Happy 65th birthday today to Robert Englund, the character actor best known for his portrayal of the iconic horror-meister Freddy Krueger, who terrorized, slashed, and serial-killed his way through characters’ bad dreams in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street film series.
Englund, born in Glendale, CA, in 1947, began acting at the age of 12 in a local children’s theater program in his hometown. He stayed with acting, and by the 1970s, he was fresh out of drama school, looking for leading man parts. Englund was one of the many struggling actors at the time who tried out for the role of Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’ epic sci-fi classic Star Wars. After bouncing around Hollywood for a few more years, being typecast in smaller roles as either a nerd or a redneck character, he finally landed a role in 1983 on the original version of the aliens-attack-Earth TV series V. Portraying the character of Willie, a kinder, gentler, almost lovable alien so to speak, it was a stark contrast to the typical bloodthirsty devoid of scruples stereotypes of how alien characters were usually portrayed in various mediums. A year later, after V ran its course and was cancelled, Englund landed the role which brought him fame and iconic status, that of Freddy Krueger.
Freddy Krueger, with his burned, charred visage, his sinister wisecracking and unapologetic demeanor, brown fedora hat, red and dark green striped sweater, and his trademark, a metal-clawed leather glove replete with razor blades on each finger, became the anti-hero of the 1980s. He was a character which entered horror movie folklore and took its rightful place alongside its predecessors in Halloween’s Michael Myers and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhies, and became the inspirational bridge for characters to follow in Hellraiser’s Pinhead and Child’s Play’s Chucky.
Audiences loved every moment of the Krueger style. He became a pop culture icon, his visage beamed from posters sold from coast to coast and there were even sales of his trademark hat, clothing, and of course his glove, watered down immensely of course for the young audience, with plastic razors replacing the genuine article. Englund appeared as Krueger eight times in eight separate releases, spanning almost 20 years. Krueger even appeared as the host of a horror anthology Tales From the Crypt/Twilight Zone-style syndicated television show called Freddy’s Nightmares which ran from 1988 to 1990.
In 1988, Englund tried his hand at directing, helming the largely forgotten curio 976-EVIL, and a second feature, a straight to DVD release entitled Killer Pad which was released in 2008. Since his tenure in the Nightmare on Elm Street series ended in 2003, Englund has remained a viable force in the horror genre world. He continues to make appearances at horror conventions annually, and still works in Hollywood; he made appearances on television series such as Bones and Hawaii Five-O, and lent his voice to the character of Myglom on Green Lantern: The Animated Series.
So a tip of the Freddy hat today to Robert Englund, who will certainly never be forgotten by horror fans around the world, fans by the millions who used to have the hardest time trying to fall asleep after they saw his Nightmare films, because his Freddy Krueger would be the last guy any of them would want to run into, once their rapid eye movement took place and their dreams turned into nightmarish fantasies.