Winner Kills All
This Following Article Is From www.Creature-Corner.com
AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT ENGLUND
By Jason Pollock
Awhile back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Genre Legend Robert Englund.
And now, on the eve of Freddy vs Jason – a crossover fans have dreamed of for just about EIGHTEEN years – here are the results of that meeting…
Jason: It’s been nine years since you’ve endured the six hours in the make-up chair to do the “Freddy” thing. How much did you hate it?
Robert: Well…to be honest - I did hate it this time. I did a lot of underwater work – a lot of work at Jason’s Lake, Crystal Lake. And one of those makeups was a “Demon Makeup” - which was extensive. And the other problem was that they had to “double-glue” me - because if I was in the lake, or in a tank doing the underwater stuff, and water got underneath the makeup – I looked like a used condom.
So we had to put all this glue on, which means that at the end of a twelve…fourteen…eighteen-hour day – we had to take an hour and a half to two hours to remove the glue. Usually the make up comes off in about forty-five minutes - so that was a particular disappointment with the Freddy makeup on “Freddy vs Jason”.
JP: Who did the make-up this time around?
RE: A wonderfully gifted guy named Bill Terezakis, with a terrific shop – I wish I could take every fan of the genre to this guy’s shop. It’s in downtown Vancouver…and you walk in and he’s got every effects head, piece, and dismembered body part he’s ever made perfectly mounted in plexi – with little hidden optic lighting effects to them…wonderful old antique barbershop chairs that he does makeup tests in…and the shop keeps growing as you go back. Great Italian restaurant next door, Oyster Bar across the street, Bar next door – it’s just the best shop I’ve ever been to in terms of it being a true urban shop that every teenage boy wishes he had…or could go to work in.
Plus the girls he had to do me – I sound like a chauvinist pig – but one was just this beautiful, tall drink of water – the other girl looked like Michelle Pfeiffer – who could ask for more?
JP: You touched on it a second ago, but it would seem that Freddy goes through some sort of metamorphosis in the film – is this a full-on transformation, or a sort of temporary stylistic shift that occurs at some point?
RE: It’s a stylistic shift, and it is very different. It’s a little more demonic – hence “Demon Makeup”. The ears rake back, the head comes to more of a point - I wear contact lenses the size of saucers – it sounds like an old fairy tale – (affects a creepy voice) “Oooh, the dog…with eyes like saucers…” But they literally were...
The new technology is amazing. I hadn’t worn contacts for awhile in a film, and when I saw the contacts they got for me…sitting in their jars…I thought, “Oh my God, I can’t do this anymore!” – But you don’t even feel them when they’re in.
And then there are different teeth, which actually thrust the jaw – bring it out a little - like this (Englund renders an underbite that gives the lower half of his face a Brando-in-The Godfather vibe)…but yeah, it’s different - and it only happens one or two times in the movie – it’s his “pissed-off” look.
JP: I’ve noticed that lately, when not buried under three quarters of an inch of latex-
RE: Actually – I’ve gotta’ be fair. That’s my line - and I’d like to beg sympathy, but so many people now are doing more macho makeups than me. I was just in London hanging out with one of the Orcs – and they report to makeup at 2:00 am. My makeup is literally prophylactic-thin. It’s like a balloon, it’s so fine – and it breathes. It’s just a pain in the ass to put on because it’s itchy and wet.
JP: It’s come a long way, then?
RE: Well…it’s always been…they made David Miller make the original makeup thicker than he wanted because it looks so great in a “cowboy” (master shot). Kevin Yagher’s was so refined because he wanted to exploit the close-ups more.
JP: So then - sans makeup, you’ve been tapped to bring a bit of…effete snobbery to the proceedings. We go from the beginnings of your career – and the nebbishness of “Willie” to the sort of oily suave of the “Wishmaster” character Raymond Beaumont – what do you think is responsible for this shift in how you’re cast?
RE: Part of it is aging. I have a receding hairline now, and I have a rather dramatic profile…and part of it is that I’m classically trained, so I can handle flowery language a little better than some actors can.
I don’t know if it bothers you, but I hate sometimes seeing…an episode of “E.R.”…or some film – and they’ll have some twenty-year old playing a doctor or a lawyer – and they can’t even talk the talk. And I can pitch it – I can talk that stuff.
Another part of it is that - with the genre – the natural progression would be for me to play professors…doctors…so that comes into play somewhat.
JP: There are elements – a slyness, an erudition – in certain performances that raise comparisons to Vincent Price…sometimes it feels like you’ve stepped off the set of a William Castle film…
RE: I trained in London for a while, and I work a lot in Europe - so I know how to wear that hat – that rather erudite, elitist character. That’s not who I am, but it’s somebody I’ve observed a lot. And I also did that in my early days in the theater.
