Brad Dourif is truly a genre legend. An Oscar nominee for his role in "One Flew Over The Cukcoo's Nest", I interviewed Brad in early 2008 to get his feelings on the 20th anniversary of "Child's Play", a film that immortalized him as the voice of killer doll "Chucky". The interview was prep for my "Child's Play" retrospective in Issue #10 of Horror Hound Magazine. My talk with Brad ultimately didn't end up in my article, so here it is in all it's unedited glory!
We're frightened by things that we can't put a face on.
So how did you land the role of Charles Lee Ray?
I had worked with the Tom Holland before. The first time I heard anything about it was when Tom called me up about it. Although, before that I had I taught at Columbia University and I did teach Don Mancini. I met him when he audited my class there. At the time that he had my class he was already thinking about the story, it was already something that he had written for class or something like that. Down the road they called me and I went in and met with them, and I wound up doing it. So that's how I got it, just through my relationship with Tom Holland. And then there was just that coincidence that Don had audited my class.
What were you teaching at Columbia?
I taught a course in directing actors. And I guess Don had wanted to take it, so he ended up auditing it.
How involved was Don during the production of that first film?
During the first one Don really was pushed to the background. He didn't say anything to anybody. I don't think he did really say much until the second and third... maybe by the third he started to be able to go into sessions and talk about things. Don really had a great deal to do with the last two though, obviously.
So when you first got to see Child's Play, how did you feel about the finished product?
I thought the original film was a prety scary little horror film. It was a tight little film. I loved it.
It's cliched to ask this, but did you have a feeling then how much of a cult classic it would become?
I did actually. It's very simple. Everybody as a child, when you try to sleep, the shadows of all of those monstrous toys begin to haunt you. How many people have had just one doll that creeped them out a little? It's just a subliminal thing. When we came out of the reaction mode as humans, and stopped believing in monsters and demons and stuff, we realized that we need demons. They are a part of an expression of the way our mind works.
We're frightened by things that we can't put a face on. And demons are the faces of the things that we're frightened by. You walk around with inevitable death. Life eats itself... Life is a very weird thing. It itself is immortal, but every individual... the only thing that you are required by life to do, is to die. That's a "horror." That's an innate part of life, and it's a bit horrific. I think horror expresses that. Horror always has a monster with whom you can not negotiate. So specifically yes, I think that answers the question (laughs).
So you must have expected a sequel then?
Yes because they were negotiated. They pretty much negotiated me for not a lot of money, and they've been paying me not a lot of money ever since (laughs). The thing is I really like Chucky. I love Don Mancini, he's a really great guy. He's really smart and interesting and he's got a really good sense of humor. I kind of like being a part of it. It's not a big money maker for me or anything like that (laughs). And it certainly hasn't made me a movie star or any thing.
Have you ever gotten recognized just from your voice?
There's a lot of people out there who know a lot more about film than I do, walking around the streets. And actually they know more about me than I do.
What were your thoughts on the first two sequels?
They really weren't good. I mean the first sequel that was really really good was, at least the first one that I liked was "Bride of Chucky." I thought that went to a whole other place. It was a really beautiful satire in a way. Because it brought in this ridiculously hyper romantic thing. It just was beautifully absurd, and it was really really fun.
What were your first thoughts when you saw Chucky's sex scene?
When I first saw that I was SHOCKED. I'm not shocked by sex scenes at all but somehow those two dolls having sex, I just thought it was absolutely disgusting. I didn't know where to look (laughs). I really was sort of embarrassed, and I thought it was really cool.
I mean it's one thing to read something on a page, but when two dolls that are two icons that are actually having sex... you know dolls aren't supposed to do that (laughs). Of course they did... you know Barbie was a whore. All those little girls, and I have two girls, it was ridiculous what was going on with those dolls. You can imagine (laughs).
I felt faint after each take we took.
I could see the headline now... "Chucky Calls Barbie a whore"
(laughs) Well, Chucky would definitely do that.
Was it emotional when you read Tiffany's death scene with Jennifer Tilly?
Ya, there's a huge difference between when I did the other films and when I did Bride. I'd done three of them, and two of them the way I worked was I would go in to the studio and I would do the whole movie in a day and a half. But I was alone in a room by myself, and sometimes it was like a really big room and after a while you feel really lost. There's no movie to watch, and there you are doing the whole movie in your head. It's kind of a lonely experience, so it was delightful to do it with Jennifer. I was so happy to see her.
And Jennifer really knows how to talk, so she does a lot of ad-libs, which I'm not great at but sometimes if you throw me a good curve I forget that I'm bad at it. We came up with some good stuff. A couple of scenes that we did were almost completely ad-libbed, and they made it into the movie. I mean Chucky's always emotional when he dies. I'm sure we went at it with everything we had. She's a great actress, and when I'm in the presence of that kind of talent I'm not going to hold back. So I don't remember that incident, but I can promise you we definitely went at it.
Do you keep in contact with any of your colleagues from the series?
I keep up with people but very very loosely and it sometimes takes a year to get together w/ people. I certainly keep up with Don. We go to see movies occasionally. Unfortunately everything we see has been terrible.
Do you have a favorite chucky moment out of all the movies?
The first one, the screaming when Chucky was burning to death. I was a lot younger then, and the amount of energy that that took. I felt faint after each take we took. I remember one time my daughter came in and saw a screening, and I was like really... she shouldn't have seen that. And now, the consequence is that she's an actress, so (laughs).
Do you think people will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original?
(sighs) Well, it's difficult to say. CGI has gotten really good. And I don't know how well the mechanical stuff with the doll really holds up in the first one. I haven't' seen it in a long long time. I don't know if it's going to get outdated or not, It might not. I mean it really might not, but it then again it might (laughs). And that would be the only reason why it wouldn't be a classic.
So you do think it has a chance though?
It just depends, it really depends. It's hard for me to say. It's impossible for me to say because a lot of it will depend on what I did, and i can never be objective on that, to tell you the truth. It really has to do with if I really hit on anything primal in my voiceover. If it's really there, if you can feel it, then it could probably be something that could hold up.