Could you imagine a better fit for the role of Victor Creel in Stranger Things 4 than Robert Englund? Not only is he a cinema legend, but the show’s A Nightmare on Elm Street spin via Vecna makes Englund’s addition to the Season 4 ensemble the ultimate treat.
In Stranger Things 4the characters in Hawkins find themselves threatened by a new malevolent force, Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). Formerly Henry Creel, Vecna now targets teenagers struggling with past trauma. When Vecna attacks, his victims appear to go into a trance, completely paralyzed and helpless in Hawkins. However, Vecna really has them trapped in his mindscape where he ultimately kills these individuals, killing them up in Hawkins as well.
While Englund and the role of Victor Creel, Henry / Vecna’s father, is certainly a perfect match, during a recent interview, Englund revealed that he actually auditioned for a Season 3 role first, and explained that he “misfired” in that audition. Here’s how he put it:
“I misfired on an audition for Season 3. I probably went the wrong way with the character or something and I really wanted to be on the show. I was disappointed. And I got the call or the submission for Season 4, it just came to my agent. My agent might have submitted me or [casting director] Carmen [Cuba] might have contacted her. I’m not sure which. And I crawled into my bathtub with an old bathrobe on and my wife sat on the toilet seat and filmed me with her smartphone and I sent it in, and I got a pretty quick response. ”
That role Englund did not wind up booking? It was the role of Larry Kline, the Hawkins mayor played by Cary Elwes. Englund went into further detail on how he might have veered in the wrong direction during his audition:
“I think they read me for the mayor and I do not know if I was supposed to read or just meet with somebody, and I drove up to Hollywood and I did not get to meet with anybody, so I read for somebody on Carmen’s staff. I do not know whether they changed the concept for the role or whether I did a sucky job audition. I know that they said to me, ‘Read it like the mayor from Jaws.’ Now that’s one of my favorite character actors, Murray Hamilton, who played that role in Jaws. So I immediately thought of the plaid jacket and sunglasses and kind of a corrupt southern thing, and that’s probably not what they wanted at all, but when they said the mayor in Jaws to me, that’s what I saw in my mind’s eye, so I probably canceled myself out with that audition. But I was really grateful when they contacted me again for Season 4, and that’s a much better fit. “
This right here is the perfect example of one thing not panning out the way one might have hoped only for it to lead to an even better opportunity in the future. Englund shines as Victor Creel in Season 4, Episode 4 doing two things he does especially well – bringing great nuance and gravitas to his narration work, and making the most of expert special effects makeup. Here’s what Englund had to say about working with Barrie Gower and Duncan Jarman‘s artistry:
“I had seen my makeup on me in London in a bathroom. The great Barrie Gower and Duncan Jarman who did Game of Thrones, they invented the Night King amongst other great special effects makeups, I knew they had my back and I knew what I looked like, so I was not anxious about the makeup. I was essentially blind in the makeup. I had a pinhole that worked in one eye, but no peripheral vision and it was very, very dark, and if I moved at all sometimes the makeup adjusted and I could not see at all, so I did not have to act blind. And then the other happy accident of the nature of that scene is that I’m in a cell I’ve been in for 20 years; well, a blind person would know every square inch of it. They would make themselves familiar with it. I would not have to walk around with my hands extended or tap a cane or any of those cliches. I did not have to devote any energy to that because Victor would know his space. He would know where his bed and his chair and his desk, and where the bars were. He would have counted those paces off so many times that they would be instinctual to him. So I was freed of all of that performance energy and I could just concentrate on the story and the emotional truth. ”
While Englund couldn’t quite see the performances Natalia Dyer and Maya Hawke were giving in the moment, he could certainly feel them, which is vital to a story beat that requires Nancy and Robin to convince Victor to reveal the details of his dark past.
“I did not see how they were dressed, and they’re dressed rather humorously because they’re pretending to be academics, what they think academics look like, so I just heard the voices and just listened to them. You wait for things to key on and early on Natalia has a line that really gets to me, that it could be happening again. And this may be, I’m not certain yet, but this may be one of the denials that Victor is in. He may have suspected that there was something wrong with Henry. His wife certainly did. That’s revealed in later episodes in the season. So there was that, but then I also knew how wonderful they are. ”
From there, Englund went into great detail on a particular scene in Stranger Things 3 that made an especially big impression on him:
“I had watched Season 3 several times in my preparation and one of the scenes that stuck with me in Season 3, really charmed me and kind of blew my mind a little, there’s a scene in the bathroom, the ugly, soiled, fluorescent lighting. urinal of a bathroom at the mall at the end of all the chaos in the mall, and it’s Maya Hawke and it’s Joe Keery coming down off of Russian psychedelics that had been given to them, and they’ve escaped and they’re exhausted and they’re sitting on the floor of a public bathroom in the destroyed mall, and there’s been seasons of flirting at Scoops Ahoy with Maya and with Joe, and it’s unrequited. And Joe is beginning to kind of become smitten with Robin. Steven’s becoming a little smitten with her and they’re exhausted and he pulls himself, the bottom of the stalls in the public bathroom, into the stall she’s in and they’re both there leaning against the sides, and she gently comes out to him. . And it’s just a remarkable, remarkable scene and because I just watched Season 3 several times, I became a little obsessed with how great the acting was in that scene. And I did not get to meet Joe to tell him how great it was. But it actually reminded me in some strange, weird way of James Dean and Julie Harris at the top of the Ferris wheel in East of Eden. Just this great, wonderful scene and I just wanted Maya to know that, that I was so impressed with it that she could have improvised with me, she could have done anything she wanted because I saw in that scene with Joe, I saw how wonderful she was. ”
Looking for even more from Englund on his experience working on Stranger Things? You can catch our full 20-minute conversation in the video interview at the top of this article!