Hollywood Monster (2009) by Robert Englund

Hollywood Monster (2009) by Robert Englund

Robert Englund delivers an autobiography that is both insightful and a pleasure to read from start to finish; with Tobe Hooper’s hilarious introduction about a young Robert doing cartwheels, all the way through to the epilogue with the ill fated reality TV show Real Nightmares.

As a classically trained actor from the American branch of RADA, Robert’s first experiences in acting were on stage before moving on to film. Cast alongside Hollywood legends such as Henry Fonda, Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Barbara Streisand in his first roles (and a few B-movies), he was then offered the part of Willie, the friendly alien in the television series V before becoming the world wide star he is today in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and the 7 sequels it went on to spawn.

Hollywood Monster (2009) by Robert Englund

Outside of Elm Street however, it’s amazing how vast this actor’s work is and how much he has embraced the horror genre. Where there have been many actors who have tried to shake off what made them famous, Englund’s philosophy has pretty much been consistent: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. For this, we are grateful; he has managed to remain the same charismatic and energetic man I watched in interviews back in the mid 80’s, early 90’s and even now. On paper he is every bit the story teller as he is in interviews and pretty much everyone he has ever worked with would tell you the same, especially the guys who would try to keep him still long enough in the make-up chair to apply his gruesome effects!

The book also gives you a sense that this is a well seasoned actor who is constantly working, but who is familiar with film on both sides of the camera. He knows how to prep for a scene, and how to get inside a character, but also the finer workings of script writing, make up and special effects. From his experience gained in the film and television industry he is more than qualified to share stories on why some shows (Freddy’s Nightmares for example) failed because no one had any idea what they were doing, to why some of them failed because studios didn’t see how unique they were (Reel Nightmares). Having worked on sets for everything ranging from low budget independent movies to huge big bugdet blockbusters, he’s seen his fair share of what works and what doesn’t and when someone like this talks, the filmmaking industry could learn a thing or two:

Too often you’ll hear on the set of a blockbuster-in-the-making that’s running five weeks behind schedule and $5million over budget, “We’ll fix it in post.” FX should be used as enhancement, not as a Band-Aid for something you overlook during the pre-production or screwed up during principal photography.

Later on he follows that up with:

Audiences know when you are relying on explosions and CGI because your story sucks or your scares aren’t there.

Of course, along the way we are also treated to some garden fence Hollywood gossip, which is always great! How else would we know that a young and fresh faced Johnny Depp once kept a Christmas tree until March or that Robert nearly got himself into trouble for almost using Barbara Streisand’s hairbrush! Stories like those are priceless as well and can only come from someone who has worked their up the entertainment ladder, one can’t fail to visualise Robert in these situations and smile, knowing it all works out well in the end!

For all that he has given film and television fans for over 30 years, it’s not difficult to see why fans are so loyal to him and the uproar regarding his iconic Freddy now being played by someone else. There is much to learn from him, not just by us mere mortals, but also by the star makers and dream makers in Hollywood. Not so much a monster, but definitely a legend in his own right.

Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Hollywood Monster is published by Aurum Press and was released on October 31st, 2009 in the UK (October 13th, US). It is available from all good bookstores including Amazon.

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