I was originally typecast as a southerner…and then I became a redneck, and then a “white trash” guy – then the best friend…the sidekick – then I was the nebbish, then the monster. So its sort of like chapters in one’s career, and you make peace with it.
Problem with playing those guys is that they really get a mouthful of dialogue – and lots of times, we’re called upon to do the exposition. If you’ve seen “Wishmaster"…or I have a movie coming out that I shot in Croatia-
JP: “As a Bad Dream”?
(this is a film from a screenplay by Dejan Dukovski - the guy who wrote 'Cabaret Balkan', a hardly seen, evil little movie that Paramount distro’d here a few years back)
RE: The real title for that – it’s based on a very successful play in Belgrade - is “Who the Fuck Started All This” – and it’s sort of intellectuals flogging themselves about how the Yugoslavian situation got out of hand.
JP: Then we have “Return of Cagliostro”-
RE: “Il Ritorno de Cagliostro”!
I speak English in that film – but it is an Italian film. I play a bad American actor in the 1950’s who goes to Italy to try and resurrect his career. He wants to be Kirk Douglas, he wants to be Jack Palance – he wants to do these art movies in Europe. And what he’s really doing is…he’s been manipulated by Lucky Luciano – and he’s accidentally laundering money for the Mafia in Hollywood while in Palermo.
So he shows up thinking he’s going to work in Rome, and he ends up working in Sicily for this INSANE director. And as soon as he’s done laundering the money they don’t need him anymore. They literally throw him away – and he’s too stupid to know any better.
The framing device for the film is…these film students are doing a research project on this insane Sicilian director, and they come upon this poor American actor’s story.
JP: So when you take “Who the Fuck Started All This?”…add the “Cagliostro” project, and then take “Killer Tongue” into account - it seems that you’ve become a marquee name for producers around the globe – do you seek out this kind of work for the locales and the lifestyle – or does this work come to you?
RE: Well, the work comes to me, but I embrace the work. I’ve been around the block now – sixty-two movies, three television series – and I gotta’ tell you, it’s more fun for me to get a housesitter, take my wife…and go off to make a movie in Sicily…or Budapest…Bucharest…Tel Aviv…or Malaga…or Almaria…or Madrid – or any one of a number of these exotic places I’ve worked…
…then it is for me to go out and guest star on a television show in (total “duuude” accent) “Santa Clar-eeeeeda”.
At my age, it’s really an adventure now. And when you’re working in Europe, or Africa, or in the Orient – you’re not a tourist. You’re working with people…you’re in their homes. And after you’re done shooting, you’ve been turned on to their favorite places. For instance – if I asked you what your favorite lake was here, you’d know a place that a tourist coming to Chicago wouldn’t know. So consequently; what I learn by working overseas…about hidden resorts, or great little boutique hotels in Northern Italy or on the Costa Del Sur – I get turned on to this whole new world as a result of just working there.
JP: And they’re places you can always come back to long after you’ve wrapped.
RE: Plus, this last movie I worked on was like being in a Robert Altman film – long lenses…lots of improv – it was great.
JP: The kind of stuff you don’t often get to do in American films...
RE: My reputation is stronger overseas. I don’t make the same money I make in Hollywood, but there’s a different discipline there. They look at me in horror movies…as sort of like a jazz musician.
JP: John Carpenter says, “In France, I'm an auteur. In Germany, I'm a filmmaker. In the U.K., I'm a horror director. In America - I'm a bum.”
RE: In America, I’m a “Horror Actor” –
JP: “Horror Icon”.
RE: And my movies make money – they built New Line Cinema – but I don’t get the respect I get in Europe. That’s the difference.
JP: In America, a Horror flick is where teenage boys take their date so they can cop a cheap feel. Overseas, filmmakers and performers have forged their careers and cemented their reputations with genre work – people see it as an art form.
Speaking of art - In “New Nightmare”, we see you doing some painting. The credits show that the paintings are not yours, but I’ve seen sketches you’ve done here today, and so I’m wondering; was an artistic side of you Wes Craven’s creation, or is this something real?
RE: I think Wes realized that I collect art, and I think he wanted that element in my character – so that was just his idea of what I might be doing when Heather Langenkamp called me – as opposed to frying eggs, or going through a Martha Stewart catalog.
JP: With news that a new “V” miniseries is in the works, I was wondering how you remember the original, and I’m interested in your thoughts on future installments.
RE: I think Ken’s idea was to really exploit the idea of a civilization under occupation. I loved the idea of the alien standing army as a metaphor for the occupation of Europe by the fascists.
