To an entire generation, Englund will always be known as Freddy Kruger, the horribly disfigured lunatic who haunts teenagers’ dreams with his razor sharp claws in the “Nightmare On Elm Street” movies. But the actor is now building fame among a whole new generation as the voice of Spider-Man’s flying-foe, The Vulture, on “The Spectacular Spider-Man,” currently in its second season airing Monday nights on Disney XD.
Englund is no stranger to playing comic book villains in animation, having voiced both Felix Faust on “Justice League” and The Riddler on “The Batman.” Now adding the role of The Vulture to his resume, Englund’s distinctive voice adds an extra special brand of creepiness to the winged menace.
CBR News recently had an opportunity to speak with the beloved actor about his role on “The Spectacular Spider-Man.” In this interview, Englund discusses the series, voice acting, the legacy of Spider-Man and his favorite childhood comic books.
CBR: To start with, how did you become involved with “The Spectacular Spider-Man?”
Robert Englund: Well, I’ve been doing voice-overs off and on for a while. I started with the narration for the John Milius cult surfing film, “Big Wednesday.” I did the narration for that and even before that I did the first IMAX film, “To Fly.” Then there was a period where I was just acting and a couple of years ago I started doing some animation work and it was really fun. I did “The Batman” and I played The Riddler. I did some crazy [show] called “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!” which is apparently this huge hit in Japan. Actually someone told me that they even have a gift shop at Disneyland in Florida. So obviously there is a cool t-shirt somewhere that I need to be wearing.
Then some of the people that I had worked with on, I believe “The Batman,” recommended me and called me in for “The Spectacular Spider-Man.” I’m doing the continuing role of the Vulture on that which is a lot of fun. It’s kind of tricky because my first show was practically all exclamations and screaming so it took me a while to kind of find the voice for him. I didn’t want him to sound like The Riddler and I didn’t want to sound like some of the other characters that had been done on “Spider-Man.”
Sometimes it’s like you have to take what’s left. I’ve done a couple of war movies, like a Vietnam War movie or a WWII movie, and sometimes the scripts aren’t that good. A lot of the soldiers’ roles, their characters are pretty similar so you sort of have to come up with something to differentiate you. Sometimes it’s not really in the writing. Sometimes its just as simple as getting the coolest flight jacket out of wardrobe to make you look different, so sometimes your vocal choices are determined by what’s left, what hasn’t been taken by the other actors.
What was it about the role of the Vulture that attracted you to the part?
Well, I’m older now and he’s definitely older so that’s kind of fun on just a pure survival instinct choice as an actor. You know the Vulture, his particular skill set, the fact that he flies, its great because I know that visually in the animation there’s going to be a lot more throw downs with him and Spider-Man. They get the two of us up there flying through the cityscape and it’s kind of like the Death Trench in “Star Wars.” The way these guys animate it, it really looks great.
It really lends to a lot of visual interpretations, so I figure the Vulture is going to be around for a while. But it’s fun to do it. You know, I’m a big fan of Peter MacNicol (“24”) and I’ve been a fan of his work for a very long time. Once in awhile we’ve gone up for the same parts in the past. I liked him on “Numbers” and I remember when he was a young leading man in “Dragon Slayer.” He plays Dr. Octopus and it’s really fun to watch him because he’s not a typical voice-over actor. He’s very physical and he really gets in it. He’s a very droll and funny gentleman anyway but it’s really fun when I get to do the show with him because I enjoy watching him work so much.
Do you get to work directly with the other actors or do they record you separately?
No, we all do it together or we do sections together and then there’s this process of coming back and you have to do many fixes. That’s when you’re usually alone and that’s the hardest part for me because I don’t get the rhythms off the other actors, even though I’m listening to what they’ve recorded. Plus, I haven’t seen the animation yet so when I first see it I’m still a fan-boy and it always takes me a couple of takes because I’m too busy watching the cool animation. Even if it’s not completely color timed or ready yet, I still love coming in that day. But it’s always hard for me because it’s not like watching my own mouth when I’m doing regular ADR, watching Robert Englund’s mouth and trying to match stuff to that. I’m watching an animated mouth and I’m watching the animation all around it, which is very distracting because I just love it. You know, I want to see how they came up with stuff and I want to see how they visualized stuff differently from how I saw it on the page. So that’s tricky.
How would you describe the dynamic between The Vulture and Spider-Man? How do you view their relationship?
I’ve only done like four [episodes] but so far I’m not as antagonistic or have as many one-liners with him. It’s much more than that. Because we’re both aerial in our combat, our combat is almost exclusively aerial so I’m always taunting him, it’s sort of like an aerial tit for tat. Whenever I taunt him it’s usually pretty specific about that because it’s in the middle of like an aerial combat sequence so I always sort of think that the Vulture in his scientific arrogance really believes he is just better with his Vulture machine and his wings at flying around than Spider-Man is at swinging around. I think that is sort of where the animosity is, aside from him being also a thug and a minion. Although he doesn’t consider himself one of the thugs, he considers himself as sort of the brains not the brawn with Doc Ock and the gang. I think it’s more of that, “I can fly better than you,” I think is really what it breaks down to. “I can out maneuver you in the sky and in the air,” I think that’s really his sort of challenge with Spidey.
Finally, are you a fan of Spider-Man comics and what do you think it is about the character of Spider-Man that has lasted now for generations?
Well I mean I knew Spider-Man but I didn’t buy a Spider-Man [comics] every week. I had different comics. I was into “Tales From The Crypt.” I was into “Blackhawk” but I don’t know why? Now it seems really politically incorrect but I loved “Blackhawk.” I think it was probably the jets, you know, I loved aircrafts when I was a kid so I loved the jets. Then I liked Superboy. But I knew who Spider-Man was and I thought Spidey was cool.
I think for me, when Spidey actually came alive was when Spidey started to be animated on other Saturday morning shows and then the features by Sam Raimi. That’s really when I sort of had my latent fourteen-year-old adolescent catharsis with just how cool Spidey is. I’ve always seen images of Spider-Man that I loved. I love Spider-Man upside down on ceilings. There have always been classic graphic comic images as a child and even as an adult that I loved of Spider-Man. But I never invested with my imagination what it must be like for him to swing and move. I think it was when animation and the actual special effects physicalization of that came around that I really got a whole new level of understanding for the character and love it now.
“Spectacular Spider-Man” airs Monday Nights on Disney XD and check back with CBR News tomorrow for Part II of our interview with Robert Englund about the remake of “Nightmare On Elm Street.”