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Robert Englund talks “NIGHTWORLD”!

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There isn’t much that Robert Englund hasn’t done in his career.  His unique ability to morph into an array of memorable characters, his vast knowledge of the horror industry, and his unbridled passion for his craft has led Englund to become one of the greatest icons in horror history.

In his latest fright-flick, NIGHTWORLD, Englund plays Jacob, a blind man who must return to an old building where he was once the caregiver, in order to help his replacement stop an evil presence from entering our world. With the U.S. release of NIGHTWORLD arriving later this year, Englund sat down with FANGORIA to discuss his experiences on the set of this supernatural thriller.

FANGORIA: What kind of horror film is NIGHTWORLD?

ROBERT ENGLUND: NIGHTWORLD is not deconstructed horror and it’s not violent, it’s this other hybrid. I hesitate to say this, but it’s probably adult horror, it’s more for the occult and Goth audiences. It’s got a bit of that Gothic feel that I like and that audience is still very, very strong especially in Europe and in certain cities. There’s a huge, huge Goth audience in Toronto and a lot left in New York as well and there’s a huge Gothic community in the United Kingdom and Germany as well. So this movie is sort of a as heard of a thinking mans film. It’s not vampires and its not that kind of Goth, I see it as a great gothic short story about this old building and this young man. It’s a great, classic short story and I think that’s what drove Loris [Curci] to it.

FANGORIA: So the screenplay must have had you from the jump.

ROBERT ENGLUND: Yes. I remember when Loris sent me the script I did like it, I thought that it was interesting. NIGHTWORLD is original and it borrows a bit but it’s a very original story and its fun when the fresh stuff comes out. You know when you get a script and it’s on the side of your bed and you haven’t read it in two weeks and you finally pick it up and there’s that test; if you can get through it without putting it down. It’s an old Paul Newman trick about reading a screenplay that you never put it down, you have to read it all the way through. Because what happens is you literally read that in the time it takes to watch the movie so you kind of know what reel you’re in.  You can even edit it in your own minds eye.

FANGORIA: The horror elements in the film stem from both psychological and paranormal fears. For you, which is most terrifying?

ROBERT ENGLUND: Primal is different for me than the paranormal. I rarely have any kind of paranormal experiences. Occasionally I’ve been in rooms where someone has died and there is a bit of electrical energy that you can sometime sense, you can feel the hair on the back of your neck your neck going up. It was strange because we worked in this massive hangar and we worked in complete pitch blackness and I was playing a blind man anyway so my trick was to when I have this big blind man Ray Charles sunglasses but all the stuff we did on that scene, I really was blind because it was so dark in there. But with the flashlights and the smoke, I got very disoriented, more disoriented than the other actors because I really was blind.

FANGORIA: What was that like from an acting standpoint?

ROBERT ENGLUND: I can remember working with the adrenaline, my actors’ adrenaline and coming up with some interesting improvisation, mostly physical, I found through this kind of disoriented fear that I had. I mean there’s a couple of moments in that sequence where I kinda stepped over the line a little bit, and because I’m disoriented and because I really can’t see and because I’ve got the adrenaline of my acting coursing through me, I really truly was afraid a couple times there. It was very primal because you lost one of your senses. If I would have done that sequence first I could use that during other scenes like when I’m getting out of the car or talking to Jason or I’m leading him around the old home, I could have sense-memoried that and brought that back to me.  And just simply by closing my eyes behind the sunglasses, I know I could have brought that feeling of being lost in that blackness, that black void. They really did create this amazing great black void, because it’s practical, it’s not CGI’ed.  

FANGORIA: NIGHTWORLD was shot with a completely international crew. Was the language barrier ever an issue?