JP: It was a great kinda’ 50’s war movie with monsters. It plays with WWII era fascism and Nazi imagery…and the 80’s Cold War-maybe-Hot War threat that existed then…
JP: “V” excited so many kids because it followed the cardinal rule of marketing – “Kids like stuff with monsters in it” – but you look at it today and it’s pretty dense. Conversely, “The Final Battle” seems to embrace its Action/Sci-Fi trappings. It’s been said that Johnson wants to abandon the concepts introduced in “The Final Battle” and the TV series – How easy do you think that will be?
RE: I like the subplot of the Star Child – because what they were eventually going to do there was introduce a sort of…Universal Christianity that existed on the planet that the Lizards came from. Willie was actually a believer in that - Willie was drafted…he was almost a pacifist – like a Conscientious Objector Lizard. That was where we were going with the series, but we never got that far.
I think it’s going to be difficult for Ken to jettison a lot of that stuff, because so many fans stuck with us through thick or thin – but I do know what he’s doing and I applaud it, and I’m ready to see the script and embrace it, because I love the idea…
JP: When things get under way, and you take meetings on the project, I’d recommend the title “Willie, Visitor Freedom Fighter”…
RE: (laughs) I think that Willie needs to sleep with the Star Child. Willie should get some intergalactic nookie.
JP: Although people kind of remember “V” as your first Sci-Fi foray, there’s always 'Galaxy of Terror' – or as I like to call it – “The Movie Event Horizon Kinda Ripped Off”...
RE: Yeah. Kinda-sorta!
JP: But I’m told that your first flirtation with the genre came when you auditioned for “STAR WARS”? Is this true?
RE: Yeah – I auditioned for both “Star Wars” and “Apocalypse Now”.
JP: You worked with John Milius in ’78 on Big Wednesday – were you in with that Coppola/Lucas/Milius/USC thing…?
RE: No - my connection with Milius was simply that I was under contract to Warner Brothers. “St. Ives” – Charles Bronson…”Blood Brothers” – (directed by) Robert Mulligan, Richard Gere, Paul Sorvino, Marilu Henner – great dramatic performance by Marilu Henner early in her career…”A Star is Born” with Barbara Streisand – and then I did “Big Wednesday”. I was under contract to Warners, and they knew me on that lot.
"Sure - I wore a satin jacket on ' Star is Born' - but I -- No, I don't think it looked "femmy", but you have to realize it was the style back then..."
I went to the old Warners lot across the street from the infamous Formosa Café – where Elvis used to hang out – and in one day, I read for Han Solo – which I didn’t feel right for – and I also read for the surfer and the Freddy Forrest role in “Apocalypse Now”.
Now, all those actors that did those parts were more right for those parts than I was, but the problem is, when you have to read for more than one part…and you’ve only concentrated on one…
I walked in there thinking I was only up for the surfer in “Apocalypse Now” – ‘cause I am a surfer – and I went in there real “Hey dude!”…And I think I had a pair of shorts on…and tennis shoes - which makes you look small. And I was in there trying to look younger than I was – I was trying to look like, eighteen – a draftee in Vietnam.
And then I had to be this sort of heroic…
Back then, I had a full head of hair and a pretty cool little beard – I could have gone in there with my sleeves rolled up, wearing Levis’ and a pair of cowboy boots – and at least gotten a call back for Han Solo.
I’m 5’11” in cowboy boots. I could have, y’know – rolled up my sleeves and done that kind of…(drops into a smart-ass smirk, gets a little swagger going) Bruce Campbell thing – which I can do – and I’ve done it before on stage.
But I went in there in cut-off shorts - old “baggies”, and a pair of Huarache sandals or something – ‘cause I thought I was up for the stoner surfer…
Then they had me read for the Freddie Forrest role – because they knew I did “Southern” so well. And had I known I was going to read for that, I would have gone in and done that part with a Cajun accent.
Because who is that character, really? He’s a Souse Chef from New Orleans. And as much as I love Freddie – I think Freddie Forrest is a great actor – I think the missing element there was to have had that wonderful Cajun accent. So it would be…
(crack Cajun accent)
“I gar-RON-TEE, ‘eesa FUCKING TIGERR!”
Y’know…when I heard the whole “Star Wars” thing - I instantly assumed you’d have gone in for Luke Skywalker…
RE: No – but you know who was on my couch then? Mark Hamill.
RE: Mark Hamill and I were imbibing every night after our many interviews across the great swath that is the Valley…and Los Angeles…and I had an R.M. Schindler apartment house up in Laurel Canyon on the Valley side of the Hollywood hills…
And we would come home every night – Mark would come in with the Heineken…and I’d come in with a Quesadilla – and we’d sit there…and we had rediscovered the old, original Mary Tyler Moore Show. So we would talk to our agents and watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
JP: An Actor’s Life!
