Director Lars Klevberg has his hands full with the “Child’s Play” remake opening this Friday. For one, the original is one of the most beloved horror movies of the 1980s, a film that took the “killer doll” concept and modernized it in some truly iconic ways. But also because, thanks to an insane rights situation, he could only adapt certain aspects of the original “Child’s Play” while being forced to leave core ideas (like a serial killer’s soul inhabiting the body of a doll) behind. It’s not an easy feat. But he pulled it off.
“Child’s Play,” with “Star Wars” vet Mark Hamill providing the voice for the homicidal plaything, does feel fresh and new, updated very much for today’s audiences.
At a recent press day in Beverly Hills, we sat down with Klevberg to talk about the creative process, why he insisted on using an animatronic Chucky, and what’s up with Andy having a “Poltergeist III” poster on his wall. (Minor spoilers follow.)
This is an interesting remake because you had some pretty heavy guardrails in terms of what you could or couldn’t use from the original film. Was that an interesting challenge for you as a director weave around this stuff?
Well it's a good question, but as a director I can’t weave around anything. That’s law and that’s for the lawyers. And they were very specific about what we could do and couldn't do, which is fine by me because you have to do that. It created some challenges and difficulties for us later on when we the script ready and then we got like input on what you could do and not. It had to be change a little bit of that. There were some rules that I would never imagine the logic behind why couldn't shoot that. But we didn't want to take any chances and then you just have to come up with another idea and shape it in a different way.
What was the sort of biggest loss in terms of something you maybe wanted to do but couldn’t?
It’s not a big loss but every time you get something that’s pushed you back, it allows you to, to come up with a creative idea. One of the things was in the earlier drafts, Chucky, he chops off the head of Shane. And put the head on a melon. He put the whole head there in the original draft and then they said, no, we can't do that because he does it in the second or third one. They said, “We have to do something different.” I was like, okay, that's strange. Then I came up with the idea that I can just cut his face off and attach it to the melon. And that's funny because then he has this mask and we can do it through that horror movie that they watch. That's hilarious. It just gives you another idea that was equally good or better than what was there.
One of the biggest surprises in this remake is how much animatronic work is there. When hearing there was a remake, most people will assume that Chucky will be CGI. Why did you lean towards practical effects?
For me that's a big question. You know, I signed onto the movie and they were like, “How are going to do it?” And deciding the look and everything. It was pretty early on, I said, “let’s do as many practical effects as possible.” Together with producers, we agreed on that. Like we about it. You have to do this with animatronics because of one pay homage to the original Chucky and the “Child Play” Universe has always been dealing with it. And two, he gets a doll. He doesn't get any like fancy like alien a cuddle thing or something. It’s basically. So to build this doll, mostly it's for me personally, if you present something to an audience and you say, “Hey, this is real,” and as an audience member, subconsciously or not, we'll see if there's something that isn't real.
Following up on that, Mark Hamill was cast fairly late or maybe the announcement that he was cast came fairly late. Did you sort of go through a trial and error process with other actors?
No we didn’t. I didn’t look for anybody until I was done shooting the movie because I was so busy. When you're doing animatronics, you had a lead puppeteer that is basically the one responsible for this mouth and emotions. And he's also a fairly great actor. He was being Chucky’s voice onset. So I directed Chucky as an actor on the set. So when we were finished shooting the movie and started doing post, had a character there and how I want it to be.
Then it was time to look for an actor that could portray him and take over that part and present himself in it. I was looking for someone that had experienced enough to create a complex and dynamic Chucky but I also someone that had background as a voice actor. And I know that Mark had both of them. He's a terrific actor. But I also knew him from his voice on “Batman: The Animated Series.” I'm a huge fan of that because I'm on a movie geek and I discussed it with the producers and this is what we wanted as a first choice. So we reached out to him and he read the script and the look book.
And he returned fairly quickly and said, “I love this, I just want to be a part of that.” We didn't expect that to happen. We felt super blessed. He was so professional. He watched all of the “Child’s Play” movies back-to-back when he signed on. He wanted to really make a Chucky that was original in its own take, that had emotion, that has an arc. It was just a super pleasant to work with him. It was a good time.
Andy has a “Poltergeist III” poster on his wall. Why that reference?
Basically, he’s isolated and we meet him at the start of school. And he’s watching a lot of movies. For me personally at that age I watched a lot of movies. I identify with Andy. We wanted, ass moviemakers, to put up some posters that meant a lot of to us. But also something that is representative of the universe that they’re living in. And for me “E.T.” was one of the big influences making this movie, which isn’t close to “Poltergeist III.” But it is close to the first one.
Well Chucky’s finger glows like E.T.
It does. Actually for me that, that was, what if we put our visual trademark on it? I pitched the project as “E.T.” on acid to the studio and they’re like, “Oh, okay.” Because that instantly give you an idea of what this movie is. So the finger trick was an idea I had.
“Child’s Play” enters your nightmares this Friday.
After moving to a new city, young Andy Barclay receives a special present from his mother -- a seemingly innocent Buddi doll that becomes his best friend. When the doll suddenly takes on a life of its own, Andy unites with other neighborhood children to stop the sinister toy from wreaking bloody havoc. Read More