Exclusive: Don Mancini, Danielle Bisutti, Fiona Dourif, and Chantal Quesnelle Talk Curse of Chucky!
That plastic ginger bastard Chucky returns in the new sixth installment in the Child’s Play series, Curse of Chucky (review here). Are you excited for Big C's return? If not, maybe this interview will do the trick for you!
At Curse’s recent debut at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal (where it won a Gold Award for Best International Feature), Dread Central sat down with the film’s writer-director, Don Mancini, and Curse actresses Danielle Bisutti, Fiona Dourif, and Chantal Quesnelle to discuss Chucky’s latest resurrection—and the resurrection of the series’ darker tone.
“I wanted to give the fans what they wanted,” explains Don Mancini, “which was a return to the horrific roots of the series after having done two comedies.” Of note, Mancini does have a special place in series horror-dom - he has been around for all of the Child's Play iterations, 6 times as a writer and 3 as director. We've seen Phantasm's Don Coscarelli stand by his series as well, both as writer/director for all of its sequels - but it is a noteworthy occurrence to be granted the power of myth-bearer for 6 times to date. Though there was a bit of friction with Chucky fans when the series leaned towards more humor, which is always controversial (and I say this with a bit of hyperbole) in genre circles - the dreaded comedy-horror.
“I always saw Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky as... hopefully they have moments, you know, a little jumper or something, but they’re more about not scaring you, but making you laugh at things that used to make you scared.” Mancini also mentioned that a Chucky movie does set up an expectation of being "scary." With Seed, especially when your audience is mostly made up of young guys daring you to scare them, well, a John Waters-esque horror flick is unexpected and probably unwelcomed (and I am a fan of Seed, which is said is a rare thing to be).
As to why the series even ventured into the potentially audience-alienating waters of comedy-horror, Mancini is frank: “It’s tricky, keeping it scary. And after one, two, and three, I just didn’t want to keep making the same movie over and over again. So I thought pushing into the dark comedy realm would freshen it up and just provide some new fodder, you know, for stories.”
Having explored that style for two movies, Mancini decided it was time for a refresh. “I wanted [Curse] to be suspenseful and spooky. I love Gothics, and we really hadn’t done Chucky in a sort of straight-up Gothic realm, with the old dark house and the stormy night, and the vulnerable heroine in the wheelchair— but then, laughs inevitably are going to come in with Chucky because that’s just his personality; he’s anarchic.”
The tone change presented a challenge to Mancini the screenwriter: “It was interesting writing his dialogue in this movie because people want him to be funny, but it couldn’t be funny in quite the same way as Bride and Seed because it wasn’t meant to be meta. So I needed to make him a little meaner in this one because we were making the movie, Fiona [Dourif] and I, and it was like, ‘Chucky’s such a dick!’ I think it’s funny, in a dark way, that’s consistent with Chucky, but there’s a slight adjustment for this movie to make you laugh in a somewhat different way than in the last two movies.”
“Partly this movie was meant to be a love letter to fans of the franchise, so I wanted it to have a nostalgic factor... in the last twenty minutes of the movie, I thought it would be fun to sort of have a ‘greatest hits’ feel about it that brought everything full circle.”
Mancini is very attentive to Chucky’s fanbase - but just who are the hardcore Chucky fans? “I meet a lot of people with Chucky tattoos. I think that our fans are maybe more diverse than the fans of other horror franchises, just because we’ve ranged tonally, across the map; we have a huge gay fanbase - starting with Bride and following with Seed, the camp aspects to it, but you know, in Bride, we had a gay character, one of the first at the time, it was a little trend-setting. Not many mainstream horror movies had gay characters in them. We did that, we had Alexis Arquette and John Ritter and Jennifer Tilly and Blondie on the soundtrack. Then we went even further with it on Seed by giving Chucky a gender-confused child. So we’ve got a lot of gay fans, which I don’t know a lot of other horror franchises have more than we do, but at the same time we have the kind of metal-heads, so, you know… Anyway, it’s hard to answer that question because I don’t know that there’s a typical Chucky fan.”
One Chucky fan with a special relationship to the series is lead actress Fiona Dourif; playing the wheelchair-bound heroine Nica, the actress is terrorized by her own father, Chucky himself, Brad Dourif (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Wise Blood, The Lord of the Rings).
“I am the seed of Chucky!” the actress beams with pride. “Yeah, I have a great affinity. I actually identify with him as part of the family. He’s like my retarded little brother. And, you know, he’s been in the corner of my house my entire life. When I was a teenager, we would have these parties, and I would bring him out and people would get scared.”