RE: Mark was dating the most beautiful girl in the world, and he was such the Bachelor From Hell…his kitchen was so disgusting…he had to nail the door shut!
He would bring his girlfriends over to my place because he was the Bachelor From Hell and his kitchen smelled so bad – and I had the cool bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills.
"Look kid - one more time with the Satin Jacket/Star is Born thing, and we're gonna' have problems..."
JP: Wow…I’m gonna’ put us back on the “Freddy vs Jason“ train.
While some of the high-profile writers have been widely publicized – David Schow turned in a draft, as I recall…can you think of any other notables who took a crack at it over time?
RE: Well, I was flying first class to Europe to do one of these movies we just discussed, and this really tall guy is sitting across from me. And he can’t get comfortable in first class – this guy’s got legs for days – and finally I caught him – all knotted up and trying to get out his seat, and I said, “God, it must be hell for you when you travel.” And he said, “I just can’t ever get comfortable.” And he and his wife were on their honeymoon – they were going, coincidentally, to places I know in Europe.
So I was – “Oh, you gotta’ go here, you gotta’ go there, you gotta’ go – Bellagio, check it out – you’ll love it!”
Eventually, he says, “Y’know, Robert - I’m a big fan.”
I felt bad – I didn’t know who he was. He was the then-Story Editor and Executive Producer of “King of the Hill” – one of my favorite shows – and he had written one of the Rob Bottin drafts of “Freddy vs Jason”. So he told me a lot of the gossip – but I didn’t see many of those scripts, so I don’t know all of the changes it went through.
I do know that, when Michael DeLuca left New Line Cinema, whoever became the person who was shepherding “Freddy vs Jason” wanted to put his imprint on the film – and this is not any kind of nasty, gossipy studio politics – everybody does this. And it’s just the nature of how it works in any business. It has the green light, and you wanna’ put your stamp on it.
What happened was that…they started changing scripts a lot – long about 2000 - 2001. I thought we were going to shoot the movie in 2001. And we also went through a couple directors – I know Guillermo Del Toro was considered, and Rob Bottin…and they finally found Ronny Yu.
JP: And were you aware of Ronny Yu’s work prior to this?
RE: Well, I gave Ronny an award in France. I was on a jury with John Landis and Jean-Pierre Jeunet – who did “Alien 4” and “Amelie” – and we saw “Bride of Chucky”, at like eight in the morning after some bad French coffee – and we loved it! We wanted the French to get it – we didn’t think they were going to get it – but they loved it. So we flew Ronnie over and gave him an award.
JP: On the same subject, but a different film – Peter Jackson mentioned in a print interview following the release of “Dead Alive” that he was asked to script “FREDDY’S DEAD”, and the screenplay he turned in was met with absolute shock – he said that New Line sealed it in a vault so that no one would ever see it. Were you aware of this script? Did you get a crack at reading it?
RE: There’s something I’d like to get my hands on. That would be amazing – it’s something that should show up on e-Bay.
Yeah, I’ve heard about that, but I haven’t seen it.
"How would you like a Satin Jacket up your ASS, you punk?!"
I do know at one time that there was a double-ending script for “Freddy vs Jason”, and the idea was that - in all of the Hell Octiplexes across this great nation of ours - the tenth reel could be switched! So no fan of Jason or Freddy would know what ending they were gonna’ see. There’d be no way to calculate it, because all you’d have to do is switch out that tenth reel.
JP: It worked in the movie version of “Clue” - and it would have worked here.
RE: I think it would have been a great William Castle, John-Goodman-in-'Matinee', Smell-o-vision, vibrating seats gimmick, yeah.
JP: Though, for my money, nothing tops E-merge-o…
You command this role. It’s yours – it’s indelible – you’ve made it so (I’m sounding very James Lipton/Inside the Actors Studio here) – have you come to the point where it’s so instinctual and proprietary that you shoot down something a director suggests because it’s not something Freddy would do? Or is the nightmare reality so open-ended that anything seems plausible?
RE: You know, I have to really wear the “actor” hat whenever I do these. Every once in awhile, I’ll save them an hour…or I’ll save them some money on a stunt or something because I can figure out a better way to do it. But I can’t be a director - I have to be an actor on these films.
