What type of actor does it take to bring to life one of the scariest monsters in horror film history?
A damn good one!
Seriously, Robert Englund is a truly underrated actor. Of course, we all know him best as the original Freddy Krueger. Whenever I watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street, I’m always surprised by just how scary Englund actually was in that role. Some of the sequels got a bit too gimmicky and Freddy sometimes seemed to spend more time coming up with one-liners than actually killing people but, in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy is truly terrifying. Wes Craven deserves a lot of credit for that, of course. But Robert Englund truly throws himself into that dark role, bringing Freddy to nightmarish life. Reportedly, Craven’s original choice for Freddy was the British actor David Warner. It’s nothing against Warner (who is a very fine actor who has played many memorable villains) or, for that matter, Jackie Earle Haley (who took over the role in the 2010 reboot) to say that, after watching the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Robert Englund in the role.
What is often forgotten is that Robert Englund was a fairly successful character actor before finding fame as Freddy. It’s not an uncommon occurrence that I’ll be watching an older movie from the 70s and suddenly, out of nowhere, Robert Englund will pop up in a small role. Interestingly enough, pre-Nightmare Englund seemed to specialize in playing nice guys. Sure, he played an occasional creep but, usually, it was far more likely that Englund would be cast as the hero’s best friend or sidekick.
Add to that, I have never heard anyone say a word against Robert Englund. I have never once heard about him being a jerk to his fans. I’ve never heard any stories about his being difficult on a set. Every story that I’ve heard about Robert Englund describes him as being friendly, gracious, and easy-going, almost the exact opposite of Freddy Krueger.
That’s certainly the impression that I got from reading Englund’s autobiography. Published in 2009, Hollywood Monster is quite literally one of the most likable Hollywood memoirs that I’ve ever read. This memoir is full of stories about both Englund’s early career and his time as a horror movie icon and yet, never does Englund seem to have a bad word to say about … well, anything. Instead, he writes about encouraging his friend Mark Hamill to audition for Luke Skywalker in Star Wars or how his co-stars all dealt with being victims in the latest Nightmare on Elm Street film. The book’s tone is cheerful even when talking about what it’s like to be typecast as everyone’s favorite dream killer. For a Hollywood monster, Robert Englund comes across as being disarmingly likable.
If this memoir was by any other actor, I would complain about the lack of cynicism and bitterness. But, in Englund’s case, it’s actually kind of sweet. It’s also rather impressive. Who would have guessed that such a nice guy could give everyone nightmares? That’s the power of good acting.
Anyway, Hollywood Monster is an entertaining and often very funny Hollywood memoir. It’s a fun read and one that I suggest for horror fans everywhere.