INTERVIEW: Horror Legend Brad Dourif Discusses Chucky, Fears, Career, And Family

Without darkness there would be no light, no goodness. In the background of the best stories stands an antagonist that you secretly find appealing, even if you are rooting against them. Brad Dourif is no stranger to the shadows.

Brad’s breakout role came in 1975 when he played Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His portrayal of the asylum inmate was so convincing that it led to a career path cluttered with odd or psychotic characters. Since the 70s Brad has played a plethora of troubled characters ranging from Chucky in the Child’s Play series to Grima Wormtongue in Lord Of The Rings.

It just happened. I certainly did not intend it [to be cast in dark roles]. Billy Bibbit was crazy and people thought that is what I did. I never really got a lot of offers for much else and that sort of segued into serial killers and all kids of things. At this point I don’t do them. Except for Chucky, I turn down all bad guys. I will do anything but. However, at my age it is basically all curmudgeons.

Chucky has become Brad’s most notable role. He has voiced the psychotic doll in every installment of the series, a line that has now spanned the past twenty years. There is obviously a level of terror that has transcended generations but audiences are also drawn to Chucky’s comical dialogue. Finding a balance between the two emotions is a formula that Don Mancini somehow managed to perfect.

In the beginning I was working on a project and they got tired of waiting. He had somebody else voice it and the guy was apparently funny as hell; they could not stop laughing. They put it in front of the audience and the audience hated it. Then they said, “We better wait for Brad,” and they called me back. First and foremost horror films have to have a monster. The monster has to be someone with whom you cannot negotiate; he is going to kill you. The basic idea of horror is that something is after you and there is nothing that you can do about it except for run or defeat it. That is who Chucky has to be, an absolute determined killer. That is why the comedy did not work. Unless that fear is there then it is not funny. You have to really have that anger and fear, and then you can dance on top of it a little sometimes.

The series has now become a family affair. Brad’s daughter, Fiona, plays Nica Pierce in the latest installments. Nica becomes possessed by Chucky during the last film, a fitting nod to the duo. Brad isn’t ready to give anyone else the reins just yet but it doesn’t take much to see how highly he regards his daughter.

Chucky is still Chucky. He has possessed her but she is not going to do the voice of Chucky, I don’t think. At least that is what Don Mancini says. They let me stay an extra day so I could watch her work in the beginning. She did a night of very difficult stuff and she nailed it. I was very proud of her and it was really great to watch her work. I mean I am very very proud of her. She does beautiful work. What else can I say? I am a father, I adore the kid, and she is doing great! I can’t be anything but proud.

It turns out that in addition to sharing a voice with the psychotic doll he also shares some of the same fears. Chucky thrives off of his fear of death. He has undergone several transitions of forms to avoid the reality of dying. This is a reality that Brad struggled with throughout his life.

I use my fears all the time when I’m working. For a long time it was death, oblivion. As I am getting older I am facing it more and more in my mind. It has become less terrifying as I change over the years.

While Brad will forever be Chucky, he got to play a much tamer part in Lord Of The Rings. In contrast to being loud and aggressive, Grima Wormtongue gave another dimension to his acting skills. He was reserved, manipulative, quiet, and submissive. Brad auditioned for the part five times before being offered the role.

Wormtongue was someone for whom I had a little bit of compassion. I talked it over with Fran when I got there to shoot and we came up with an explanation. Here was this guy who was an ugly kid that nobody liked and tended to get picked on. Yet he had good instincts and learned from life experience so much so that he was able to predict what people were going to do. It was a survival technique. As he got very good at it what better advisor to a king that somebody who can anticipate what people are going to do? He was always an outsider. He became an advisor but there was this girl that he could never have and she became everything he ever wanted. Saruman, the white wizard, tempts him down a slippery slope and unfortunately he loses it all.

Sadly, audiences in the theatres were unable to see Wormtongue’s redemptive moment as it was cut before release. Fed up with being abused by Saruman, Wormtongue ends his evil master once and for all. That’s right, he was responsible for using his final moments to kill the evil wizard that had caused so much turmoil and pain. You can only find the deleted scene in the extended version of the DVD. Even so, Brad doesn’t seem to harbor any grudge about being robbed of this glorious moment.

I understood. I had been in the business a long time. It hurt a little, but not much. I think Christopher [Lee] was much more outraged by it.

Most people don’t live to see themselves become legends in their lifetime but Brad has proven to be an exception. The sheer amount of films and various genres that he has acted in is a testament to this. Whether portraying a crazy inmate, murderous doll, or manipulative outcast Brad has a unique way of finding the spotlight in the dark.

If you would like the opportunity to meet or ask Brad questions of your own then be sure to head out to Texas Frightmare Weekend this Friday through Sunday. The horror convention is being held in the Hyatt Hotel at DFW Airport. For More information, schedules, and tickets visit www.texasfrightmareweekend.com

Comments are closed.