The best and most effective horror stories can often times drive people’s most petrifying nightmares. Acclaimed genre icon, actor Robert Englund, knows a thing or two about terrifying and possessing innocent and unsuspecting people’s minds. After portraying the infamous serial killer, Freddy Krueger, eight times in the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ film series, the performer is now on the receiving end of those frightening dreams in his latest thriller, ‘Nightworld.’
Gravitas Ventures is releasing ‘Nightworld’ today in select theaters and on demand. Patricio Valladares directed the horror film, which was written by Barry Keating and Milan Konjevic.
‘Nightworld‘ follows former Los Angeles cop, Brett Irlam (Jason London), a widower who takes a job as the head of security at an old apartment building in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. After starting the position in his new adopted country, he immediately begins to experience a series of bizarre and terrifying events. As he starts to delve into the building’s sinister history, and investigates its shadowy owners and past employees, including former security guard Jacob (Englund), who has lost his sight since leaving the job, Brett quickly uncovers a malevolent force that’s nestled deep in the bowels of the building. The force will stop at nothing to be set free into Brett’s world.
Englund generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Nightworld’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he became involved in playing Jacob in the drama, as he has frequently collaborated with one of the movie’s producers, Loris Curci, who recommended that he take on the role of the mysterious former security guard. The former ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ star also praised the work ethic of Valladares and London on the set of their new thriller, as they were both not only devoted to honing their own crafts, but also supported the performances of their fellow cast and crew members.
The conversation began with Englund explaining why he wanted to play Jacob in the new horror movie. “I’ve worked with one of the film’s producers, Loris Curci, several times before. I’ve worked with him in Italy, Spain and Romania. Loris and I go way back-at one point in the early ’80s, he was even my translator on publicity tours in Rome and Milan,” the actor divulged.
“So we became friends, and developed a big project together several years ago. We attracted really great talent, like Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland and Amanda Plummer. But it didn’t come to fruition, because of the recession in Europe in 2007-08,” Englund admitted. He added with a laugh, “I did a lot of legwork, and cashed in a lot of chips with old friends.”
But every time Curci has worked on a film since that unrealized project, “he gives me a ring, if there’s a role for me. So I knew he was working on this project, and they would be shooting it in Sofia, Bulgaria. I also knew that Jason London” was attached to star in the drama, the performer added. “I’ve been a fan of Jason’s work since as far back as his first move that he starred in with Reese Witherspoon (the 1991 coming-of-age drama, ‘The Man in the Moon’). He then starred in the classic, ‘Dazed and Confused,’ with Matthew McConaughey, which is one of my favorite movies.”
Englund’s agent has also represented London, so “I knew that Jason and Loris were going to be working on the movie. I knew I would be in good hands with them, as well as with our director, who’s Chilean. We also had a Chilean cameraman (Pau Mirabet), and an otherwise primarily Bulgarian crew, besides our Italian producer,” the supporting actor exclaimed with a laugh.
“I’ve had experiences where things can become lost in translation,” Englund also admitted while further discussing his background in working on sets with international crews. “But I knew that Loris’ English is very good, so we would really communicate what we wanted.”
The performer further delved into what attracted him to his role in the thriller by sharing that “I think of ‘Nightworld’ as a ghost story, and I like that aspect of it. I also like the character of Jacob. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been playing a lot of old doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and slightly mad scientists. But this role was a little different,” Englund pointed out.
The actor envisioned his character in ‘Nightworld’ to be “like a contemporary Van Helsing. I saw him as being middle or Eastern European, so I played him to be a little older than I am. I pictured Jacob living in an elegant apartment. European men of a certain age aren’t like American men of the same age. Older men in Rome, Milan and Turin, as well as in Paris and London, are more fashionable; they don’t wear cargo shorts and an old T-shirt, like some older men in the retirement homes in Florida do. So (Jacob’s) look was really important to me,” Englund explained with a laugh.
“What I really imagined in my mind’s eye was Jacob wearing a hat. So I drew that and made some calls to my Bulgarian costumer in Sofia,” the performer also mentioned. “This sounds weird, but hats can be a problem for actors. I’ve seen movies where the hats look terrible…It’s happened to me, where I had a cowboy hat that didn’t fit, and I looked ridiculous,” Englund admitted.
“But the Hamburg hat I asked to wear in this film was even better than I imagined. With the special blind sunglasses that I had, I achieved the look that I wanted for this character. I decided that I would always look the same in every scene, and he would never take the hat and glasses off, except for one scene” the actor shared. “But his scarf always endured, to give him a timeless look, as though he’s been called from the past to solve this dilemma.”
Englund then delved into how his past work experiences helped prepare him in creating Jacob’s physicality while he was shooting ‘Nightworld.’ “Well, I was very physical in my theater days…so I had great experiences doing physical work. I was in ‘Godspell’ for a year, and that was great. I’m older now, so even though I’d like to do all of my own stunts, I can’t,” the performer admitted.
So to create Jacob, “it was about slowing myself down a bit, and playing the weight of my jacket and scarf. The cane also changes you a bit. I would rehearse with my eyes open, and I would wear the sunglasses. But once we began filming the scenes, my eyes would be closed behind the sunglasses. I didn’t want to play or act blind,” Englund revealed.