ROBERT ENGLUND: Both the cameraman and the director were Chilean, and the director, he was very hands off which was nice, but part of that was a language thing. So here we are in Mitteleuropa, as they say, and we had a Chilean director and Chilean DP and some people on the set spoke Spanish, most of them spoke Bulgarian, a few of them spoke Italian. There were some that were German, but very little English. And it’s interesting I think sometimes, those that don’t speak English, when they get into post-production, and the Europeans are so visual, I think they get into post-production and I think what happens is that sometime the writers strangely enough, if the movie’s been translated into English, or written in English or spoken in English and you shoot it with a foreign company, that’s not their priority. The story telling in terms of the dialogue sacrifices a little bit because it’s not their first language. So, there’s that strange thing that happens sometimes, it’s happened to me in Italy as well as Spain, there’s idiom and there’s expressions that don’t mean the same and so it’s edited differently, there’s a different value in the editing and the listening. It can even affect plot and storytelling sometimes, certainly it can affect characters. And it’s not the worst thing that can happen but I’m sure that when they’re in post-production, that colloquial in English is lost on them, they don’t understand that it can maybe mean something that it doesn’t or it has a little edge to it and so they don’t cut to that. I think it’s sacrificed sometimes and I always worry about that. But with this film we were all on the same page.

FANGORIA: Did shooting in Sofia, Bulgaria aid in the transformation from Robert to your character Jacob?

ROBERT ENGLUND: What happens whenever you’re in a foreign country or when you’re on location a lot of times is the furniture and the wardrobe is picked up from antique stores in the area and it’s something you haven’t seen before and as an actor it makes you want to do more research. I wanted my character, my sort of Van Helsing guy Jacob to have his own back-story. I was building my own back story, so maybe he was Jewish, maybe he was Hungarian and during the time he’d been asked to mind the store, so-to-speak in Sophia it’s the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s and that was a very different time there. I wanted him to look kind of retro so I chose a vintage hat and vintage overcoat and it’s something that sort of says to an American audience and to a Western-European audience, middle-European. It was important to me that Jacob have that look, with the Hamburg and this old scarf I wore through the whole movie practically. It just changed my entire body language and it changed my silhouette. I also wanted to see the physical place because that’s really important. Loris told me in emails on the phone he was really happy with this old house which becomes its own character. So that was important to me.

FANGORIA: How was working with Jason London?

ROBERT ENGLUND: It was really great working with him. I’ve been a fan of his since DAZED AND CONFUSED and the wonderful movie with Reese Witherspoon, THE MAN IN THE MOON. Jason London is sort of that Tom Hanks character, he becomes that the reluctant hero and you sort of have to watch the movie through his cynical eyes so if there’s a lot resting on Jason in this. Actually, I was doing this scene with a very, very ancient old man and I thought they were going to do effects make-up, but they really got like a hundred year-old man. I had to be very delicate with him and gentle and he was naked and it was cold as well and yet my priority as an actor is protecting my space and getting what I thought was the best performance regarding my emotional reality in that sequence as well as the mouth-full of dialogue. A lot of it is back-story and you kinda want to hide it in the emotion of the scene and Jason was really there for me a couple of times off camera. If I repeated myself or if I just got a little bit lost he would just quietly give me my cue and you know you can just pick up because the camera’s still running and they’ll never use that moment, they can cut away if they need to. It was great to be able to have those pick-up’s and have Jason right there intimately sharing that scene with me. For me I think I made a new friend with Jason London.

FANGORIA: I’m sure there were plenty of amazing experiences on set, but if there’s one thing you’ve taken from this film, what would it be?

ROBERT ENGLUND: It was great to reunite with Loris again and I would love to meet the DP again because he’s a great cameraman. I think we really have introduced a great new cameraman. There’s just a lot coming out of Chile right now and they have a huge horror audience down in Latin America. It’s just going to be fun to say that I worked with this great young independent director and his great cameraman back in the day. I like to work with them again like to see them again.

FANGORIA: So what’s next?

ROBERT ENGLUND: I’m hoping to do a movie which got postponed about hording. It’s a great thriller/horror movie about hoarding that I was supposed to do this year with Thomas Jane and Anne Heche, only it’s been postponed for financing. In that movie I’m the old Sociology Professor that has to tell the story of hording, what it means. At this stage of my career I’ve morphed into this sort of old contemporary Van Helsing, or the old doctor, or the old professor. Or, if I’m having a little more fun, I’m the old poacher or the old redneck. But I have to tell the story, or I have to pitch the back-story and you kinda gotta find a creative way to do that.

About the author
Adam Lee Price
Adam Lee Price has an intense love of horror films and has since being a child. This love of horror has led him to focus on a career in writing films for the next generation of genre fans. Adam has recently completed writing his first feature length horror screenplay entitled THE MASQUERADE. Now, he looks forward to the next chapter of his life working alongside great writers in the horror industry and at FANGORIA Magazine.
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