Few horror icons have been as indelible as Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger from The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. So, is it a blessing or a curse? Just who is Englund beyond the character that everyone knows him for? Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story, by writer/director Gary Smart, co-directed by Christopher Griffiths and co-written by Neil Morris, sets out to answer these questions and more.
Englund, as he says about himself, “has the gift of gab.” The documentary uses that skill by letting him tell his many Hollywood tales, which is who’s who of Tinseltown. From working with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron on different projects to impressing Quentin Tarantino and even helping Mark Hamill land the role of Luke Skywalker, there are many fascinating stories. As a comic nerd, I appreciate how the filmmakers used comic book-like illustrations to help some of these tales come to life with a visual flair.
Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story also features interviews with a lot of notable people, both in Hollywood and Englund’s life. This includes director Eli Roth, fellow icons Kane Hodder and Tony Todd, actor Lance Henriksen, Elm Street actress Heather Langenkamp, and Robert’s wife, Nancy. It’s fun to hear stories about how those two met and fell in love or how badly Hodder wanted to be on screen together with Englund in Freddy vs. Jason. Langenkamp also sheds light on what a kind and giving actor and human being he is, always trying to prop up and inspire his fellow actors.
“Just who is Englund beyond the character…”
It’s interesting to see what a great character actor Englund has been because Freddy is so iconic. I had utterly forgotten about the alien he had played in the landmark television science fiction miniseries V because it had been so long since I’d seen it. Still, the clips in this movie instantly reminded me how funny and touching the character he brought to life was in that series.
Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story opens with Englund telling us how he used his real-life contempt for young and beautiful actors like Johnny Depp and Heather Langenkamp while he was stuck in a miserable makeup chair to help fuel his performance as Freddy Krueger. I’ve heard athletes such as Michael Jordan talk about using mental slights as motivation to fuel success, but it was quite fascinating to listen to an actor talk about it.
I also loved hearing Robert Englund talk glowingly about Wes Craven for personal reasons. The legendary filmmaker came to a couple of my film courses in college and would tell funny and insightful stories for hours. Those were my most cherished memories from film school. It would be great if Christopher Griffiths and Gary Smart were to do a documentary on Wes Craven. I’ve really enjoyed what they did here and their previous documentary on another horror icon, Pennywise: The Story of It.
Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story entertainingly gives you everything you need to know about the actor and his life. Ironically, his story has ended up as an almost fairytale-like dream despite the nightmare that Freddy gives so many others.
"…ended up as an almost fairy tale-like dream despite the nightmare that Freddy gives so many others."