David Lewis knows that Chucky the doll isn’t really a killer. Lewis has been an actor for decades. He’s acted in horror films. He played a serial killer in Evangeline. He’s won a Leo Award. He knows that make-believe is just that, and that props — including creepy-looking dolls like Chucky — can’t kill him.
But that wealth of knowledge and experience didn’t stop Lewis from nearly jumping out of his skin several times while filming Child’s Play, the reboot of the 1980s horror series that hits theatres on June 21.
Like its predecessors, Child’s Play is about the fraught relationship between a kid (in this case, named Andy and portrayed by Gabriel Bateman) and his murderous doll, Chucky. Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza plays Andy’s mom, Karen, and Lewis plays Shane, Karen’s boyfriend.
In the new film, Chucky is voiced by Mark Hamill, and while the Star Wars star wasn’t present when the movie went to camera in Vancouver last year, Chucky the doll was there for all of it — and that doll made an impression on Lewis.
“They’ve got six or seven of the dolls and they’re two-and-a-half-feet tall, and sometimes they’d just be left around the set by the prop department, and it would scare the crap out of me,” Lewis says.
“I’d turn around and it would be there and it’s got this face and it’s looking right at you,” says Lewis, whose credits include Unspeakable, Parked and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. “I experienced legitimate jump-scares probably four or five times. One time, a member of the crew saw me jump and started laughing and said, ‘Yeah, that’s happened to me, too.’”
OG Child’s Play films and the reboot lean into that special quality that makes rational adults like Lewis jump at the sight of a sinister-looking doll. “We cling to these dolls when we’re little and they’re security blankets for us, and what happens when that turns on its head and it’s not a security blanket anymore, and it becomes something that wants to hurt us…” Lewis trails off. “Man, that’s terrifying.”
Where the reboot diverges from the original spate of films is in how the doll becomes an instrument of evil, says Lewis. “In the original, the doll was possessed by the soul of a murderer, but this time, the doll is AI,” he says, adding that the film delves into society’s relationship with AI and how dependent we are on it. “It’s all growing too quickly. Will we know when to stop it? Are we even capable of stopping it?”
Filming Child’s Play wasn’t non-stop terror for Lewis, though. He’s got a lot of joy wrapped up in it, too, beginning with the presence of Luke Skywalker.
“[Mark Hamill]’s been voicing the Joker for years, and every move they’ve made with this project has added another layer of goodness to it,” he says. “I know that, when you’re redoing these types of shows, the fan base can be like, ‘What are you doing to our franchise?! You’re changing it and we don’t like change!’ There’s a lot of ownership with this sort of stuff, and I understand that, but when they attached Mark Hamill to it, I think a lot of people will give it a chance now, and they should.”
Filming took place on a soundstage, on location in the Fraser Valley, and at “that iconic red brick building in the West End where everyone who lives in the West End has to live for at least a month.”
Lewis worked mostly with Plaza, who he describes as a “quirky, interesting, funny, weird, charming human being,” and Bateman. “[He’s] 13 going on 34. He’s so good. The cameras would stop rolling and he’s running around the set like a normal kid, but when the cameras were rolling, this kid was dialed in.”
Lewis savoured the opportunity to watch director Lars Klevberg and his team construct jump-scares. “They’d have somebody walk in front of the camera at the very last second as the camera is pushing in on a character,” says Lewis. “I jumped. You’re going to jump. There’s an art to this and they nailed it.”
Child’s Play opens in theatres June 21.
Watch trailer below: