Norweigan director Lars Klevberg never imagined that he would be someday directing a CHILD’S PLAY reboot. However, that’s exactly where he found himself when it was announced last year that a brand-new reimagination of the beloved killer doll would be coming to the silver screen. Following some of the same beats as the original, this latest film follows Karen (Aubrey Plaza), a single mother who gifts her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a Buddi doll, unaware of its more sinister nature. Recently, I had the chance to speak with Lars about his adaptation where we discussed everything from the new look of Chucky to bringing on legendary Mark Hamill as the voice of the iconic doll.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Lars! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to take on this reimagining of CHILD’S PLAY?
Lars Klevberg: That’s a good question. I love the first movie in terms of how they portrayed the universe and the story. It’s inventive in terms of creating a horror movie dealing with kids toys like that. I also have deep respect in terms of what they achieved with practical effects in 1988, it’s groundbreaking. You can watch it now and just get blown away by how they do it and I can only imagine how tough it was for them because I can kind of understand how tough it is right now (laughs). I loved that first movie in terms of those aspects but I never saw myself making a CHILD’S PLAY movie as a director. Not in a disrespectful way but that was something that I was never kind of aiming for or looking at. I search for certain things in a script, emotional things, regardless of what genre it is, and when they sent me the script I was like, “Okay, that’s amazing that you’ll do this but I don’t think I’m the guy for [it].” I read [the script] and was blown away, it was so good! I loved the characters, I loved the relationship between Andy and Chucky, and I love Chucky in a way that I just could not stop thinking of it. I decided I wanted to do it because [it] was such a great re-imagination of the old one but at the same time all those things from the old one were kind of spread out throughout the movie. For me, I just fell in love with Chucky as a character and I had the possibility to do something different like this is my version of Chucky. It might polarize people but at the same time you can create something like an emotional connection to Chucky in a way and you can see him change in a way that’s fresh and new.
Did you have much say on how Chucky was going to look? Obviously, he doesn’t look exactly like the original one. I personally found this version to be way more unsettling than the original.
Lars Klevberg: [The look] basically came from the script so when I read it I felt like I was experiencing looking at a toddler about 3-4 years old and seeing the world for the first time; this innocence of just being there and finding its purpose. Who am I and what’s my purpose which is I want to make Andy happy and I have to be there for him and I want to play with him and if something disrupts that then I don’t like it. [In this film], voodoo is gone, we are dealing with an AI so it’s not a doll that can change and become Charles Lee Ray – you can’t do that because there’s an internal change much more than a physical external one, though we do see some change [in Chucky] at the end. For me, it was important to design something that felt like a little toddler, with this curiosity but not too much expression but you could understand that there was something going on inside of his head. At the same time, I loved the signs from the first two [Child’s Play] movies where the [original Chucky] is changing a little bit. That hit me the most when I was watching those movies.
This was a reimagination of the first film, it was for me to create something that you could emotionally connect with in a conscious and subconscious way and still hit some of the notes from the old Child’s Play movies. This is Chucky but we had to redo him a little bit and make him interesting. We wanted you to look at him with his big blue eyes and question if there was something going on inside of his head or not. Clearly, there is something, but you can’t put your finger on it.
It’s funny you bring up the emotional connection because there is a scene in the film in which Andy is reprimanding Chucky and a part of me felt bad for him even though what he did was atrocious.
Lars Klevberg: I wanted to present Chucky as an antagonist in terms of what you might see in a Greek Tragedy. You are dealing with two strong forces and an antagonist that’s plausible and has great motivation and beliefs but there’s also hate and love which culminates at the end with those two strong forces. I wanted to have the audience root for Andy but also wanted them to root for Chucky because basically every action he takes and every motivation he has is understandable from his point of view. You can shout at him and you can say, “You shouldn’t do that” but at the end, he’s learning from us and it’s understandable but his actions are not.
One of the biggest surprises that came to fans of the franchise was when Mark Hamill was announced as the voice of Chucky. How did he come on-board and did you always know you wanted him as the voice?
Lars Klevberg: I wanted to have someone who would be able to create a complex and dynamic character as Chucky is in this movie and I needed a great actor. I knew that Mark is a terrific actor and he’s been able to do iconic characters before. I also knew that Mark had a background in voice acting because I’m a movie geek (laughs) and knew of his take as Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. He was the first choice and I talked to the producers and we decided to give it a shot. We sent him the script and I wrote him a letter and sent him the look-book. Even if he turned us down we at least knew we tried. Then he called us and told us he loved it and felt really good about embarking on Chucky’s character. It’s challenging – two iconic characters forging into one and of course, he felt it. He was such a super professional and he watched all of the Child’s Play and Chucky movies back-to-back which just shows his level of professionalism and his involvement with this character. He was such a pleasure to work with and just the best.
Lastly, what would you like fans of the franchise to know about this new iteration of CHILD’S PLAY?
Lars Klevberg: I paid the deepest respect to the source material but I think also paying the deepest respect isn’t to copy anything 1:1. It’s trying to be reinventive and finding a reason as to why you want to do this. For me, it was important to create a Chucky that was different than its predecessors, in terms of trying to make you connect with him emotionally. I was thinking that I really wanted to see if we managed that in terms of this story. Even if you are of the old fan base or the new one, you can hate what you’re seeing up there but you might also find yourself strangely rooting for Chucky in a way that you haven’t done before. It was important to try to make something that the audience member was emotionally connected too regardless of whether the film was horror, drama, or comedy.