The actor, known for his work as Freddy in the Nightmare on Elm Street films, also chimes in on fans hoping The Duffer Brothers or Shawn Levy take over the horror franchise.
Robert Englund’s path to the world of “Stranger Things” wasn’t a direct line, but a path marked with slight disappointment … and bathroom audition tapes.
The actor, known for his work playing Freddy Krueger in every “Nightmare on Elm Street” film since 1984 outside of the remake, was recruited to play Victor Creel on the Netflix show’s fourth season. And while the season as a whole and its Big Bad, Vecna, were clearly inspired by the NOES movies, Englund’s vital cameo was pure coincidence.
According to the Duffer Brothers, they just happened upon his audition tape — which showed him performing Creel’s all-important monologue, while lying in a bath tub.
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“My wife’s filming me on a smart phone, sitting on the toilet seat!” exclaimed Englund when TooFab caught up with him after the Season 4, Volume 1 drop. “I had to audition. I’m not sure, at the time of the audition, that I even knew how extensive the makeup was going to be on my eyes. I put on a white bathrobe and I sat against some white tile, so it looked like I might be in an asylum and wearing an old bathrobe.”
He said his goal with the taped audition was to prove he could “do justice to the rhythms the writers had put into this incredible monologue that tells the story of the Creel family and of his children, Henry and Alice, and his wife Virginia and this terrible haunting of the house they moved into.”
Of course, viewers now know the so-called “haunting” was really Victor’s son Henry putting his telekinetic powers to use after the family moved to Hawkins. While Victor was imprisoned for murdering his wife and daughter, Henry was actually the perpetrator — and went on to become Brenner’s original test subject, One. Henry eventually went full-evil and was sent to the Upside Down by Eleven, where he was transformed into Vecna.
“I hadn’t really guessed that Henry was going to be Vecna, but I did know that [Victor] idolized his children and he was incredibly damaged and in denial about the horrors that happened in World War II,” Englund said of his audition. “So I just tried to get the dialogue going, I hadn’t really memorized it but I was familiar with it, so I improvised a little bit. I kind of consolidated it a little bit, but I wanted them to see that I knew it was important that I tell that story. I knew there were going to be flashbacks, it wouldn’t all be me, but my only worry was having the emotion going between the narration of the flashbacks and the actual seeing me in my cell, to have it match up.”
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But Victor wasn’t the first role on the show for which Englund had auditioned.
“I had been up for a role in Season 3 that I didn’t get and I was disappointed, because I love the show,” he explained. “I began as a huge fan of Millie Bobby Brown and I’m a big fan of David Harbour, I thought he brought some great rough edges to the show and the guy could be an action star, he’s tall and big and throws a mean punch. He stole the show in Black Widow. I wanted to be part of the show because I loved it so much and I loved the kids.”
“I went in for the mayor and I think they changed the way they wanted him,” he then revealed. “When I went in, they kind of wanted him like the mayor in ‘Jaws,’ they wanted him kind of corrupt, almost like a cheap used car salesman. They told me the mayor in ‘Jaws’ and I imagined some guy in a plaid jacket and I played him older and greedy and I think they needed someone younger because I think he gets blackmailed because he has a mistress … so I wasn’t right for that.”
The Mayor Kline role went to Cary Elwes instead.
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Englund appears in the “Dear Billy” episode of the fourth season, a true highlight of not only the new episodes, but series as a whole. Between Victor’s backstory and Max’s battle against Vecna in the Upside Down, it’s one helluva 80 minutes, all directed by Shawn Levy. Levy’s work on the episode and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” vibes throughout the season had fans thinking Levy or the Duffer Brothers would be perfect to take over the reigns to the NOES franchise — something Englund didn’t rule out.
“Shawn Levy is amazing. He’s a genius and Shawn seems to be like editing while he’s working and seems to be a day ahead of everybody. I haven’t worked with The Duffer Brothers as directors. I’ve hung out with them a little bit and they’re great and I know they’re huge, huge fans of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise,” he said.
“Because I don’t know how much of a fan Shawn is of the franchise, because [the Duffers are] fans, maybe they’re the ones to have do it,” he continued. “Whoever does it needs to keep what’s essential to the franchise, but they also have to either do it period or bring it up to date and make it contemporary and freshen it up. That’s a big decision.”
And should they — or anyone — try to bring Freddy back to the big screen, Englund is in. Just don’t expect him to don that fedora and glove again anytime soon.
“I would like to do a cameo if they ever remake [third ‘Nightmare’ film] ‘Dream Warriors’, because I think it would be fun for me to play one of the therapists that doesn’t believe in the collective nightmare that the kids are all experiencing,” he said, “as a nice little gift to the fans.”
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For now, fans are thrilled to see Englund on “Stranger Things” and the actor, who just turned 75 this week, is definitely feeling the love.
“I am. I’ve been busy the last month and so I wasn’t thinking about it,” he said. “And then ‘Stranger Things’ came out and I couldn’t do any pre-publicity without it being a spoiler alert, so I had to wait. It’s fun now. I’m just now getting all the love.”
“I was able to watch it and have fun watching it, but I was busy doing these other projects and it’s good they kept my mind off of the show because I had to keep my mouth shut or Netflix would come and throw me in prison!” he joked. “I’m really grateful not only for the success and the fact the fan response has been positive and the reviews are great, but also I understand that it’s absolutely huge and off the charts in terms of success and being a hit in Europe and overseas and that’s important to me.”
While it remains to be seen whether Englund will pop up again in the final two episodes of the season — dropping July 2 — we do know what songs he’d be bumping to avoid Vecna’s curse.
“There’s a great Talking Heads song, the real name for it is ‘Naive Melody,’ but it’s also called ‘Home’ and it’s a great song that would be really great because it’s about ‘I want to go home,’ it’s a song that I love” he revealed. “Also there’s a great Bob Marley song called ‘Waiting In Vain’ that I love, so either one of those I could just have in my head and that would maybe save me from Vecna.”
In addition to “Stranger Things 4,” Englund also recently wrapped filming on a horror movie called “Nattie Knocks,” and completed narration for an Epix documentary called “The Compendium of Horror,” due out Halloween 2022.
“Stranger Things” is streaming now.
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