Robert Englund (Zombie Strippers) interview
Just as he did in 2007, Robert Englund sojourned to San Diego Comic-Con this year to talk about his latest projects, including Zombie Strippers and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Zombie Strippers, a humorous and irreverent callback to 1970s exploitation cinema, will be released on DVD by Sony on October 28th. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, a horror-comedy about a plumber who fights monsters, will be out in a limited theatrical release starting this month.
Classic-Horror had the opportunity to spend a few minutes speaking with this legendary horror icon about his latest forays into the genre. In addition to discussing his current projects, Englund was also more than happy to offer his insight on current filmmaking practices, his legacy as a horror icon and, of course, his wealth of experience in the genre.
Classic-Horror.com: Tell me a little bit about your role in Zombie Strippers.
Robert Englund: Well, Zombie Strippers is sort of a sexy horror farce. It’s got an interesting, politically incorrect political underpinning. But it was an opportunity for me to be silly.
I got to do two horror comedies back to back and this was one of them. It was just funny to get to run around and do pratfalls in the blood and guts, and be on set for several weeks with naked girls. I mean, how do you say no to that? Especially Jenna [Jameson, the film's star], who is in all of our collective consciousnesses if you’re a male. And, I worked with a terrific young director named Jay Lee, who is like a master of all trades.
I play the sleaziest post-apocalyptic club owner in the world, and I own a strip joint,. My name is Ian Essco, which is a joke on the famous, absurdist playwright. I just got to be sleazy, and politically incorrect, and do bad puns, and be this impossibly arrogant idiot for the movie. It was a hoot. It was a lot of fun. We shot in extreme downtown LA. We shot everything in an old, converted building in downtown LA. We had a great cast; we worked around the clock.
I had about 3 or 4 low-budget horror comedies in a row, all of us kind of worshipping at the throne of early Sam Raimi films like Evil Dead, which was our inspiration. And this was kind of a return to that. We’re not really an argument or an antidote to big budget digital effects movies, but I think Zombie Strippers might be more of a punk-rock reaction to some bloated, over-produced films in recent years. And in combination with young people being able to accept the kind of homemade, kind of guerilla, craft-folk art approach that you see on YouTube, even when making films on the big screen, there’s an equivalency. I think we were able to do that with some of our films. Behind the Mask, Zombie Strippers, obviously, and another film I’ve got coming out called Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Several of these films we’ve done have been quick, down and dirty, guerilla, and handheld. Hatchet, by Adam Green is another one. But it’s all kind of a nod to that great nostalgia, that retro nostalgia for the 80s and 70s exploitation.
C-H: You mention another film you’re doing, Jack Brooks.
Englund: Well, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is here. I’m also here at Comic-Con to do a panel with the animation team behind the new Spider-man animated Saturday morning series. I’m the Riddler on the new Batman, and the Vulture on the new Spidey. Which is a lot of fun too.
C-H: In Monster Slayer, you are acting under some make-up for parts of it. What’s different about acting under make-up as opposed to something like Zombie Strippers where you’re just there in your face?
Englund: You know. Both of them were comedy, and both of them I got to do physical comedy, but I got to do a little more in Jack Brooks. I’m Robert Englund, but with the make-up, I have to be a bridge to the metamorphosis from myself to the monster. I’ve been inhabited by the Black Heart.
I’m this kind of lonely, pathetic, junior college science professor, who befriends the star of the movie, the hero of the movie, Jack Brooks. And I see a potential in him. I befriend him, and that sort of brings him into the world. It’s tainted because I’m attacked by the Black Heart, at my house that I’m renovating.
After my Mangler film, my Stephen King Mangler film, based on the short story by Stephen King that Tobe Hooper directed, and after my Phantom of the Opera, which was extensive make-up, this was pretty light for me. But, you know, it’s always tricky because you have to kind of expand your performance to match the comedy or the surreal-ness of what’s going on around you. If you’re head’s getting bigger, I think you kind of have to get bigger with it. You don’t have to be cartoon-y, but you need to buy into the situation by expanding your emotions along with your expanding goat bladder face under that pound of prosthetic make-up. That’s sort of the trick.
The difference with Zombie Strippers is that I’m me, but... I look like Robert Englund, but I also don’t want to look too much like Robert Englund. I’ve got a lot of baggage because the fans know who I am. So I did my hair white. There’s a wink there. You know it’s me, but I also moved a little differently in that one, so it was physical. I was little more pinched, and a little more effete.
I think Ian Essco was one of those guys who didn’t like women. I’m not saying he likes men, but he doesn’t like women. Which is sort of an odd behavioral tendency for a man who runs a strip club. But I thought that might be a weird juxtaposition: that he was a little anal retentive, you know, a bit of a clean freak, and also, he doesn’t really like the girls, he thinks they’re scum, and he’s just there for the money and the success. He became emblematic of that thing that happens in American society to people who go out and tear down nature to be in nature, like those people who move way out in the country and get upset when the coyotes kill their kitties. This guy runs a strip club and that’s what’s made him successful, but he doesn’t like strippers, you know. He should try something else.
C-H: What’s your favorite thing about being a horror actor? You’re kind of an icon in the genre, so what’s your favorite part of that?
Englund: You know, the most fun for me is that it’s kept me young. I’ve inherited by genre accident and by technological accident almost four generations of fans now. I starred in my first movie in 1973 and my first horror movie in the late 70s for Tobe Hooper. And then my breaks were back-to-back in 1982 and 1983. Which was the original series, V, the science fiction show, and then Nightmare on Elm Street, so I came of age as a celebrity simultaneous with the video revolution, and then the DVD revolution, and then the box set revolution and then the “we all sit around and tell you how we did all the tricks on the DVD and re-release the DVD” revolution. It’s been great because now dads bring their sons to meet me because they remember when they were 15 years old in New Jersey and going to see the Ramones, and they discovered the original Nightmare on Elm Street without any hype or bludgeoning from MTV. It’s like this pure experience, and they want to share that with their kid, so their kid gets to see the original Nightmare on Elm Street (which is actually pretty harmless now, compared to some of the movies), and they bring them to meet me . I’m sort of representative. They get to see what their dad liked.
I’m like an old baseball player but I’m still continuing to work. And, because the acceptance of horror was a little bit staggered, I can also still open a movie in Italy or Spain, so I work over there a lot. It’s fun for me to work over in Europe, and I’ve worked all over the world now. And that’s fun. When things get slow for me in Hollywood, or I do a pilot that doesn’t get picked up, I can run over and do a movie in Africa, or Israel, or Spain, or Germany or Romania, or Croatia, or Russia - I’ve worked in all these places. And that’s just a great adventure. It’s wonderful, and it’s fun, and sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s luxurious. It’s a great gift and benefit, and that’s probably what I like most about being a road company Vincent Price.
Classic-Horror would like to thank Robert Englund for taking the time to talk to us. You can read our other Robert Englund interview here.