For nearly 30 years now, Brad Dourif has been the driving force behind one of the horror genre’s greatest villains, Charles Lee Ray, or Chucky, as the doll version of his character likes to be called. With Child’s Play now having six different sequels, Dourif’s vocal performance as the franchise killer is the cornerstone of the Chucky series, and he really gets a chance to let loose in Cult of Chucky in some rather unexpected ways.
Daily Dead recently spoke with Dourif about Cult of Chucky, and he discussed how his involvement in the franchise has evolved throughout the years, his favorite moments from the series, being able to collaborate (and terrorize) with his own daughter, Fiona, who has become another driving force in the Chucky movies, and more.
Cult of Chucky is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD, and the rated version is currently streaming on Netflix as well, courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
So this is a character that you've now been playing for around thirty years, essentially. And I'm curious, what's different about the process now versus how it was for you early on in this franchise? Has it evolved through these different movies?
Brad Dourif: It has evolved with the genre. It started out as a movie of its era, with a little bit of humor, a little bit of camp, but it was mainly real and scary, and this series stayed that way for the first three films. But then we had Scream, so horror became self-referential, and there you had Bride and Seed, and they both were a reflection of that. But now that the genre began with all these remakes, we have Curse and now Cult, which is more like us going back to the core of the series, and back to the core of who Chucky is as a character.
With Curse, it gave you guys a chance to flesh out Charles Lee Ray a little bit more, which I thought was really an interesting aspect of that film. Was that cool for you to go back? Because no one had ever really done that before in any franchise, or at least any major franchise like that.
Brad Dourif: Well, that was fun for me because I got to act and be on set, and not just do the voice. There is a difference between Charles Lee Ray and Chucky, which means I approach them differently. Charles Lee Ray was specifically a sexual predator and Chucky isn't so specifically that. He's almost like a married man at this point, you know?
How much fun is it to do a lot of these Chucky-isms? We have a lot of villains in horror, but it seems like the ones that resonate the most with fans are the ones that have a voice and the ones that can mess with their prey, so to speak. When you get in there and start doing the voice, is that your chance to just let loose as a performer?
Brad Dourif: On some days it is, that’s for sure. But with Chucky, it's more of a difficult line that you're walking when you’re doing his part. Chucky has to be the monster, no matter what, so he should always be scary. The struggle is between the fact that Chucky loves his job, for lack of a better word, and Chucky can also turn a living human being into a piece of meat. Those are the two things that make up this character. That's the line you have to be walking, so you cannot just make Chucky all funny, all the time. It just doesn't work. He needs that edge.
The humor of any scene in these films really comes out at the moment. You try to be funny if the line's funny, but if you’re supposed to be playing it straight, you have to do that, or it just doesn’t work. Comedy is about timing and instinct, it comes with a comment on something that's either real, or that’s a juxtaposition to what's going on. If it happens, it's funny. If you try to do it, it's not. It is freedom in many ways, where you just let yourself go, and go with it, and then it'll work.
Don [Mancini]'s been a presence in this franchise since the very beginning and there are not very many franchises where we're this many movies in, and you still have somebody who was there from the beginning involved. How much involvement does he have when you go in to do the voices? Is he super hands-on, or does he just let you do your thing because you’re you?
Brad Dourif: Oh, he's very much there. If anything, he over-directs sometimes [laughs]. Chucky is very much in his head and he cares a great deal about this character. And also, we don't have the other people there when I'm doing it, so what they're responding to, and how it is, is something he's very protective of. I'm making it sound worse than it is, but let's just say he feels he has to exert the kind of control that he wouldn't have to exert if both actors were there and the scene was happening on set during production. You see what I mean? Because then he can step out a bit and let it happen. I think he feels he can't so much when it’s just him and I working together.
Fiona has done a great job in these last two films. How much fun has it been for you to watch her become a part of this series, as her dad? And is it a bit of a weird feeling to be tormenting her, because you are her father?
Brad Dourif: Well, I haven't seen Cult yet, but I'm very proud of her performance in Curse. I thought she did a beautiful, beautiful job in that movie. The thing is, though, when we’re doing these films, she's not my daughter when I'm terrorizing her. Fiona and I have done a lot of audition tapes together over the years. She started out, of course, not knowing anything, and was determined not to be an actress. David Milch (creator of Deadwood) kind of ruined that, though. We had a meeting, and Fiona was with me, and then he looked over at her and he said, "And how come you're not an actress?" Then he started writing things for her, so it was inevitable.
Before we go, I was wondering if you have a favorite Chucky moment from any of these films?
Brad Dourif: You know, I was alone in those studios for years for the first three movies, so having someone to work with in the studio with Jennifer [Tilly] for Bride and Seed was really fun for me. I loved it. Of course, now I'm back by myself, so I’m back to being lonely [laughs]. But I really enjoyed being able to do Chucky with somebody. The second thing is, I remember the first time that I saw Bride, and the sex scene with Chucky and Tiffany shocked me. I didn't expect to feel shocked, but I was like, “No, dolls can't do that!” It was the first time I'd ever seen that and it was just a fun reaction to have. There was some kind of taboo that was broken in a very fun way with that scene. I really loved watching Bride.