Robert Englund reveals the unexpected inspiration behind ‘Stranger Things’ role

Robert-Englund-Stranger-Things-Victor-Creel
Image via Netflix

Stranger Things 4 has pulled inspiration from a variety of cult horror classics such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Hellraiser, but it’s not just the inspiration that the show took from those films.

In a stroke of genius, Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund was cast to portray Victor Creel, one of the villain’s first targets, and one of the few to have survived. The actor plays the character beautifully, but his inspiration might not be what you think.

Englund had been keen to board the Stranger Things train for some time, having auditioned for season 3 unsuccessfully. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he discussed the initial rejection, saying “I was a fan, and then I was up for a role in season three that I didn’t get, I was disappointed. I really wanted to be on the show.”

That wasn’t the end, however, as Englund got his chance when season four came around, asking to audition for Creel. “I sent in a little home audition tape my wife filmed,” Englund recalls. “I saw him as this strangely sympathetic man — but also frightening because he’s blinded himself and has these terrible scars. But he has this damaged tale to tell.”

Robert Englund in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

The Duffer brothers wanted to draw strong parallels between this season and Englund’s most well-known film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, with Vecna (similar to Krueger) invading his victim’s minds, tormenting them in the buildup to their murder. Though Englund is not playing the villain in the show, his character is certainly not one you would ever want to be left alone with.

“As actors, we access strange imagery. We use imagery sometimes that has nothing to do with what we’re doing. And one of the things I was using was a character from Treasure Island named Billy Bones, who tells a huge story to Jim Hawkins about Long John Silver. It had nothing to do with Freddy Krueger or Nightmare. It was just one of those weird images that come to you.”

Aware of how the scene would be put together, with flashbacks to the events Creel is discussing, Englund wanted to ensure that he got the emotion of an older, mentally broken, and disturbed Creel across.

My only concern was that I knew they were spending lots of money doing this reenactment, this flashback of the story I tell about the house that the Creels lived in that was haunted. And I knew that they’d be cutting away from me while I was telling parts that were very emotional. And I wanted that emotion to bleed into the parts, so they used the dialogue I performed. It wasn’t done in post. I didn’t want it to sound like I was doing some post-production, late-night jazz disc jockey with a deep voice.

Having played the villain on a number of occasions, Englund found himself being tormented for a change, mutilated and behind bars in a mental asylum. With season 4 cut in two, we don’t know what fate will await Creel, if indeed we see him again at all.

Stranger Things 4 Part 2 will be available to stream on Netflix from July 1.