Recently, I had the chance to attend the press conference for the new reimagining of CHILD’S PLAY from director Lars Klevberg. During the event, Lars Klevberg, Mark Hamill, Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, and Brian Tyree Henry were on hand to discuss everything working with the iconic killer doll to their favorite slasher films and the inspiration for their characters.
Actress Aubrey Plaza is known for her many quirky and comedic roles in such film and TV shows as Parks and Recreation, Ingrid Goes West and Legion, but in CHILD’S PLAY she takes her first foray not only into horror but also as a mom to a teenage son. When talking about the experience of playing Karen Barclay, Aubrey explained, “When I read the script I was actually really excited about the idea of playing a young mom because in real life my mom is a young mom. She had me when she was 20 and the age difference between the characters in the script is the exact age difference of my mom and me. I found a lot of connections with that character and I thought, ‘Maybe it’s time to just birth a child on screen.’”
Karen Barclay eventually learns just how terrifying Andy’s new best friend is once Chucky’s more sinister nature comes to life. However, no one knows that more than Andy (played by Gabriel Bateman) as he has to find a way to stop Chucky from all his homicidal tendencies. When talking with actor Gabriel Bateman about working with a physical doll, as opposed to a CGI creation, he stated, “They had, I think, nine or eleven different animatronic dolls that could make facial expressions and move and all of them had different purposes. It was actually really helpful to have something to play off of instead of just a tennis ball or piece of tape. I definitely appreciate that.”
Though he didn’t have any on-screen time with Chucky, Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Detective Mike Norris, had a lot to say about being near the doll in-between takes as well as working closely with Gabriel. “My whole experience was with [Gabriel]. The whole thing is that I actually never see the doll…but that doesn’t change the fact that the doll was always on set. The fact that they got to act with the doll and I had to sit alone with it without the actual motions was [terrifying]. I’m actually glad that I didn’t have anything to do with the doll because, you know, it’s so detailed. The jaw moves, the eyes open, there are teeth, which is just, I can’t. My interaction was literally with a human being, with Gabriel, and it was an amazing time. I learned a lot from this kid. I can’t believe I’m saying this in front of you, but he was absolutely remarkable. I’m really glad that all the things that I actually had to do were with a human being like Gabriel.”
When it comes to an adaptation, it would have been easy to make a beat to beat CHILD’S PLAY remake but in the case of this re-imagining that was not what director Lars Klevberg had in mind. When discussing the ‘80’s nostalgia, as well as the film having a Spielberg feel to it, Klevberg went on to explain, “I think there’s a lot of old movies coming back being remade and I think the old Amblin feel [is] a little washed out these days. People think of Amblin ‘80’s as this original trademark, but for me, it’s dealing with troubled humans, blue-collar humans experiencing something magical and forcing their way to deal with something, a new entity or a friend and through that, you can open up their emotional goal.” However, that’s not to say that Klevberg wasn’t inspired by a certain famous extra-terrestrial movie from Spielberg. “Reading the script I kind of had a lot of references from ET,” explains Klevberg. “I pitched [CHILD’S PLAY] as ET on acid.”
When it came to the inspiration Klevberg gave his actors, films such as the original Child’s Play, ET, Gremlins, Mommy and Attack the Block were given to prepare for CHILD’S PLAY. With so many horror films to research, the enviable question arose as to our cast’s favorite slasher. “You know I’m old school, I like the original Psycho,” explained Mark Hamill. “It’s the only movie I remember my parents getting home from seeing and they were scared. I’d never seen my dad like that before. I waited another ten years [before seeing it]. It’s, I think, perfectly made.” Aubrey Plaza is not a big horror fan so unfortunately, she didn’t have a favorite slasher as she explained that she doesn’t want to watch people get stabbed nor does she want to get stabbed. As for Brian Tyree Henrey, he was quick to share his love for Candyman as well as the original Child’s Play. “[That film] destroyed my entire life. I went to school dishevelled for like months because I was afraid to look in the mirror. Also, [Candyman] is black and I had never seen anything like that before. And I’m not gonna lie, Chucky was one of my favorites too because I was still a child at the time it came out. Most horror movies were adults getting messed up, but then you’ve got this kid who has a toy, and, you know, toys are important. He was a child, but like I didn’t care about toys after that movie, like at all.”
CHILD’S PLAY is now in theaters and is a contemporary re-imagining of the 1988 horror classic. CHILD’S PLAY follows Karen (Aubrey Plaza), a single mother who gifts her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a Buddi doll, unaware of its more sinister nature. For more information on the film, make sure to check out our review here as well as our article on Mark Hamill becoming Chucky.