And they violate certain elements of the Wes Craven bible sometimes – the most egregious example would be “Nightmare on Elm Street 2”, where they really violate some of the rules…
But I’m working with Chuck Russell, who goes on to do “The Mask”…I’m working with Stephen Hopkins, who goes on to “Ghost and the Darkness”…I work with Renny Harlin, who goes on to do “Die Hard II”. These are terrific directors, so I’m not going to tell them what to do. Every once in awhile they’ll ask me, but other than that – we’re in pretty good shape.
JP: In an interview with Fangoria in around 2000, it was mentioned that you were operating in a producer’s capacity on the new film. Does that credit still stand, and as such, were you involved in the search for the director, script, and cast?
RE: No No No…I was never a producer on “Freddy vs Jason”. That was a misquote…or somebody got confused…what happens sometimes with phone interviews…
I told somebody on a phone interview once that I was at a party for Arthur Penn…beneath a statue by Auguste Rodin – and it came out in print that I was under a statue of RODAN.
(Everyone in the room is laughing at this point.)
RE: (flapping his arms) Moth-er-aaa! Moth-er-AAA!! That’s how bad phone interview misquotes can be…
So that must have been what happened – I’ve never been a producer of any sort on any of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films.
JP: Do you think that “Freddy vs Jason” places the exclamation point and the period on both series – or do you know that the time will come where you’ll don the Fedora once more?
RE: Rumors are that New Line is testing the waters…trying to reinvigorate both franchises – but not as “Freddy vs Jason 2”…maybe Freddy will appear in another “Nightmare on Elm Street” film. I’m sure there are two or three terrific scripts that haven’t been made. My feeling is that there has got a prequel to “Nightmare on Elm Street”.
So they’re testing the waters for the franchise…and for the “Jason” franchise – but I don’t think they want to get me out there mud wrestling with Chucky.
JP: If you don the fedora again, at least you’ll be younger and far more credible than when Harrison Ford puts the hat back on his head.
RE: Well, I’m very lucky, because I played Freddy – my idea, in the original “Nightmare on Elm Street”, was that he was forty-eight. That’s how old I thought he was. So that’s only a couple years younger than I am now. So I’m in pretty good shape with Freddy – unless they put me in that goddamned lake again!
I’ll tell you…Kelly Rowland has to go out and do her “Saturday Night Live” and her “Tops of the Pops” – because she has not one, but two #1 singles –
The impish gleam in Englund's eye and Kelly Rowland's winsome smile can mean only one thing - these two know where the rest of Destiny's Child is buried...(photo from http://www.robertenglund.com/)
And in the meantime, they’re takin’ me out – this old man – and throwin’ me in the lake, a couple hours from Whistler, Canada…in the middle of Autumn…
Certain body parts of mine are still up inside me. They’ve never distended. It was cold, I’m tellin’ ya’ – COLD!
JP: Most people are under the assumption – and I believe it to be true – that New Line Cinema now owns the rights to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, the character of Jason Voorhees, and – based on their production of “Texas Chainsaw 3”, and the impending distribution of the Michael Bay-produced remake of the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” - the Leatherface character. They have, in some way - perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not - created a pantheon of movie monsters not unlike the Universal Monsters stable of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s…
As much as it makes me sound like the biggest Fannerd in the history of Fannerds – you know where I’m going…
Freddy…Jason…they whip each others asses – but in the interest and tradition of male bonding – the fight yields a mutual respect and a fast friendship…Freddy and Jason drive down to Texas, hit a roadhouse, knock back a few Dos Equis…and in walks Leatherface – PLAYED BY KANE HODDER – do you smell it?
RE: Do you smell it?
JP: That’s money you smell!
It seems though that the opportunity exists in an oblique way – as you’re pondering a film that would see you onscreen with both Kane Hodder and original Leatherface Gunnar Hanson – what is the deal on that?
RE: I’m sittin’ on a script right now, at the side of my bed, back in Laguna Beach, California - and I’ve heard rumors that we’ve got the financing…
Gunnar wrote a script that is a “Blair Witch” prequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, where the source material for “Texas Chainsaw” – the original family that inspired the movie – are pissed off because they’ve never received any residuals or made a dime…
And so they kidnap these Austin Texas, Matthew McConaghey/Reese Witherspoon-type wimpy film school kids – geeks who are trying to make a documentary about the original source material…
And they take advantage of these kids…and have them make a movie for them – because they’ve written the TRUE STORY of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”!
And it’s a comedy.
JP: And you can’t beat that. Thanks for sitting down for my silly questions, sir.
RE: I love these questions.
JP: Wow – well, thanks. Thanks for your time.
Thanks also to Flashback Weekend, Johnny, Ryan, The Inspector and all the Creature Corner Kids, Stephen Lo at Abrams Artists Agency, Jill Pencek – and Robert and Nancy Englund.