When an actor accepts a role in a movie, they don't often assume that character will go on to become one of the most famous pop culture icons in cinema's history. Actor Robert Englund might not have known in the early '80s that accepting the role of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street would become a defining moment in his life, revealing that the decision about the role was merely based on wanting to work with writer/director Wes Craven.
"I did this little independent horror movie for New Line Cinema, and I did it to work with Wes Craven because I really was curious," Englund shared with PopCulture.com about that point in his career. "I really thought he was a talented guy, and then that made me international. That's the great, happy accident that I got from being a genre actor."
Prior to A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven had built a reputation for himself as a boundary-pushing genre director thanks to films like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. This partnership had a profound impact on Englund.
"Wes taught me how to respect the genre," Englund confessed. "Then the world respected me. So that just sort of, it was sort of like a natural volition after that. I mean from then on, I just sort of went wherever people wanted me and didn't worry about career or image or anything like that."
After portraying the character for 20 years in eight films, the actor found himself in a unique position when he left the role of Krueger behind.
"I think somewhere along the line, I kind of became a road company Vincent Price," Englund noted. "You know, when I got out of the makeup in 2003, I'd aged and I kind of got this craggy, Scottish face, and my beard came in white when I grew it in. It had been a little bit kind of red and brown before that. With my weird dirty blonde hair, now my beard came in really nice and gray with some white streaks in it, and I looked sort of like Max von Sydow. I looked a little bit like old George C. Scott. I looked a little bit like Trevor Howard, you know, the old English actor."
This allowed Englund to play more eccentric "professor" type characters later in his career, like the one he portrays in the upcoming Nightworld, which Englund describes as a "fussy little Eastern European contemporary Van Helsing."
Nightworld hits VOD and select theaters on October 20.