Interview: The Life and Times Of Robert England

I have been a horror fan for as long as I can remember and one of my favorites has always been Freddy Krugger. So you can imagine my excitement when Robert Englund sat down and talked with me about his new film Night World and just about everything else. Enjoy…

Ana: You are known as a film actor, but also do a lot of television. Your latest film is Night World but fans can see you lots of other places. Can you tell me about that?

R.E. : You see me on Criminal Minds or on Bones guest starting on television, because I’m just a regular actor but I can still open a movie in Spain and Italy. When I do movies abroad or I do movies here and in Canada and their in the genre you know Horror Sci-Fi or Fantasy I’m usually playing a bigger part and I’m usually getting paid more because I been so loyal to the genre since I began in A Nightmare on Elm Street back in 1984 and thats a lot of the attraction. The size of the roles are bigger, I really like working in a lot of those films because I’m usually working with a young director and I’m respected and I get to put my two cents worth in and make some decisions about wardrobe sometimes and dialogue, even staging a scene sometimes so its more collaborative because I am older and I’m a veteran character actor within the genre and its fun. As far as me guest starting in a big time top 10 television show like Hawaii 50 or Criminal Minds its a little fast, the clock is ticking, they get you in and they get you out. Some times in movies it could be the same way, you know the great Lance Henriksen and I were talking a couple of year ago about this we would go off on location and it would be a young director and they really collaborate with the actors, again we get to put our two cents in with ideas about the character, what the character should wear, perhaps his props. I know Lance is very focused and  obsessed on lots of levels as an artist with his props, they really mean something to him its a real specific thing for him, he loves that he gets what to choose, he gets that luxury of discussion and time to find the right knife or gun or watch or clock or glasses and also sometimes you get to fix the dialogue if we think that a line or two should be corrected or maybe just shift it around a bit its just more collaborative I think on those films thats why I love doing them and I also have a certain responsibility to my fans to try and do at least one sort of dark occult horror movie or science fiction movie, or fantasy project a year for the fans and the timing is great on Night World because it would be coming out October 20th, limited release but its on Video-on Demand, its a little wonderful dark hp love craft treat for the fans. I know there would be more violence slasher movies out at that point in time for Halloween and there is a couple of Horror films that look interesting to me, we got BladeRunner out but this one is just a little bit different, its almost a ghost story in a strange way dealing with that kind of waiting room between life and death kinda purgatory between heaven and hell, kind of a weight station after death where people haven’t quiet yet found that energy, that energy hasn’t dissipated or found where its going to settle, its a strange kind of love story in it too. So I liked that but I found out that Jason London, I like Jason London I’m a big fan of Dazed and Confused. I knew he was going to be there and I know the producer quiet well. We worked on a number of projects together in Spain and Italy so I knew that he was going to be there and even though it was a foreign crew in an English Language film that I would be more protected about loosing some of the sense of the story in translation which can sometime happen when you have a director that doesn’t speak English or who is not really good in English because I never know what their translation says, I don’t know what their script says its translated into Spanish or Italian or even Bulgarian or Romanian or Russian or something like that I don’t quite know what their using in their language if the script is exactly the same in terms of idiom, theres a big difference between “get the hell out of here” and “would you please leave me alone” thats the line of dialogue and sometimes the idiom is not the same because its translated in a hurry, they don’t necessarily hire a literature translator, they just hire some one that can translate fast and cheap and their not always getting all the plot points or the poetry if its written in English. Working with Jason and knowing that Jason was in every scene practically and that he was protecting himself I knew that if there was anything he would let me know and my buddy Laura? the producer also has worked in enough English language movies over the years the he knows that that can also be a problem that we want to avoid.

Ana: Definitely, and it does seem that there was a certain amount of collaboration here and its almost like the of working in an independent or a smaller film really just so the voices of the actors can be heard along with the story.

R.E: Yeah, when you are working on small films and you know what, when people say “B” movies they don’t mean quality their talking about budget, “B” stands for budget and we’re always “B” movies. When I was a kid you would go to the movies and see two movies, you’ll see the big movie and always there was another movie, a lot of those were called “B” movies, they were budget they didn’t cost as much to make and many times they were better than the big “A” movie. Right now because I’m predominantly working in the horror movies and science fiction projects, they are big budget projects usually between two and  lets say six million dollars we usually shoot them in a month sometimes six weeks sometime less but its great because everyone does need to collaborate and become (——-) were all kind of in it together, staying in a drafty motel in Winnipeg  or its always the new foreign city in Europe and it becomes an adventure and its great fun. Again I was talking to Lance Henricksen and he sort of made me aware of this, how often directors on low budget films allow his input with wardrobe and props and dialogue changes and how he loved that collaborative process and I realized that was a thing I liked too that I was actually getting more of my two cents in more than normally.

