Horror legend Robert Englund stars in Lake Placid: The Final Chapter on Syfy as crocodile poacher Jim Bickerman, the latest member of the Lake Placid Bickerman family.
Following Betty White, Cloris Leachman, and Colin Ferguson, all former members of the Bickerman clan in previous Lake Placid movies, original Freddy Krueger actor Robert Englund will play a poacher looking to score a big break on crocodile eggs from the rare creatures in Black Lake.
In Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, which co-stars Elisabeth Rohm and Yancy Butler, all attempts to contain the giant crocs fail and now it’s up to the new Sheriff to stop the latest rampage.
Ahead of the Syfy premiere of Lake Placid: The Final Chapter on Saturday, September 29 at 9/8c, The Deadbolt caught up with Robert Englund for an in-depth chat about his Lake Placid role, his early career, playing Freddy Krueger, and what it’s like to now be the elder statesman of horror.
THE DEADBOLT: Was there anything unusual about Jim Bickerman as a character that appealed to you or that you identified with to play him effectively?
ROBERT ENGLUND: Well, I’ve seen all of the Lake Placids, and I came to a couple of the sequels a little late. I found them on the Syfy channel, and I think they’re a lot of fun. I think one of the things that attracted me – even since the original – there’s the element of horror, but there’s also that little bit of disorientation about there being freshwater alligators in Maine, which is a great kind of hook. But there’s always also been room for a little bit of comedy and a little bit of over the top. After all, in essence, it is a giant alligator story.
I played roles like this when I was much younger. I played a lot of rednecks, a lot of white trash, and a lot of sidekicks. I wanted to be, for many years, Strother Martin, who rides down the mountainside with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Strother Martin, who tells Cool Hand Luke that what we have here is a problem of communication. I wanted to be L.Q. Jones who steals a scene from Robert DeNiro in Casino and is in all of those movies like The Wild Bunch and everything. And I wanted to be Warren Oates.
I did a little bit of that in 70s when I was young. But I quickly became the best friend, the sidekick, and the nerd. And this was before I had done any science fiction or horror. I was sort of typed as that for a while.
THE DEADBOLT: What’s it like to revisit that and maybe come full-circle?
ENGLUND: It’s fun now, in my early 60s. It’s fun for me to return now to those roles, with the lines in my face, my gray beard, and my balding hairline. It’s fun to get to play those roles again because they come kind of easy to me, which means I can spend more time really getting into the moment, getting into the tone of the piece and having fun with it.
Jim Bickerman for me was like the poor country cousin who was left out of the will and he’s trying to get his piece of the action. I almost imagine him coming up from Kentucky to Maine, and he’s sort of always been the embarrassment of the family and he’s up there poaching gators as a side line and making some money. It’s a pretty concrete motivation to hang on to. He kind of got left out of the will. He’s the one in the family that nobody likes, the black sheep of the family.
That’s just what I used, so that becomes kind of fun. When you are the outsider, it’s kind of easy to be defensive with everybody else in the picture, or all the other members of the cast.
THE DEADBOLT: After so many great roles in your career, is it more interesting being the elder statesman as compared to your younger days on the way up? How does it feel after accomplishing so much?
ENGLUND: Well, I’m on my way to London for some work. I just finished a film called Sanitarium with the great John Glover, one of my favorite actors both on stage and on screen. He was so wonderful in Smallville and so wonderful on CSI. I’m busy all the time.
But this great thing has happened to me, a happy accident, through no control, goal, or steering on my part. When I came out of the make-up after eight Freddy Krueger movies over 20 years, Phantom of the Opera, which was extensive make-up, and my Stephen King film, which has become kind of a classic now, The Mangler for Tobe Hooper, after all of that, I came out of the make-up and I was acting a lot more.
I was doing Disney movies for a while to kind of change my image, family films, and then some TV work. I was older but I wasn’t the Robert Englund that auditioned for Freddy Krueger. The momentum and the baggage, the establishment that I have as a horror actor, a science fiction actor, and fantasy actor, I’m now into these kind of Vincent Price, Klaus Kinski roles. And again, these sort of Strother Martin character roles, Warren Oates kind of roles.
I don’t know if I would have been able to do the sort of Vincent Price parts, the mad scientists, the doctors, the bad daddies or the Klaus Kinski roles, the red herring roles. I don’t think I would have been asked to do them had I not toiled in the fields of horror and science fiction over the years. So it’s this great gift to my career at this chapter in my life.
THE DEADBOLT: What do you think you would have been doing if horror didn’t happen for you?
ENGLUND: I’m not sure what I would be doing had I not done it. I think I might have been third or fourth billing on a sitcom, like a Murphy Brown. That probably was where my career was going before Freddy. Or maybe I would be doctor number six on some show now that gets a couple of scenes on Grey’s Anatomy and occasionally has to say “STAT!” and “Lidocaine.”
But instead, I’m getting to choose scenery a little bit and I’m getting some interesting roles. When things get slow for me, or my pilots don’t sell in L.A., I run over and do a movie in Europe. In Europe, the horror films and science fiction films are like action movies. They have this huge international audience, because they all speak the language of film as opposed to the language of a specific popular culture of a specific country.
If you dropped me and Jay Leno in a fountain in Italy. No one knows who Jay Leno is over there even though he’s got an Italian last name. I get mobbed still because Italians, the Spanish and the Germans, they love their horror movies just like they do in South America, Mexico, and Japan.
So, consequently I have had an international fan base since about 1985. That’s been a great, great gift to me. Now I’m getting to play these sort of Vincent Price roles, which are kind of fun for me. And many times, they’re really good parts and they’re fun. Even when they’re not, I’m still chasing some beautiful young actress around a castle in Spain, so that can always be fun, too.
Lake Placid: The Final Chapter airs Saturday, September 29 at 9/8c on Syfy.