Robert Barton Englund (born June 6, 1947) is an American actor, voice-actor, singer, and director, best known for playing the fictional serial killer Freddy Krueger, in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series. He received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors in 1987 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master in 1988. Englund is a classically trained actor.
Englund was born in Glendale, California on June 6, 1947. He is of part Swedish ancestry. Englund began studying acting at the age of twelve in a children’s theater program at California State University, Northridge. While he was in high school, he attended the Cranbrook Theatre School in Bloomfield Hills. He then attended California State University for three years before transferring to Michigan’s Oakland University, where he trained at the Meadow Brook Theatre, at the time a branch of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Wanting a feature film debut, Englund auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker in the 1977 film Star Wars. After failing to get the part, Englund suggested that a friend, Mark Hamill, try out instead, for which in turn Hamill became famous. Englund’s first film wound up being Eaten Alive (1977). Since then, Englund has made over 100 appearances on film and television.
His early film roles usually typed him as a nerd or a redneck, such as minor roles in the John Milius surf classic, Big Wednesday (1978), Dead & Buried (1981), until he gained attention in the role of Willie, the lovably innocent alien in the 1983 original miniseries V, as well as the 1984 sequel V: The Final Battle, and V: The Series.
He then portrayed the psychotic burn victim and child murderer Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Frederick Charles “Freddy” Krueger is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of A Nightmare on Elm Street film series. Freddy is a disfigured dream stalker who uses a glove armed with razors to kill his victims in their dreams, causing their deaths in the waking world as well. However, whenever he is put into the real world, he has normal human vulnerability. Freddy is a vengeful spirit who attacks his victims from within their dreams. He is commonly identified by his burned, disfigured face, red and dark green striped sweater, brown fedora, and trademark metal-clawed brown leather glove on his right hand. In the 2010 remake, he was portrayed by Academy Award-nominee Jackie Earle Haley.
He appears in seven ‘Nightmare’ movies, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Freddy’s Dead, The Final Nightmare (1990), and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). Englund also played Freddy in the Freddy Krueger Special (1988) for MTV and Freddy’s Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series from October 1988 until March 1990. A spin-off from the ‘Nightmare’ series, it was a horror anthology series with each story was introduced by Freddy Krueger.
In 2003, Freddy battled fellow horror icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th film series in the theatrical release Freddy vs. Jason, a film which officially resurrected both characters from their respective deaths and subsequently being sent to Hell in their respective ‘last films’. The ending of the film is left ambiguous as to whether or not Freddy is actually dead, for despite being decapitated, he winks at the viewers.
Englund’s association with the horrorgenre led him to top-billed roles in The Phantom of the Opera (1989), Dance Macabre (1992), Tobe Hooper’s Night Terrors (1993), The Mangler (1995), 2001 Maniacs and Dance of the Dead (both 2005). He has also had minor roles in countless horror films such as Galaxy of Terror (1981), The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine (1990), Urban Legend (1998), Hatchet and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (both 2006), Zombie Strippers! (2008) and the Fear Clinic TV series (2009).
His work in voice-over animation includes magician Felix Faust in Justice League, The Riddler in The Batman and The Vulture in The Spectacular Spider-Man, and as Dormammu on The Super Hero Squad Show. Englund also made his directorial début with the 1988 horror film 976-EVIL; his second feature, Killer Pad, was released direct to DVD in 2008.
Hooper was then offered a contract by Cannon Films to direct three films. The first was a science fiction thriller called Lifeforce (1985) about humanoid creatures from outer space who eventually cause the destruction of London. The film was based on the 1976 novel, The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, Lifeforce was produced on a then huge budget of $25 million. Hooper was unhappy about the producers’ decision to change the title of the film from the “fun sounding” Space Vampires to the more serious Lifeforce. He was even more troubled over the producers’ decision to cut about 15 minutes of the film from the US release. Lifeforce failed to gross more than $12 million at the United States box office, but did well in overseas territories.
In 1986, Hooper remade the 1950s classic Invaders from Mars and directed the much-anticipated sequel to his first film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Due to the failure of Lifeforce, the budget for Invaders from Mars was repeatedly slashed by the studio, and the film eventually failed at the box office, opening to mixed reviews from critics. Hooper’s next film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, starred Dennis Hopper and had a budget of $4 million. The extra funding provided “Hollywood” production values in comparison to the microbudgeted original. However, the film failed to impress fans as it focused on black comedy and over the top gore instead of attempting to be genuinely scary. Nevertheless, the film now has a wide cult following. An uncut DVD version called “The Gruesome Edition” was released in October 2006 by MGM. It contains deleted scenes, a “making of” documentary, and commentary by Hooper and others.
Hooper’s film career stalled after the troubled productions at Cannon. In the late 1980s, and much of the 1990s, Hooper’s reputation as a bankable director was questioned due to the failure of the three films he made at Cannon. When combined, Hooper budgets came to a little more than $40 million, with a total box office income of $25 million. In 1989, Hooper had written a script treatment for a third Texas Chainsaw film, but never developed it further. Instead, he chose to focus on Spontaneous Combustion (1990), a thriller starring Brad Dourif. The film was shot on a budget of around $5 million, but was not successful. Hooper blamed this on constant rewrites and producer restraints. Hooper’s next film, Night Terrors (1993) was released straight to video. Hooper would end the decade with two other poorly received films, The Mangler (1995) and Crocodile (2000).
Hooper’s notable TV projects include the telefilms I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990) and The Apartment Complex (1999). He also directed pilot episodes for Freddy’s Nightmares (1988), Nowhere Man (1995) and Dark Skies (1996), and an episode of Tales from the Crypt; as well as the segment “Eye” from the TV trilogy film, John Carpenter’s Body Bags (1993).
New Line Cinema and Michael Bay remade Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hooper served as producer on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), which became a box office success, grossing $120 million worldwide. In early 2003, Hooper himself remade a 1970s film entitled The Toolbox Murders (1978). Toolbox Murders (2004) received some of Hooper’s best critical reviews in years.
From 2005-2006, Showtime aired the Mick Garris-produced series, Masters of Horror. Hooper directed two episodes, Dance of the Dead (2005) and The Damned Thing (2006). The series allowed Hooper and other directors “final cut” approval, which meant freedom from interference by producers.
Hooper has a new movie, ‘Djinn‘ set for release sometime this year, however it seems to be tied up in ‘production hell’ due to its controversial subject matter in the Middle East. Also, coming soon is ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D’ directed by John Luessenhop and written by Debra Sullivan and Adam Marcus, with later drafts by Kirsten Elms and Luessenhop. It is the seventh film in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise and is a sequel to the 1974 original film, immediately picking up where it left off. Filming began in late July 2011 and is due for release October 2011.