Ana: Definitely, and I think really creating and forcing yourself to work in a smaller budget or in a shorter amount of time, instead of allowing the laziness to sit in that you have all the money in the world and all the time when you dedicate yourself, you get more.

R.E: It’s not that they are lazy, I’ve worked in a lot of big budget movies, it’s that with the advent of, specially with my genre of work with, of CGI. They think they can fix it with CGI, or someone would come up with a big great beautiful design that, that overwhelms the story points and sometimes they loose the story points or the characters, I think one of the reasons that V mini series and the limited series are so huge and they been going on in England for a couple of years is because you get this extra time to do the character development, we realize how important that is when you watch, when you binge a show weather its Narcos, Game of Thrones, you do anticipate a plot story and you guess and you wonder and you do anticipate character development and behavior of character and you foreshadow the plot and character development and motivation and you can keep a lot of the in your head if you binge on the weekend, maybe six hours of Game of Thrones over the weekend, you can find yourself really getting into the psychological motivations of the characters or the sympathies of the characters. You can kind of project that down the line as you watch it which is great fun for the audience and its really important now in our society because before The Sopranos, before GOT and before Mad Men , before Breaking Bad and before Boardwalk Empire, before Narcos and Bloodlines our attention spans started to shrink because of the internet, because of our phones we were getting into fights, and reality T.V and The Sopranos and these other shows began to demand that we watch slower and we think slower and we watch more and we watch longer and our attention spans is starting to come back again, starting to grow back in that part of our brain that responds to the narrative which is really important to human beings because thats the only thing that separates us from animals, that we tell stories you know it used to be like animals don’t have tools, well animals do have tools so people are wrong about that but they don’t tell stories, of course now I’m not sure but i think elephants tell stories but any way I’m just happy for that but I think thats really one of the great things, even when you work on a fast budget movie theres that collaboration, i guess in a weird way its more democratic i guess, its kind of a little democracy and I guess the big projects an afford to be and that doesn’t mean that theres not rehearsal, the luxury of rehearsal with the big projects and the luxury of design and the luxury of coverage and its also very important for the cinematic story, I’m not saying its either, or. When I first started acting in movies like in 72’, the 70s was the beginning of the low-budget movies as an art form the independent cinema began back then it was a renaissance in American film and I worked at some really big budget movies too with Barbara Streisand, but I worked on independent films Jeff Bridges, Sally Fields, Henry Fonda, people like that and we were all in our little motel somewhere we were all in it together, in this kind of great adventure. So when I do a movie like that today sometimes I’ll go off and stay in really beautiful hotel and it would be in Europe or something it would be an exotic adventure but sometimes I’m staying in a little funny hotel in Canada out on the boondocks and were all together and thats not a big shock in my system because I remember starting that way and I was down in the south  with really big stars but thats how it works, we all where down in the south my first three movies I was down in the south in limited motels, riding around in the movie cars, the cars that where there for the movie all of us going out at night and drinking at hotel bars, thats all there was to do, it was kind of romantic to me and sometimes its still like that on these movies its great, its like being in a little touring company with a theater group.

Ana: It sounds like that, yeah, it sounds very familiar to me I work in a lot of haunted houses, its very sweet to me that you are able to come up with the comradely.

 E.R.: Are you getting ready for the haunts this year?

Ana: I actually have been getting ready since September fir the haunts.

E.R: Yeah, I worked on a movie called The Mole Man Of Belmont Avenue with a bunch of second city people and a couple of them had a great haunt outside of Chicago in a corn field and they do this brilliant thing, their called “The Zombie Army” thats the name of the group, their all actors from Chicago but because Chicago is such a great acting town. Theres all the great actors that have come out of Chicago, Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Shannon, Carrie Coon from The Leftovers but anyway they use child actors in the haunted house and they make them pretend to be lost. So the child actors pretend to be lost and then the real kids that have gone to do the haunt with their parents, but they’ve lost their parents somehow so they go up to stranger adults and they’ll say “Mr. please can I walk with you, its scary and my mom and dad I think their ahead of me in the haunted house” so the parents will say “Of course” so when the kids do this, they kind of steal and control the focus of the adult so that the other scores and the cheat thrills can come out and attack the unsuspecting parent.

