We are just a few days away from the arrival of Lars Klevberg’s remake of the ‘80s classic Child’s Play in theaters, which takes the iconic Buddy doll (now named Buddi) in a bold new direction that focuses on the utilization of AI and home automation technologies, and also delivers up a brand-new version of the murderous doll who wants nothing more than to be your best friend. Written by Tyler Burton Smith, Child’s Play (2019) stars Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, and features the legendary vocal talents of Mark Hamill, who plays Chucky.
At the recent press day, both Klevberg and Hamill chatted about the approach to creating the voice of Chucky, Bear McCreary’s brilliant score (and a specific song that is sure to become an earworm for horror fans once the film is released), how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ended up being prominently featured in Child’s Play (2019), and much more.
Mark, what kind of decisions went into deciding on this particular voice for Chucky?
Mark Hamill: Well, I got a letter from Lars, and he already laid out his vision for the film before I'd read it and then they sent me the script. I thought the crucial element that was different from the original, which I love, I'm a huge fan of Brad [Dourif]'s interpretation, but in this one Chucky has a different origin. It's not the soul of a serial killer. Someone deliberately goes in and alters his operating system and takes off the safety measures. So, he was really like an innocent child just learning from what goes on around him. I thought that was crucial.
Also, the age of the boys, instead of being five or six, Gabriel is a young teenager and that was, I thought, a very fundamental difference from the original. He does an amazing job, I have to say. When I read it, I said, “If they don't find the right actor to play Andy, the whole thing falls apart because you see it through his eyes.” When you see this guy, he is spectacular. He's so authentic, so genuine and sympathetic, that it's really unfortunate that he got such a messed-up toy.
Lars, what sort of direction did you give Bear McCreary to create the score and Mark, how long did it take you to learn the song?
Lars Klevberg: For the score, when we got Bear McCreary on board, I talked to him about just some general ideas and how I'd like the soundscape [to] kind of be. A couple of days after, I spoke with him and asked him how it was going. He had been shopping instruments and he showed me some pictures of instruments that I had never seen before. He took a few days, and then he came back with almost the entire score and the theme and I was just blown away. It had such an iconic sound, and honestly, I am still blown away by the music.
Mark Hamill: Early on, we had a placeholder where I was singing to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine,” so I got used to that. Then, Bear sent me the disc with his song on it, and my first thought was, "Oh my God, this sounds like a Rosemary's Baby type of lullaby," where it works authentically as a lullaby, but it still creeps you out in a way. Because I do a lot of voiceover, I was going into the Valley from Malibu, and I listened to it 18 times on the way over and I think 22 times on the way home because there was traffic. It just bore itself into my head like an earwig. I'll never be able to get it out of my head as long as I live. But I thought Bear did a great job.
There's an amazing scene in this film where Chucky learns some weird lessons about violence by watching some kids laughing at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Lars, is that something you could talk about more?
Lars Klevberg: In the script, it was written that they're watching a cheesy ’80s horror movie, so when we went back into it, we were presented some ideas of the movies that we could do and Texas Chainsaw 2 was one of them. It worked out perfectly because in a way, it also ends up being a little foreshadowing for what Chucky is going to do. This wasn’t my commentary on violence in movies. It's more about free spirit software and the impressionable changes it undergoes by adapting to its surroundings. So when Chucky sees the violence, he thinks that’s what makes them happy.
Mark, this is the kind of role you could have played completely campy if you had chose to, but there is a poignancy to the way you voiced Chucky here. Can you discuss that decision?
Mark Hamill: I always try and be guided by the script and I also had Lars and the three producers that were all together and it became this open collaboration. I would do maybe five takes in a row and do slightly different nuances, and there was a different intent with each of them. The interesting thing for me is to see the film now assembled and see what choices they made, because Chucky pretty much stays innocent throughout a big part of the film. So, it was really like giving them these jigsaw puzzle pieces that they can assemble later to their liking. It was so much fun to do.
There's a sense of an ’80s nostalgia in this film, and I was wondering if you could weigh in on your influences while making Child’s Play?
Lars Klevberg: For me, it all comes from the script. People think of Amblin ’80s as this original trademark of filmmaking, but for me, it's dealing with troubled humans, blue-collar humans experiencing something magical and forcing their way to deal with something, whether it’s a new entity or a new friend. When I pitched this movie, I described it as “E.T. on acid.” That pretty much summed it all up.
Mark, there was a lot of excitement when you were announced as the voice of Chucky. Did you feel a lot of pressure taking on this role?
Mark Hamill: To tell you the truth, when I agreed to it, and it sunk in that they wanted me to do this, I felt intimidation like I hadn't felt since I did The Joker. Because when I did the Joker, this was after the backlash of people being mad about Keaton’s Batman, saying, "Michael Keaton's a comedy actor. He can't play Batman." So I thought when I auditioned for the Joker, that there was no way they were going to cast Luke Skywalker as the Joker. Forget about it. So, I had no performance anxiety with that because I knew they couldn't hire me. It's only when they hired me that I really felt that pressure because so many people had expectations of what the Joker is supposed to sound like.
I didn't feel that kind of intimidation with Child’s Play until it sunk in that I was really doing this because, you know, the originals have such [a] passionate following. There are people that have said, "You can't touch this. You're no Brad Dourif," which I agree. I love Brad, but I’m not him. So, I have a great responsibility here and so I'm anxious to see how people react. It's not the Chucky that we all know from before, which was the point.
Check HERE to catch up on our previous coverage of Child's Play (2019), including our video interview with Aubrey Plaza and Gabriel Bateman!