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11 Things You Didn't Know About Robert Englund

He's best known for playing one of the most iconic horror movie villains in cinematic history, but Robert Englund had already been around the block a few times when he debuted as disfigured serial killer Freddy Krueger in the supernatural slasher A Nightmare on Elm Street. Englund made his film debut in the early 1970s, and he soon found himself rubbing shoulders with many of the "top players" of the New Hollywood era. "I was around in those years; I could definitely smell the atmosphere, it was impossible not to," Englund told Daily Dead, adding, "I would go to dinners, parties, and the nerd at them would be Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg." He worked with some of the biggest directors of the day, but none of them impacted his career like Wes Craven did.

Englund wasn't the first choice when it came to casting Freddy Krueger. The documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy revealed that Craven signed English actor David Warner up for the role, but the writer-director had to look elsewhere when Warner pulled out over a scheduling conflict. He would settle on Englund, who had no idea he was about to begin a lifelong journey. "I played the character in eight films, so he's never really left me," he told The Guardian, adding, "I'm glad he's become this iconic bogeyman." The man behind the makeup has become a horror icon in his own right, but how much do you know about him? Here's the untold truth of Robert Englund.

Robert Englund's fascination with horror began in childhood

When he sat down for an interview with the Horror Channel back in 2007, Robert Englund admitted that he used to look down his nose at the horror genre prior to becoming Freddy Krueger. He became "this snobby, classically trained actor" during his theater days, despite the fact that he was "fascinated" by horror movies as a young boy. His interest was first piqued when he discovered a Hollywood picture book belonging to his godfather. "It was all the archival photographs from silent films up to the '50s," Englund said, adding, "I love the Frankenstein stuff, the Golden Age of horror stuff, and the photos of the sets and the one with [Boris] Karloff getting his makeup on and smoking a cigarette."

The young Englund would soon graduate from regular pictures to moving ones. He started watching horror films at an early age, and like the teenage residents of Elm Street that he would one day terrorize, he paid for it when his head hit the pillow. "When I was a kid I had really vivid recurring nightmares and dreams, some of which were motivated by movies I accidentally saw when I was too young," the actor told Den of Geek. We would love to know what one of Freddy Krueger's nightmares looks like, but Englund can no longer help us with that because he hasn't suffered from them in years and tends to "sleep like a baby" nowadays.

A Nightmare on Elm Street was a 'happy accident' for Robert Englund

Robert Englund had played "a lot of best friend roles" prior to his casting as Freddy Krueger, and he was starting to get sick of them. "I needed something more distinctive, and thought this little indie film called A Nightmare on Elm Street might be it," he told The GuardianHe was busy playing an amiable alien named Willie on popular sci-fi show when he landed the Krueger role, which he described as a "happy accident" in an exclusive interview with Looper. "I had a hiatus between the miniseries and the television series, and the only project that fit into my schedule was Nightmare on Elm Street," the actor said. "So I did it, and lo and behold, it was also an overnight international success. And it made me an international actor overnight."

Englund has made numerous movies in Europe and has taken part in productions based out of everywhere from Russia to Africa in the years since the first A Nightmare on Elm Street installment. According to the California native, getting to see the world is one of the major perks of working in genre films. "Horror movies, and science fiction and fantasy films, speak this international language," he said. "Horror and action movie stars, we cross the Atlantic and Pacific better. We're known in Japan and Latin America. And that was the greatest gift that was given to me by the success of my horror franchise." 

The time a bunch of nuns decided to camp outside Robert Englund's apartment

Robert Englund landed a place at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the 1960s, but he was forced to leave the prestigious drama school earlier than he would've liked ("You couldn't get out of the draft in those days," he said). Luckily, he was able to secure a place at a school back in the States. Being enrolled at an academic institution meant he didn't have to worry about being shipped off to Vietnam and was free to concentrate on his studies, as he explained to IGN. "I was able to finish up at Oakland University, which was sort of the Harvard of the Midwest at that time," he said, adding, "This was '68 through '70. And then, sort of overlapping, I began working in regional theaters."

By the end of 1970, he was plying his trade at Ohio's Great Lakes Shakespeare theater (best known for producing Tom Hanks, as Englund was keen to point out), where he proved a hit. The up-and-comer was given the role of Judas in the first regional performance of rock musical Godspell, which apparently went down very well with the residents of the local convent. "I had nun groupies camped out in front of my apartment," Englund recalled, going on to say, "It was bizarre!... I guess the play for them was so personal. This was right around the first sort of Jesus freak phenomenon, and this was in the Midwest, too."

