The last 25 years have not been kind to Charles Lee Ray.
In the 1988 film “Child’s Play,” the fictional serial killer was mortally wounded and used a voodoo spell to transfer his soul to the body of a childlike “Good Guy” doll named Chucky. After terrorizing a family and attempting to inhabit the body of a young boy named Andy, Chucky was burned alive and shot through the heart.
Since his first terrifying rampage, Chucky has returned to torment Andy and gotten blown to bits (“Child’s Play 2”), tracked Andy to a military academy and been chopped to pieces (“Child’s Play 3”), married an equally sadistic living doll named Tiffany (“Bride of Chucky”) and welcomed a baby boy named Glen who, in turn, kills him (“Seed of Chucky”).
Academy Award-nominated actor Brad Dourif has been along for the entire ride, not only playing the human form of Charles Lee Ray, but lending his voice to the killer’s psychotic pint-sized counterpart as well. And both Chucky and Dourif have returned for yet another horror romp in the new film “Curse of Chucky,” which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
I caught up with Dourif at the 2013 New York Comic Con to talk about his “Child’s Play” legacy and an up-and-coming actress he’s very familiar with, the star of “Curse of Chucky,” Fiona Dourif.
David Onda: You’re a well-accomplished actor outside of the “Child’s Play” franchise. Have you ever regretted being so well-known for this little redheaded maniac?
Brad Dourif: First of all, I’m not a two-foot plastic doll, and I don’t look like Chucky. I’m known to avid fans of Chucky who would bother to find out who the voice was, but Chucky is a much bigger star than I am, for sure. So, it’s not the same thing. No, I have no regrets. When someone really wants me for a serious film or a drama, they can get me.
Onda: At what point in the original “Child’s Play” production did director Tom Holland bring you in to do the voice of Chucky?
Dourif: He brought me in – I did the voice originally. And then it was time to do the ADR [automated dialogue replacement] for it, and I was doing another film. And they played around with alternative Chucky [voices]. They did not work. They screened them and the audience hated it. The problem was, the first one was a guy who did a kind of comedy thing and there was no threat, and the second one was the same thing – no real threat – so I came in and put threat back into Chucky and it worked.
Onda: Was there any sort of inspiration for the voice, or was it simply a more menacing version of your own voice?
Dourif: I kind of was doing Chicago. I went about it in the same way that I go about doing a part. I left the voice somewhat generic, but more shifted towards Chicago. I didn’t have time to do a Chicago accent, I was doing other things at the time.
Onda: Are you conscious of just how many people are afraid of dolls, and the role Chucky has played in perpetuating that fear over the years?
Dourif: I know somebody who took a doll – a woman who took a doll into therapy with her because she was terrified of the doll her whole life and she kept it. I’m very aware of it. I remember as a child going to sleep and shadows passing across the toys in my room, and feeling afraid.
Onda: How has the process of recording Chucky’s lines changed from the first movie to “Curse of Chucky”?
Dourif: The second and third, I would go in to the studio and do the voice before the movie started, alone. It was great to go in and work with Jennifer [Tilly, voice of Tiffany] in the fourth and fifth “Chucky.” I brought somebody in with me, actually my girlfriend’s daughter Cleo – I brought Cleo with me to work on the voice for “Curse.”
Onda: “Bride of Chucky” is your favorite film of the series, which may infuriate “Chucky” purists – could you elaborate on why you like that sequel?
Dourif: I just thought the movie held together in a way that was wonderful for me. I thought the use of “Bride of Frankenstein,” and the fact that her love of that movie became a key to the way that movie played – all of that homage became really a part of what drove the people and the action in a way that was beautiful and simple and quite appealing. I thought that there was a real chemistry between the dolls. That had to do with the way we voiced the dolls. Jennifer and I worked together and we improv’ed and we left everything very open and spontaneous and so when they were doing the puppets, they really had something to work with.
Onda: How surreal is it that your daughter, Fiona Dourif, has joined the “Chucky” universe as the star of “Curse of Chucky”?
Dourif: It’s more than surreal. I’m so happy and proud of her. She did such beautiful work in this. I’m really, really very proud of her.
Onda: Was she brought on to do this film because of her connection to you?
Dourif: Don [Mancini, director] and I had been talking, and he was casting the sister and needed somebody edgy and [asked] did I know somebody who was edgy and I said, “Uh, yeah. Rather well.” And I sent him Fiona, and he saw Fiona and he went, “Oh, my God. She might be good for the lead.” And so she read for the lead and got it.
Onda: Is she naturally in tune with the series, and horror movies in general, because she’s been around it with you for so many years?
Dourif: Nooo. Fiona has her own quality that is very much hers that was very right for the film and had nothing to do with a feeling for the franchise. She does something different that nobody’s quite done in the franchise. Her performance… I think Don puts it rather well, “She has a quality that supernatural things could happen to her.” And that’s Fiona. That’s totally Fiona. That has to do with the way she’s lived her life and who she is.
Onda: “Curse of Chucky” is more of a horror film than the last two sequels. What do you love about this film?
Dourif: There’s parts that I have to keep the same, but then I have to do something different, and this one was really about Chucky’s revenge. And the trick is to make that real and human. It’s amazing how small opportunity there is for you to actually do that and find that and make that work, and that’s the challenge.
“Curse of Chucky” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as “Chucky: The Complete Collection.” Are you a Cinemax subscriber? Watch “Child’s Play” on XFINITY TV here. Streampix subscribers, click to watch the second, third, fourth and fifth installments now.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.