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Robert Englund — things you didn’t know about the Freddy Kruger actor

Robert Englund
(Image credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, is the latest 80s icon joining the cast of Stranger Things season 4

The performer most known as a knife-handed dreamland slasher from the Nightmare on Elm Street horror franchise plays the role of Victor Creel on the latest season of Stranger Things, described as "a disturbed and intimidating man who is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for a gruesome murder in the 1950s."

Not many people know about the man under Freddy Krueger's makeup. Englund has indeed given himself to horror infamy, but Englund is so much more than Wes Craven's wisecracking horror villain. Did you know he's starred alongside Oscar-winners Henry Fonda, Susan Sarandon and Jeff Bridges? 

For those who only know Robert Englund as the baddie of A Nightmare on Elm Street or after you've seen him in Stranger Things season 4 here are 12 things that may surprise you about the actor…

1. Robert Englund loves to surf

Robert Englund on the set of Big Wednesday for a surf break.

Robert Englund on the set of Big Wednesday for a surf break (Image credit: Dangerous Minds)

As a California native, Englund turned to surfing as a pastime. There’s photo evidence (opens in new tab) of Englund on the set of Big Wednesday (1978) riding waves between takes. However, he’s not waxing his board quite like he used to back in the day. "All my old surfing injuries have kind of come back to haunt me," he told AV Club (opens in new tab).

2. Englund encouraged Mark Hamill to audition for Star Wars

Believe it or not, Englund and Mark Hamill used to be good friends in the 70s. Englund auditioned for the role of LSD-dropping surfer Lance B. Johnson in Apocalypse Now but was told he was too old. Casting agents then pointed him towards the Star Wars auditions, where it’s reported he had his photograph taken for Han Solo consideration. Neither worked out, but what did happen is Englund urged his buddy Hamill (opens in new tab) to try out for the role of Luke Skywalker.

3. He’s a classically trainer theater actor

Robert Englund Freddy Krueger claws

(Image credit: Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

Before murdering teens — before even stepping foot onto a film set — Englund started his career as a stage actor. His personal website (opens in new tab) lists he attended Cranbrook Theatre School, then left UCLA to study at Meadow Brook Theater — a branch of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He enjoyed performing in regional theater for five years and eventually would score roles for productions like Godspell in both New York City and Los Angeles.

4. He’s played other iconic horror roles

Robert Englund in 1989's The Phantom of the Opera.

Robert Englund in 1989's The Phantom of the Opera (Image credit: MGM)

Englund’s love of theater led to his casting as The Phantom in 1989’s The Phantom of the Opera. The retelling promised to be a gorier version with Englund attached. Unfortunately, even with co-stars like British sensation Bill Nighy and comedian Molly Shannon, the film was a commercial and critical flop. A sequel was planned that eventually got nuked (opens in new tab) due to the first film’s poor performance.

5. Englund inspired a famous Kill Bill line

Robert Englund in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive.

Robert Englund in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (Image credit: Virgo International Pictures )

In Tobe Hooper's exploitation flick Eaten Alive, Englund plays a womanizer named Buck who says the following: "I'm Buck and I'm here to f***." In Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, a rapist nurse utters the same line word for word. Was it a random coincidence? Not at all! Tarantino loves paying homage to his favorite films and Eaten Alive is on that list of references (opens in new tab).

6. Englund went on a Japanese variety show as Freddy Krueger

There’s not much I can say about Englund’s appearance as Freddy Krueger on Japan’s Kato-Chan Ken-Chan Gokigen other than it’s surely not canon. Reports put this appearance somewhere between A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Freddy’s Dead (opens in new tab), but there’s no accurate information. 

Freddy catching fruit on his blade glove like a circus game, or caught standing pantsless in some girl’s room? I'm speechless; watch for yourself.

7. Englund’s taken a punch from Kris Kristofferson and Richard Gere

Robert Englund in 1976's A Star is Born.

Robert Englund in 1976's A Star is Born (Image credit: Warner Brothers)

In 1976's A Star is Born, Robert Englund's character takes a punch in a barroom brawl from leading man Kris Kristofferson. Not a real swing, of course — but Kristofferson's calculations weren't sound. Kristofferson accidentally connected and knocked Englund off of a chair (opens in new tab). The same thing happened on the set of 1978's Bloodbrothers, when Richard Gere "corrected his nose" (opens in new tab) with another incorrectly pulled Hollywood punch. "I can still feel the bumps," Englund said.

8. Englund watches Top Chef as a guilty pleasure

Listen, it's incredible hearing that Robert Englund is enamored by what the cooks on Top Chef can accomplish (opens in new tab). It tickles me. I hope it tickles you too.

9. Englund has a film in the Library of Congress

The last time Englund dressed as Freddy Krueger was for an episode of ABC's The Goldbergs.

(Image credit: ABC)

Englund’s Freddy Krueger is one of the most recognizable scarred faces in slasher history, which earned him and A Nightmare on Elm Street a place in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress (opens in new tab). This means the film is considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant. Who says horror doesn’t get the credit it deserves?

10. Someone else almost played Freddy Krueger

English character actor David Warner impressed Wes Craven with a tremendous audition that initially won him the role of Freddy Krueger. Unfortunately, Warner had to pass due to scheduling conflicts. The door opened for Englund — a "happy accident (opens in new tab)," he said, as it fit between his at-the-time miniseries and television commitments.

11. Englund is one of only four actors to portray a horror character eight consecutive times

Robert Englund almost wasn't invited to the A Nightmare on Elm Street party.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The other three? Doug Bradley as Pinhead in Hellraiser. Brad Dourif as Chucky the killer doll. Tobin Bell as Jigsaw in the Saw series. What esteemed company.

12. Englund was a rapper for all of five minutes

On the Fat Boys’ track "Are You Ready For Freddy (opens in new tab)" — recorded for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master — Englund lays down bars as Freddy Krueger. Sadly, it was the beginning and end of his rap career.

Robert Englund's Fact File

When was Robert Englund born: June 6, 1947.

Is Robert Englund married: yes

Does Robert Englund have children: no 

How tall is Robert Englund: 5-feet 10¼-inches (1.79 m)

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the most recent article update.

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for such outlets as What To Watch, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, Shudder, Ebert Voices, and countless other publications. He is a member of the Hollywood Critics Association and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.