Robert Englund tipped Mark Hamill off about Star Wars

Believe it or not, deranged dream-stalker Freddy Krueger and farmhand turned Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker used to be good buddies. According to Robert Englund, he and Mark Hamill would hang out on a near-daily basis in the late 1970s, drinking beers and watching sitcoms. It was during one of these sessions that Englund tipped Hamill off about a film called Star Wars, he claims.

There's a long-standing rumor that Englund auditioned for the role of Han Solo. That's not exactly accurate, though he did briefly meet with Star Wars casting directors, he's revealed. Speaking to Fantha Tracks in 2020, Englund explained how a failed audition for Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now (he tried out for the role of surfer Lance Johnson, which ultimately went to Sam Bottoms) ended up influencing movie history.

It just so happened that Star Wars was being cast right across the hall that day. Englund was already a fan of George Lucas, so when the Apocalypse Now people informed him that their Star Wars counterparts wanted to see him, he jumped at the chance. He was never asked to read any lines, but he had his photo taken. "I presumed — I say presumed — that they took my Polaroid for Han Solo," he said, going on to explain, "They just took my picture and talked to me for a few minutes. ... But I did come home and tell Mark about it, he called his agent, and the rest is history."

How he inspired a famous Kill Bill line

Quentin Tarantino has been gleefully cherry-picking parts from his favorite films and recycling them into his own work ever since he burst onto the scene with 1992's Reservoir Dogs. "I steal from every single movie ever made," he famously told Empire magazine (via Business Insider) in 1994, the year his Oscar-winning sophomore feature, Pulp Fiction, hit cineplexes. His first two films are both guilty of this (Reservoir Dogs is basically a better version of Hong Kong actioner City on Fire), and so is his two-part revenge epic, Kill Bill. Tarantino's hit duology is largely influenced by Japanese film Lady Snowblood, but there are references to plenty of other movies in there, including an early Tobe Hooper exploitation horror film called Eaten Alive.

Also known as Death Trap, Hooper's gory B-movie follows a murderous redneck who feeds the bodies of his victims to a giant crocodile that he keeps as a pet in the swamp beside his rundown rural hotel. It's not Hooper's most famous film (that would be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but Tarantino loved it so much that he swiped a line of dialogue from the opening scene, delivered by Englund's character, a customer in a brothel. "I'm Buck, and I'm here to f****," he tells a sex worker, a line repeated almost word for word by Michael Bowen's rapist nurse Buck as he stands over a comatose Uma Thurman in the first Kill Bill.

He had a very brief career as a rapper

Before The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air catapulted him to stardom, Will Smith was just another '80s rapper looking to pull ahead of the pack. His major label debut, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (the DJ being his long-term collaborator, Jazzy Jeff), spawned a hit single called "Parents Just Don't Understand". In those days, singles would be released on 12-inch vinyls with a B-side track, and those who bought a copy of "Parents Just Don't Understand" also got a song called "A Nightmare on My Street" when they flipped it. The Elm Street-inspired tune was reportedly considered for inclusion in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master at one stage, but execs at New Line Cinema had a change of heart and decided to sue Smith's label, instead.

It's not that New Line didn't like the idea of a rap song about Freddy Krueger, it just wanted to make its own. And that's where the Fat Boys came in. The rap trio was hired to write an officially authorized track about the badly burned killer, and "Are You Ready For Freddy" was born. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had to hire a knock-off to voice Krueger in their song, but the Fat Boys had the real deal. Englund starred in the music video, and he even got to bust a few rhymes.

Kris Kristofferson broke Robert Englund's nose

Country music star Kris Kristofferson was still pretty new to Hollywood when he was cast opposite Barbra Streisand in the 1976 version of A Star is Born, and his inexperience with fight scenes left Robert Englund nursing a broken nose. The singer turned actor took on the role of aging rocker John Norman Howard in the musical drama, which required him to throw a punch at Englund during a barroom brawl. "We rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed with the best stunt coordinator in the business, Hal Needham," Englund told Den of Geek. But evidently, things didn't pan out as planned. "On the first take, [Kristofferson] got me, knocked me back off a chair."

Kristofferson reportedly felt terrible about his miscalculation. According to Englund, the leading man invited him to his dressing room so he could apologize to him in private. "We had a couple beers," Englund said. "He thought he was allowed to hit stuntmen. I said, 'I'm not a stuntman Kris, I'm an actor, I'm acting here.'" Luckily for Englund, his nose didn't look crooked for long — Richard Gere straightened it out during the filming of a fight scene for 1978's Bloodbrothers. "Richard got me, too — he kind of corrected it," Englund told Access Live. "He kind of knocked it back the other way." All Englund has to do is touch his nose, however, and he's reminded of the fact it has been broken by Hollywood royalty. "I can still feel the bumps," he said.

