‘Willie’ (from “V”) fan who followed me around and showed up to public events for years dressed like Willie.”
Peter: Is it true your father helped design the U2 spy plane?
Robert: “Yes, my father worked at Lockheed-Martin and was part of the team that designed the U-2.”
Peter: What kind of music do you listen to most and do you prefer CDs, records, or streaming?
Robert: “Mostly I listen to satellite radio in the car, anything from soul to reggae to Sinatra to contemporary acoustic music.”
Peter: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
Robert: “There was a high-quality skeleton costume I was quite partial to. “
PS: If you were a zombie, who would you want to eat first?
Robert: “If by eating his brain I could be imbued with his talent I would eat Bruno Mars’ brain so I could perform music as brilliantly as he does.”
- Thanks very much to Robert for his time, and for the years of scares and laughs, and to his wife, Nancy, for facilitating this interview.
Got Robert? Catch him as host and narrator of The Travel Channel’s “True Terror” series where he uncovers scary true stories from America’s past.
Trivia: The American Film Institution’s “Top 100 list of 100 Heroes and Villains” lists Englund at #40 for his role as Freddy Krueger. Cruella De Vil (“One Hundred and One Dalmatians”) is #39 while Joan Crawford (“Mommy Dearest”) ranks #41.
“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again.” – Nursery rhyme from “Nightmare on Elm Street”.
Ronee Blakley starred in “Nightmare on Elm Street” as Marge Thompson, the divorced, alcoholic, disbelieving mother of teenage daughter, Nancy. Marge meets her end by being yanked through a small window by Freddy Kruger…a death only Freddy could conceive of. I conducted a quick email Q&A with Blakley just a few days ago:
PS: How did you land the role of Marge Thompson in “NOES”?
RB: “I got the role through my former husband’s secretary, who worked for the producers. She suggested me so I went in to meet Wes and was hired.”
PS: What is your fondest memory of making the film?
RB: “My favorite scene of mine is the furnace room.”
PS: Please share a blooper or funny moment during filming.
RB: “We worked with fire too close to my face for union rules so it had to be cut.”
PS: When “Freddy’s” arms break through the little window in the front door towards the end of the movie, you really looked scared. Did it actually scare you?
RB: “I was truly scared when being yanked through the window!”
PS: What did you think when you first saw the entire film from start to finish?
RB: “My first real viewing was in Times Square with the public who screamed and laughed their way through it.”
PS: Did you have any idea the film would be such a success?
RB: “After reading the script, I thought it would be a hit.”
PS: “Did you see the remake? What was your opinion?”
RB: “No, I did not see the remake.”
PS: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?
RB: “I liked being a witch or a devil.”
Trivia: Almost a decade before “Nightmare on Elm Street”, Blakley sang on Bob Dylan’s “The Hurricane” and toured with his “Rolling Thunder Revue”.
John Saxon as Nancy’s father, “Lt. Donald Thompson”, died in July of this year at age 83. Memorable quote from “Nightmare on Elm Street”: “Just tell me who did it. I’ll go get him, baby.”
Wes Craven, Writer and Director of “Nightmare on Elm Street”, died in August of 2015 at age 76 from a brain tumor. Memorable quote (from his daughter, Jessica): “Dad, girls don’t fall down every time they run.”
General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org