Ana: I’ve never heard of that, thats actually incredible

E.R.: It’s misdirection, its something a magician would do, they’ll take the hand of some parent and kind of lead them one hole while a guy playing leather face sneaks up behind them and cranks on the chainsaw.

Ana: Haunts are very creative, their absolutely incredible and it actually makes me proud that there is such a great community of people that genuinely enjoy haunted houses and Halloween

E.R.: Well you know they used to be so politically correct that now people are realizing that its supposed to be scary, I went to one I think it was outside of Louisville and these guys have a lot of money, I think they killed it in Silicone Valley and they did this haunt and they had a lot of money and they had the original Alien in one of the rooms, it really was the original Alien from the movie but the end of it was, you were in a completely pitch black dark room and you wen through these giant inner tubes from truck tires but they got smaller and smaller and smaller and they removed the little air nimble in them so it was kinda perfectly smooth but smaller and smaller you kept climbing through them and smaller and its all dark you cant see anything your just in this circle and you feel it getting smaller and you feel this weird inflated rubber kinda half inflated rubber and its black, its pitch black and its like a birth canal at the end your literally crawling through a little tiny tire tube and you step through and you take a few tiny steps in the dark and then they hung on something thinner than floss they hung pealed grapes and it was so disorienting those pealed grapes hitting your skin and brushing against your hand on this real thin you can barely feel it, then you walk out and all of the sudden they hit you with a strobe light and that was it thats the end of it and we do it again I thought it was creepy and these really great imaginative haunts.

Ana: That sounds really good, so where did this dedication and love for horror come about for you?

E.R.: Well I was a fanboy when I was a kid and I loved horror movies, going into the horror movie matinee and I loved going to sleepovers with my friends and watching the late late show and watch the original uncut uncensored Frankenstein or the Bride of Frankenstein.  We would go to the matinee and watch the Hammer horror films with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing that was usually a double bill, but then I became a theater actor and then I became kid of regional theater actor and I was classically trained in Shakespeare and did the classics Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw and anti-war plays during the Vietnam era and I was sort of a theater snob and when I did Freddy It kinda reminded me and taught me to respect the idiom again. A couple of year before that I had a girl friend and she went on to write Lost Boys and that was my tittle, we used to go watch these crazy Vincent Price movies at the dollar movie theater in Hollywood, Doctor fives and all of that’d I think that was the being of me, realizing that I can have a lot of fun with horror agin, at that time I was starting in movies with Jeff Bridges, people like that, I kinda remember think like boy, this could be fun this is really a great movie this is a great camp over the top and i think for me that was my understanding of the new subset we have now which is now horror comedy wether its Evil Dead or Nightmare on Elm Street you know the little bit of comedy thats in the horror movies, now we have Deadpool, Guardians of The Galaxy which changed everything, that was sort of my beginning.

Ana: You directed some horror comedy of your own correct?

E.R.: Well I directed one but the goal was to make it more like boys without drivers license so we tried to make it more of young people so we cut out some of the sex and some of the more violent scenes that I think that movie should of had, it actually hurt the movie I think, but yeah i’ve directed some horror comedy in the element of that like Fredy and i did 2001 Maniacs that had a lot of that sensibility to it and then I did movies that are just sort of clever horror, like this clever horror movie I did thats rapidly becoming a horror cult classic and it continues to attract more and more fans which is called  Behind the Mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon and we may be making a series with that I don’t know, were talking about that, thats a terrific project, one of the things I’ve done in the last couple of year that I’m really proud of.

Ana: Well then we can expect to see more directing from you then?

E.R.: Well I don’t know, it take a year of your life thats what I don’t like about directing films I may only direct theater again, at my age I hate giving up a year you have to find the financing, preproduction, you got to scout, and then you shoot the movie and the clock is ticking and you always have an upset stomach because your worried about money and getting all your scenes for that day and theres post production which I love and then theres the publicity tours, its a year of your life and my body clock is so adaptive to that of an actor you know, getting in and getting out so I don’t know if I can go back to directing so I’m not sure thats the best.

Well Congratulations on your haunt and I want you to scare people ok and my new game is out now, Im the scare crown in Justice 2 and I did my great virtual reality project in Spain last month and Campfire Creepers which is going to be great a whole new way to experience narrative story telling and besides Night World  I have another movie coming out soon and its called Midnight Man so you’ll want to be looking for those too. So thank you Ana and Happy Halloween

Ana: Happy Halloween  

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