It was the Fall of 1991, the world was smelling like Teen Spirit, Bill Clinton was announcing his plans to run for President, the Minnesota Twins were winning the World Series and Freddy Krueger was Dead. Well, at least that was what New Line Cinema was selling us.
In 1988 I fell in love with the Nightmare on Elm Street films wholeheartedly. I could not get enough of them and just 3 years later the move to finally bring the series to an end was put in motion with the sixth installment, haply named “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.” The slasher film was on its last legs anyway. Hannibal Lecter had ushered in a new brand of psycho killer to movie audiences and characters like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger were becoming more pop culture cartoons than the terrifying phantoms they once were. Bob Shaye and Company were going to go out with a bang giving Fred Krueger the big goodbye, Looney Tunes style!
As a Freddy fan I was sad to see it end but accepted it to be honest. The series was no longer what it had once been and while I’d watch Robert Englund play Freddy at any opportunity I was given, I took it as the end of the legacy. But then only three years later Robert Englund gets back into the red and green sweater for another go. This time in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.” A before its time, meta work of pure genius as writer/director and father to Freddy, Wes Craven spins a fairytale where he and his cast and crew from his original classic film are being haunted and tormented by a malevolent entity taking the form of his vile child killer he’d invented. One trapped like a genie within the bones of the abandoned series. I was definitely excited for this brand new film and while it wasn’t exactly a continuation of the original franchise it was a bonus treat as the gang was back together and Fred Krueger was once again a scary son of a gun. It was the encore we deserved.
And then again, it was over. Famous words spoken by Nancy Thompson herself only she was dead wrong, as we would soon find out when her father floated down from the ether to tell her he had passed over only to be revealed that it was that bastard of a hundred maniacs tricking our favorite final girl to give her the old four finger death punch. As we all know now it wasn’t really over as in 2003, Robert Englund was back as everyone’s favorite dream stalker in the long anticipated “Freddy vs Jason.”
After Freddy’s Dead I had assumed that Robert Englund was finished. It was said that even on The Dream Master he was becoming burnt out with the role. I imagine by the sixth film he was ready to hang it up indefinitely but then out of respect for Wes Craven and the whole nature of New Nightmare, he was willing to have at it one last time. Freddy vs Jason was a project that was being talked about even before the release of The Dream Master and a project Robert always seemed to be excited for so when it finally came to be, I imagine it was a no brainer decision. But when the film was being made, Robert was 55 and the role was starting to become very taxing for him. The physical nature of the part of Krueger was starting to hurt and it was maybe time to actually call it quits. At this point he had played the character in 8 films and on 1 television series for 19 years. A very good run for any performer. Once Sam Raimi turned down the proposed sequel that would pit Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams against the two icons it appeared that we had seen the last of Mr. Krueger.
There was the prequel of which Robert was always in support of and it was a project that Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer director John McNaughton nearly made only to be shelved when Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky failed at the box office. See his prequel would take place in Hell and the Hell-based Sandler movie made them rethink its potential. A prequel would have been perfect for the middle-aged star. Many fans think the physical struggles of the role of which Robert has spoken of involved the action sequences but a lot of it must be the painstaking trials of having to wake up very early in the morning to get to the make-up trailer so that he can be put into the extensive amount of make-up that history has shown to take up to 4 hours to apply. The make-up covers his entire head and Robert had spoken at length about how uncomfortable it can become. The heat under the lights all day, that it itches, stings the corners of his eyes and after several applications his skin becomes raw from wearing it. Then, after a 14 to 18 hour day coupled with the complications and time drain of executing special effects sequences, Robert would have to return to the trailer to remove the whole shabang. This is something 20-year olds would have a difficult time dealing with let alone a man in his 70’s.
Freddy vs Jason was one more of those bonus treats that I never expected to get but was very thankful to receive. I’ve never been a greedy fan and while as I said before, I’d watch Robert read the phone book as Freddy any day, I was okay with him finally hanging up the fedora. Robert has said that he is enjoying playing guys in suits these days. Translation: Not having to go through the hell of wearing the Freddy make-up. But it’s almost a given that he can’t go a single day of his life without someone asking him, “When are you going to play Freddy again?” It must be exhausting.
So what is the point of this article? It seems that every few months horror fans are overwhelmed by endless articles about Robert Englund saying he wants to play Freddy Krueger one more time. Quotes shared in article after article of Robert stating that he probably has one more film in him. Any time Robert appears at a horror convention and does a panel or speaks to the thousands and thousands of adoring fans over the course of a weekend, he is going to be asked that same question over and over and because Robert is one of the best people to meet in the industry as he is completely committed to his fans, adores them and wants to make them happy, he will tell them that, “I probably have one more in me.” And this sends those people online announcing it and as gossip tends to do it spawns yet another spike of that same old article.
It also leads to false information that Robert is in fact playing Freddy in a new film. It got so out of hand one year that I remember Robert tweeting out that he is retired from playing Freddy and will not be playing the character again in any future Nightmare films. But it seemed to fall of deaf ears as the spinning of what has been said like the machine it is, kept turning. Similar to when a fan a few years back tweeted that he thought Kevin Bacon would be a great Freddy Krueger. Bacon replies to the tweet, “I like the way this guy thinks.” And suddenly, like magic shooting from Ira Heiden’s fingers, writers across the board are suddenly saying that Kevin Bacon not only wants to play Freddy but that he’s already cast in the role.
The problem here is that people are only paying attention to one sentence that Robert has spoken on the subject. Yes, Robert has said that he probably has one more film in him but his next few sentences are that the studio isn’t going to want just one more film. They are going to want a whole new series. They are going to want six films and he cannot commit to more than one. He’ll turn 73 this June and it’s highly unlikely that Mr. Englund would want to be up at 4am to get put into that make-up at 80 years of age.
And let’s face it. Fans are a bit cruel these days. They want time to stand still. They say they want more movies but what they really want is to feel the way they did when they were younger and these films had the impact on them that they did back then. We have seen many franchises reborn over the years, even with original cast members back in the role they made famous and yet the fans are incredibly harsh on them. Some find pleasure in them but so many sing that same old tune, “It’s just not the same.” Even when Robert suited back up for a cameo on an episode of The Goldbergs I sadly saw so many people asking why Robert looked so much older or maybe not as lean as he was in 1987. Because it’s not 1987 anymore, friends. If it were, I wouldn’t be six foot 2 with a mortgage and lower back pain.
I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to say there is something wrong with fans having wishful thinking or simply wanting to see Robert do it one more time. And if he did, I’d be first in line. Robert is one of my biggest heroes. I drove 5 hours and stood in line another 4 just to meet him and afterwards I broke down emotionally due to the weight of finally meeting someone who had made such a major impact on my life and ultimately my career. Its more about accepting reality and respectfully listening to everything Robert has been saying instead of hanging on to one sentence. Maybe then fans and Robert himself can move on and maybe, just maybe the franchise can move forward as many of us are eager to see a new life for Elm Street.
I never expected to get New Nightmare. I’m glad I got it and thank you, Robert.
I never thought I’d get Freddy vs Jason and I did. Thank you again, Robert.
And even as brief as it was, I never expected to get that Goldbergs cameo and by God I appreciated every frame of it.
So let’s let the man have his peace while still showing our love and appreciation for all that he has given us in his 46-year film career. Instead of asking him “when are you gonna play Freddy again” how about we reflect, we smile, we shake his hand and we say, “Thank you, Mr. Englund. Thank you for all of it.”