He loves collecting Nightmare posters

Many actors have admitted to making movie props mysteriously disappear, and Robert Englund is among them — he stole the original Freddy Krueger glove that he wore in A Nightmare on Elm Street. "I just took it," he admitted at Monsterpalooza 2017 (via iHorror), adding, "I outlined it in red and green neon, and I floated it in a plexiglass box, and I gave it to my agent. He won't give it back!" He may have given up the famous bladed-glove, but Englund — who described himself as "a bit of a collector" in a Horror Channel interview — has managed to hang onto several other pieces of Freddy memorabilia. He's got everything from makeup molds to pinball machines in his private collection, but what really gets him excited are foreign A Nightmare on Elm Street movie posters.

Englund has seen some "phenomenal Turkish posters," and he's always been fond of Russian and Chinese ones. Speaking to Looper in an exclusive interview, the actor went into detail about an "amazing" Thai poster for the third film. "There is one from Thailand of the phallic Freddy snake from Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," he said. "He's swallowing Patricia Arquette, who's in her Peter Pan Wendy nightgown and arching her back in a combination of terror and pleasure. It's a strange, creepy, weirdly sexual poster. But it's an image of me swallowing an Oscar-winning actress, so I had to have it."

He starred alongside a host of horror icons in a Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies map

Robert Englund is one of five horror legends who featured in 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops. Englund was joined by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michael Rooker, Danny Trejo, and zombie master George A. Romero for "Call of the Dead," the game's ninth Zombies map. The Elm Street star admitted to being a "huge fan" of Romero in a promotional interview, and he was full of praise for the rest of his co-stars, too. "I'm working with Buffy, you know, and I'm working with Trejo, who I idolized," he said. "And Rooker! You know, I'm a fan of little tiny movies that these people have made."

Englund's Call of Duty gig came with an unexpected perk. Appearing in the hit game series introduced him to a new generation of fans and upped his cool factor at home. "My stock has definitely risen among all my nieces and nephews and godchildren," Englund said, "because Freddy's kind of old to them. It's sort of old school to them. And now that Uncle Robert is working on a Call of Duty, he's cool again." He clearly enjoyed the experience because he went on to work on a number of other video games. Englund voiced cosmic villain Dormammu in Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, a Terran emperor in Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars, and DC's Scarecrow in Injustice 2.

Does Robert Englund believe in the supernatural?

He's known the world over for playing the vengeful spirit of a serial killer, but does Robert Englund actually believe in the supernatural? His mother allegedly does (she made coffee for the ghost of a sorority sister during her college days, Englund claims), but what's his take on it all? When Den of Geek asked the man behind Freddy Krueger's charred chops if he thought there was an afterlife, he launched into a typically lively explanation that covered everything from famous cinematic monsters to energy fields. "I certainly believe that a component of our physiology is electrical — that harkens back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," he said. He further explained, "I don't know if this is ghosts or spirits. ... [But] I think it's just an energy field. I think that exists, so if you want to call that an afterlife, yeah."

Englund used to get involved in conversations like this one on a regular basis back when he was "a young hippie actor," he said. "We would sit around and get stoned and talk about the meaning of life and great movies and plays," said Englund, who recalled hearing a "beautiful" theory about death that stuck with him. "I remember somebody saying ... 'What if after you die, you just get to remember your whole life over and over again? There's just an energy of your memory left in the cosmos, and none of the bad parts scare you because you know you made it through them."

Robert Englund wants to see a Black Freddy Krueger

Robert Englund was happy to "pass the baton" to Jackie Earle Haley when the inevitable reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street was greenlit, calling him "a wonderful actor" in a 2015 interview with Rama's Screen. A few months later, however, he appeared at a convention and told fans that what he would really like to see is a Black Freddy Krueger. "I'd like to see Nightmare in the Hood," Englund said (via Bloody Disgusting). "I think it'd be really interesting to do a line of, like, retro-'80s-hip-hop ones and get a Black actor to play Freddy and all the kids are, like, hip hop. Just do it the same!"

A few years after Englund shared his vision for a Black A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jordan Peele dropped Get Out and helped usher in "a cultural exorcism centuries in the making," as Vanity Fair put it. The Black horror renaissance is well underway at this point, but for Englund, Freddy Krueger is now a thing of the past. "I don't think I'll ever don the makeup again," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I'm a little too old for that. I'm a little long in the tooth to play Freddy now. I think if I was doing it, it would be more like Freddy vs. Viagra." That doesn't mean he's done with acting altogether, however. Englund has amassed over 160 acting credits over the years, and he has multiple projects in pre-production at the time of this writing.