However, when it came time to work with Curse’s Chucky doll, according to Mancini, the younger Dourif made a surprising request of her director: “When we were in pre-production, she would ask me, ‘When I’m doing my scenes with Chucky, can we turn the doll off? Because I’m afraid it’s going to be weird for me.’ And I said, ‘I’ve never had that request, in twenty-five years of having Chucky on set, but not hearing his voice... that’s important for the actors. But she got over that.”
As to working with the voice of Chucky, especially considering the scenes requiring her own father eagerly threatening to kill and verbally abuse her, Ms. Dourif also found any initial misgivings dispelled: “I didn’t think I’d be able to work with his voice in the big showdown scene, and [I thought] that they might have to have somebody reading it off because I thought it might throw me, and it didn’t actually. Because it’s his voice, but it’s actually a different version. It doesn’t quite sound like my dad talking, and it also added an element of familial creepiness that was helpful, actually.”
Dourif wasn’t the only actress who found working with Brad to be daunting. As Sarah, Nica and Barb's ill-fated mother, Chantal Quesnelle found herself with her own trepidations: “When you work with an actor who is the caliber of Brad Dourif, obviously I was completely nervous and intimidated, and when I was actually working with him, he’s in this, he’s so there, that he kind of drew me up with him. I wanted to give as much as he was giving... I know I’m not making much sense because I’m not focused and I can’t even speak, but I found that as soon as I got on set and as soon as we started doing scenes together, I immediately let go of all of my insecurities and thought, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re working with a pro, and no matter what you do, it’s going to be good because you’re giving off of each other’s energy. He’s a very... I know it seems like a cliché, but he's a very giving actor to work with. And working with him, how often can I say that I’ve worked with an Oscar-nominated actor?”
Once the shooting started on set, Quesnelle forgot the distinguished actor’s resume: “Watching him when he’s on set, he goes in to Charles Lee Ray, and I didn’t have to act, I WAS scared. He made my job so easy, reacting to him.”
Fiona Dourif reveals the truth about Brad: “My dad is not scary. My dad is like this lovely, quiet geek, you know? He’s really into physics and anime. My dad’s like this harmless creature; he’s kinda got this strange quality about him. I really think it has something to do with the eyes, though. He just LOOKS scary at people.”
Does he ever slip into character to frighten neighborhood kids come Halloween time? According to Fiona: “You can’t really get him to do Chucky very often; you really have to put some work into it.”
More challenging than getting Dourif to play Chucky during his off-hours is getting the animatronic Chucky doll to work during his on-screen time.
Fiona Dourif laments, “It was tough with the finale because it was- I had to be hysterical for like a week and a half. And Chucky takes a long time. He’s such a princess, he takes forever. And he gets like 18 takes. And the first 12 are actually unusable.”
“And finally,” Dourif concludes, “I got to a point where I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to have to give up on stressing about all this.’ It’s like you get to this point where you’re laughing in between takes, you’re not trying to keep yourself there [at the same pitch of intensity], because you would just keel over and die.”
Because of the puppet-related delays, Danielle Bisutti, who plays Nica's older sister, Barb, strategized to save her better takes for later, “You know, you don’t want to waste your good stuff.” Bisutti also has an odd family connection with the franchise: Her uncle produced the first one. "[I had] this weird one degree of separation from Chucky, and I won’t get into all of them, but it was like fate." Also as a huge horror fan she relished in her death scene. Her method during shooting was to keep a soundtrack around her character even up until the very end. "Yeah, I put the earbuds in; I sort of keep that world private because there are so many variables going on around you, whether it’s the lighting or the puppet that’s not walking correctly, and the actual scene? You didn’t get to watch it last night [at Fantasia] because you guys didn’t see the unrated version, but you actually see the blade go though my eyeball. That scene in the attic, where Chucky finally comes to life and chases me against the post, we did in five different versions. The actual attic, then the breakdown of the attic; it was incredible, so for me to keep that level of intensity in each of them was a challenge, yeah. So I kept to myself with those earbuds."
"My parents always thought I would be great on the big screen because I have these lovely eyes,” Bisutti continues. “They were waiting for the moment when they could see their big girl on the big screen with the eyes showcased, and little did they know that it would be a butcher’s knife going through one of the eyeballs. I don’t think that was quite what they had in mind. My mom is horrified to know that her baby girl is going to have a butcher knife through the eye.”
For Bisutti, however, it was a dream come true: “Lookit, I was stoked. They put a cast around my head, they put the prosthetic over the eyeball, the big gaping wound, they had a replica of the eye, and when you get to see the unrated version... And you will hear my scream. My pipes get up there." A scream queen in the making no doubt.
