Most of the modern horror icons have been played by several actors over the years. Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, these characters have had several people under the mask at this point. But Freddy Krueger is indistinguishable from Robert Englund. For most fans, you simply can’t have one without the other. But moviemaking is a tough and complicated business. Outside the obvious case of the remake, several people have stepped into Freddy’s shoes over the course of the franchise.
However big or small their roles, we thought it would be interesting to highlight some of these other actors to take on the character—even if they only did it for a moment or two. These people still have the huge pop culture distinction of portraying Freddy Krueger, so let’s give them a shout out.
They don’t take anything away from Robert Englund, of course. These actors have only added to the legacy of the character over the franchise’s thirty year history. It’s tough to bring to mind anyone but Englund, but in some instances, these actors played Freddy in some of his most iconic scenes.
So let’s take a look back at some of the other people to play one of cinema’s most iconic madmen.
Anthony Cesere – A Nightmare on Elm Street
It’s pretty clear that that’s not Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger during the fire stunt in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. That moment when Nancy sets Freddy on fire clearly—and smartly—utilized a stunt man. Interestingly enough, that stunt man by the name of Anthony Cesere would eventually reteam with Wes Craven, playing Ghostface in Scream and Scream 2.
Believe it or not, it was not originally New Line’s intention to bring Robert Englund back after the first movie. Robert Shaye believed that Freddy Krueger was basically just another actor in a rubber mask, so they hired a stuntman to replace him. As soon as they began filming with the replacement, they realized their mistake. According to director Jack Sholder, the stuntman lumbered around like Frankenstein’s Monster and was unbearable, so they managed to bring back Englund, cementing his importance to the character.
Michael Bailey Smith – A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
In one of the more iconic moments of the later sequels, comic book fan Mark finds himself face-to-face with the hulking Super Freddy—who of course isn’t played by Englund. Instead, this much larger Freddy is played by stuntman and monster suit actor Michael Bailey Smith, also known for his roles in Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Noble Craig – A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
During the scene in which Freddy emerges from Alice’s body, Krueger was played by stuntman Noble Craig. Having lost his legs in Vietnam, Craig was strapped to actress Lisa Wilcox and suspended from wires to achieve the effect seen in the film. The stuntman also portrayed the tequila monster in Poltergeist II, as well as the sewer monster in Big Trouble in Little China.
Chase Schirmer – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
In one of Freddy’s Dead’s many flashbacks, we see a young boy portray Freddy during a classroom scene in which the young Krueger kills the class pet. The child didn’t have much to do other than look generally expressionless as we hear him killing a hamster. And he does that very well.
Tobe Sexton – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
Sexton has a bit more to do as teenage Freddy. His scene with Alice Cooper gives us a bit of insight into Freddy’s abusive upbringing, And you can very much believe him as a younger Freddy. We just see him cutting himself and laughing about it, and that’s so clearly who the teenage Krueger would be.
Kane Hodder – Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
The iconic ending of Jason Goes to Hell sees Freddy’s hand bursting up out of the ground and pulling Jason’s mask down into the earth, inadvertently setting up Freddy vs. Jason. But it’s not Freddy in that scene, it’s the movie’s own star Kane Hodder. That’s not only his hand in the glove, but that’s also him doing Freddy’s cackle as it cuts to the credits.
Jackie Earle Haley – A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
And then, of course, we’ve got Jackie Earle Haley as the first major recast, taking on the iconic role for the remake. He gets a lot of flack for his performance, but truthfully I think it has less to do with him than the material he had to work with. The movie felt like it was constantly figuring itself out even while it was filming, so I’m not sure Haley ever got to grasp his own take on the character. There are times when he’s really doing his own thing with it and times when he’s kind of stuck doing an impersonation of Englund—and that’s where the performance really stumbles.
Updated April 12, 2020*