After five years of success in regional theater Robert Englund returned to the west coast where he had grown up. His very first audition landed him a starring role in the 1973 film Buster and Billie directed by Daniel Petrie.
Far from living the classic hand to mouth existence of a struggling actor, Englund worked steadily through the ‘70s playing best friends, bad guy #1 and southern red-necks and starring opposite Henry Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and Arnold Schwarzenegger among others.
In the ‘70s, regarded as the second Golden Age of American movies, Englund was privileged to work for such classic film directors as Robert Aldrich, Robert Mulligan, J. Lee Thompson, Bob Rafelson and John Milius.
During this time Englund was living in Malibu, fishing off his porch at high tide and surfing when not slogging through traffic on the seemingly endless rounds of interviews and call-backs that fill the days of every working actor. He guest starred in scores of TV shows as well as working alongside some of the biggest stars of that decade including Barbra Streisand, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds and Charles Bronson.
Finally, audiences could put a name to his familiar face when Englund was cast as Willie the friendly alien in the hit mini-series and subsequent weekly TV show V. Within weeks, Englund went from questions like: “Didn’t I go to high school with you?” to “Aren’t you that lizard guy on TV?”. Decades later Willie still generates fan mail from science fiction devotees both in America and around the world.
The series was a huge success. As a result, Englund figured he would be eternally typecast as a sweet and lovable alien. To counter-balance this public image, he looked for a role that would allow him to demonstrate another side of his talents. During one hiatus from filming the series, he auditioned for a hot young director making an interesting low budget horror movie for the independent studio New Line Cinema. Englund’s interview with Wes Craven landed him the role playing the burn scarred dream demon Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street and launched him into horror history.
An international hit, the movie made New Line Cinema a major Hollywood player and prompted seven sequels and a syndicated TV series. The character of Freddy Krueger has appeared on talk shows, comic books, rap videos, and even cartoon appearances on The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy. There are numerous Freddy Krueger action figures, dolls, and attendant merchandising. Gottlieb came out with a very popular pin-ball machine based on the movies.
Englund’s portrayal of Freddy Krueger blasted him into the pop culture vernacular as heir apparent to the horror icons of the past, destined to stand alongside Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera and Boris Karloff’s monster in Frankenstein.
In the mid ‘80s Englund starred in the hour-long network TV series Downtown, a serio-comic look at parolees. The short-lived series also starred Blair Underwood and Marishka Hargitay.
Acting on the small screen afforded Englund the opportunity to work with such diverse talent as Lillian Gish, Jack Warden, Sissy Spacek, Martin Balsam, Richard Thomas, James Earl Jones, Bruce Davidson, Lou Gosset, Jr and Hal Holbrook.
The international success of V and the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels opened the door for film work abroad. Englund has starred in movies shot in such exotic locales as Budapest, St. Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Madrid, Palermo, Barcelona and Zagreb.
Englund is sought after as a guest at film festivals all over Europe and has served on juries and been celebrated with awards at festivals in Paris, Rome, Brussels and Sitges (Spain) to name a few.
After over 75 feature length films, four TV series and countless episodic guest star roles, including Criminal Minds, Workaholics, Bones and Hawaii 5-0, Englund is now directing as well as acting, busy with voice-over work and exploring the world of reality television, internet programming and games. He voices Scarecrow in the video game Injustice 2, and did mo-cap with Danny Trejo and Sarah Michelle Gellar for the game Call of the Dead. He co-starred with Malcolm McDowell and John Glover in the film Sanitarium.His latest movies include the thriller The Last Showing with Finn Jones, Fear Clinic with Thomas Dekker, Inkubus with William Forsythe, Nightworld with Jason London,and Midnight Man with Lin Shaye. He’s currently hosting True Terror on the Travel Channel.