Quesnelle also notes that she was eager to take on the unique challenges presented to the horror movie performer: “I love horror movies... Psycho, Janet Leigh. One of the actresses that most profoundly affected me and made me want to be an actress is Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween movies. And I remember When a Stranger Calls... those movies really had me, I loved being scared. And so in this movie it’s like okay, this is surreal, I’m an actress, I’m in the exact kind of movie that I love, and then the death scene—Well, there were a couple that we shot a couple of different ways. It was like, how do you [die]? You just kind of think, what would it be like to just cross over like that. What do you do? You can’t act that, you just have to go with whatever is… the director is like, ‘Try it this way.’ So I try not to plan, how am I going to… I just try to let it happen. And I loved walking around with the scissors.”
Horror vet Mancini shares his actresses' enthusiasm for the genre: “I love horror. I think that different horror filmmakers have different things that they’re interested in. For me, I love horror movies, the ones that I was into as a kid, were not so much like Texas Chainsaw, I was more into the upmarket ones because I really loved the collision between the violent suspense, the bursts of violence, in the midst of aesthetically beautiful presentations.”
Mancini cites the masters of this mode of horror iconography: Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Brian De Palma, and Dario Argento. “That, to me, is aesthetically very interesting. I think it’s two different colors and the collision of those two colors..."
“In a way, I think this aspect of horror is summed up in the image of the face of a beautiful woman, and something horrible happened to it. And we did that a lot, a lot of imagery of a beautiful woman’s face, with an eye gone. There’s something disturbing and arresting about that—a beautiful face, but something has happened to it. There’s just something about that.”
From the Press Release
Terror returns in a deceptively tiny package when Curse of Chucky, the newest installment of the chilling Child’s Play franchise, comes exclusively to Blu-ray and DVD on October 8, 2013, from Universal 1440 Entertainment, a production entity of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Also available on Digital on September 24, 2013, Curse of Chucky reunites franchise creators Don Mancini and David Kirschner as Chucky returns to horrify viewers in an all-new, unrated chapter of the blood-soaked suspense saga that James Oster of ArrowInTheHead gleefully calls, “Delightfully deadly.”
“It has been a quarter of a century since fans were first petrified by Toyland’s most lethal serial killer in Child’s Play” said Glenn Ross, General Manager and Executive Vice President, Universal 1440 Entertainment. “Now, twenty-five years later, the deadly legacy continues as Chucky resumes his disturbing reign of terror, delivering more of the blood-curdling scares and bone-chilling twists that have cemented his place as one of the world’s most legendary horror film icons.”
Written and directed by Mancini, Curse of Chucky finds a family imperiled by the murderous doll that launched a generation’s nightmares – determined to finish a job that was started long ago. The film stars Fiona Dourif (The Master, “True Blood”), A Martinez (“Longmire,” “General Hospital”), Danielle Bisutti (Get Smart, “CSI: Miami”) and Brennan Elliott (“Flight 93,” Double Jeopardy), with Brad Dourif (The Lord of the Rings) once again providing the voice of Chucky, the homicidal plaything inhabited by the spirit of notorious serial killer Charles Lee Ray.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack allows fans to view Curse of Chucky anytime, anywhere on the platform of their choice. It includes a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and Digital including UltraViolet for the ultimate, complete viewing experience. Additionally, Chucky: The Complete Collection Limited Edition is also available on Blu-ray and DVD on October 8, 2013, in the United States only. For the first time ever, Chucky fans can experience all six movies in one must-own set, including Child’s Play, Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3, Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky and Curse of Chucky.
Chucky: The Complete Collection Limited Edition Synopsis
Set a play date with Chucky as all six movies come together for the first time in the chilling Chucky Complete Collection Limited Edition. The killer doll torments his original victim, young Andy Barclay, in Child's Play, Child's Play 2 and Child's Play 3. Then the ruthless redhead teams up with his dream doll, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), in Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. Chucky is back again in Curse of Chucky to terrorize a family with whom he shares a mysterious connection. Oozing with hours of bonus materials, the Chucky Complete Collection Limited Edition is a thrilling, chilling, campy, must-own set. Wanna play?
Child's Play Special Features
Child's Play 2, Child's Play 3 Special Features
Bride of Chucky Special Features
Seed of Chucky Special Features
Curse of Chucky Synopsis
He’s back! From the filmmakers that brought you Chucky comes the terrifying return of the pint-sized doll possessed by the spirit of a notorious serial killer. When a mysterious package arrives at the house of Nica (Fiona Dourif, “True Blood”), she doesn’t give it much thought. However, after her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to the ensuing bloodshed and chaos. The return of America’s favorite toy, voiced again by Brad Dourif, is unrated and full of more blood-splattered thrills and chills.
Curse of Chucky Special Features
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