“I noticed that when you lose one sense, the other senses would magnify. I have also noticed that when people lose their sight, they place sound a little differently” than people who have their vision, the actor noted. “So it was almost like I imagined a string was attached to my ear. If someone would speak on my right, I would imagine that my right ear was being pulled towards them a little bit. I would move my head towards them, so that I could catch every word.”
When Englund rehearsed his scenes before filming on ‘Nightworld’ began, “I walked into the scenes with my eyes open and saw the chair I had to sit in, for example. But when I was doing the scenes on the day we were filming, I would squint my eyes, or completely close them. That really seemed to put me into a different kind of concentration than I normally am as an actor.”
With ‘Nightworld’ being filmed in the Bulgarian capital city, the performer then further delved into his appreciation of shooting his movies on location around the world. “When you do location work, wherever it is, even if it’s L.A. location work, as opposed to being on a sound stage in a studio, it always helps you with your reality…But working abroad is so much fun,” he declared.
“I think I’ve done 14 movies overseas now. I’ve worked in such exotic places as St. Petersburg, Africa and Israel. I’ve also worked in Mexico, Spain, Italy and England. I think my favorite places to work in are Italy and Spain. I’ve worked all around the world, and it’s always an adventure,” Englund shared.
“I bring my wife, Nancy, with me when I travel, and we’ve been doing this since 1989. I think that’s when I did my first big role in Europe, and that was in Budapest. I spent two months in Budapest with the wonderful Bill Nighy from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ It was a wonderful project, and I fell in love in working over there. I also spent time in the countryside of Hungary, outside of Budapest, for awhile in a studio. The drive was beautiful, and it was really a special experience for me,” the actor passionately disclosed.
“I now have all of these great places to visit in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Spain, Israel, England and Russia…It’s been a great gift of my career as a movie actor in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres, to have this alternate, side career with my travel work,” Englund enthusiastically shared. “Some of my work that’s been shot abroad does play here in America on cable, and some of it remains in Europe. But it’s a great adventure every time I go. Nancy also loves nothing better than packing our bags, and living in the English countryside for six weeks…We just learn so much from traveling.” The performer also expressed his appreciation that the people he works with when he travels abroad don’t treat him as a tourist while they’re filming on the set.
Englund then further shared his appreciation for the collaboration he had with London while they were shooting ‘Nightworld,’ and revealed that “Jason and I closed the hotel bar several nights! Jason’s a great actor. He’s also a good-looking preppy boy, who was also a jock in his younger years. So I think he had to fight his way out of being known as the pretty boy.
“But we’ve both been around as actors for awhile now, so we share similar stories about our careers. We shared a few beers while we were filming ‘Nightworld,’ and realized that we know so many of the same people. We had an agent in common, and also knew many of the same people who have worked on both sides of the camera,” Englund revealed.
“Jason’s a great fellow actor. A couple of times on the set, I had reams and reams of dialogue. One of the aspects of playing a character like Jacob is that you have to pitch a lot of plot. You have to manufacture a backstory when it’s your turn to tell the story. You also have to find a way to explain it to the audience, without looking like you’re explaining it to the audience,” the performer explained.
“I had a really big speech in a scene that involved a character who’s supposed to be over 100 years old. The man in the scene with us was really 100-years-old, and I was thrown by that, because I thought it was going to be an actor who was wearing old-age make-up. So everyone was more worried about him than me, but I also needed some support there,” Englund admitted.
“Every time I needed a line, Jason was right there for me. He knew exactly what was going on, and really helped me out. I nailed it the first time, but the camera wasn’t very good. I then nailed it again, but only got it in bits and pieces,” the performer also divulged. “I did some really good work, but never did all three pages perfectly at the same time. But the magic of movies is that the (editors) can cut back and forth without a problem.
“Jason was there for me when I needed to do pickups, and knew where I was. As an actor, you often want to go back to the beginning, and he was right there for me if I needed to pick something up…I’m really grateful for that,” Englund also confessed. “He’s such a pro. When you work with a pro like that, it’s really a lot of fun, because they make it easy.”
The actor then further shared his experiences of collaborating with Valladares on the set of ‘Nightworld.’ “I’ve worked with a lot of foreign directors who only speak a little bit of English. Movie people are all the same kind of people, no matter where we’re from…The staging of a scene, for example, is pretty easy to describe, even if you don’t speak the same language,” he conceded.
Englund added that “Every once in awhile, I would have an idea for Jacob, so I would have to go through my producer, Loris. He speaks Spanish very well, and I also speak a little bit of Spanish, but it’s rudimentary. I can speak in simple terms, and say things like ‘I need this,’ “Do you want me here?,” or ‘Can I do this again?’ But when I wanted to convey something intellectual, like what I thought the character should, or shouldn’t, do throughout a scene, I would need to speak to Loris, who would translate it (to Valladares) for me. He was good enough to be my bridge. Since I began my career with (Curci) as my translator, and we have a good shorthand, I knew I would be in good hands with him,” he explained.
“I like Patricio, as he’s a hands-off director, and is very visual. I also like the cameraman (Mirabet). We had playbacks, so we could look back at the scenes, and see how beautiful he made everything look. I immediately knew we were in good hands. We all also had drinks together at night, and had a great rapport,” the performer also shared.