Englund was born in Glendale, California, on June 6, 1947, the son of Janis and John Kent Englund, an aeronautics engineer who helped develop the Lockheed U-2 airplane. He is of part Swedish ancestry, and can speak Swedish fairly well. Englund began studying acting at the age of twelve, accompanying a friend to a children's theater program at California State University, Northridge. While he was in high school, he attended the Cranbrook Theatre School (organized by the Cranbrook Educational Community) in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He then attended UCLA for three years, before dropping out and transferring to Michigan's Oakland University, where he trained at the Meadow Brook Theater, at the time a branch of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He married for the first time in 1968 to the nurse Elizabeth Gardner, whom he divorced in 1972.