Mark Hamill and Aubrey Plaza tell Dominic Corry about rebooting the cult horror favourite Child's Play.
Most people know Mark Hamill as the paragon of virtue that is Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. But for several decades now, Hamill has been quietly carving out a side career as one of the most respected voice-over artists in the business. And Star Wars fans might be a little shocked to learn Hamill's latest voice job is a character who couldn't be less like the farm boy from Tatooine with mad lightsaber skills: evil killer doll Chucky.
That's right, Hamill provides the voice of the iconic horror villain in the new reboot of the Child's Play franchise.
Brad Dourif, Oscar nominee (for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) and Lord of the Rings co-star (he played Gríma Wormtongue), voiced Chucky in the 1988 original (and its six sequels, as well as an upcoming TV series), but as Hamill tells TimeOut at a press event in Beverly Hills, it was the changes to Chucky's nature in the new Child's Play film that gave him an entry point into the character. Whereas the original Chucky was possessed by a murderer, the new Chucky is driven by some artificial intelligence software that goes a little haywire.
"I thought the crucial element of what was different from the original - which I love, and I'm a huge fan of Brad's interpretation - but in this one Chucky has a different origin," Hamill tells TimeOut, "it's not the soul of a serial killer, [in this one] someone deliberately goes in and alters his operating system and takes off the safety measures. So he was really like an innocent child really. Just learning from what goes on around him."
Chucky isn't the first time Hamill has voiced an iconic bad guy - he has received much acclaim for his take on Batman villain The Joker across a variety of animated series.
"The truth is that when I agreed to it, I felt intimidation like I haven't felt since I did The Joker," says Hamill. "So many people have expectations of what Chucky is supposed to sound like, because the originals have such a following. People say 'You can't touch this, you're no Brad Dourif', with which I agree. I love Brad. It's a great responsibility so I'm anxious to see how people react because it's not the Chucky that we've all known from before."
Chucky 2.0's updated origin allows the new Child's Play to comment on the extreme interactivity present in all modern conveniences, something Hamill admits to struggling with.
"My appliances all hate me," says Hamill.
Child's Play co-star Aubrey Plaza is similarly sceptical of emerging tech.
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"I hate Alexa and Siri and all technology," Plaza tells TimeOut in her trademark deadpan patois.
She stars in the film as young single mum Karen, who works at a big-box store. When a customer returns a coveted Buddi doll, Karen decides to gift it to her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman), failing to realise that this particular Buddi doll, which Andy names Chucky, has some murderous interpretations of his "friend till the end" programming.
Not only is the horror genre something of a change of pace for Plaza, still best known for comedy performances in the TV show Parks & Recreation and the film Ingrid Goes West, it also marks the first time she's played a mother on screen.
"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," Plaza tells TimeOut. "So I found a lot of connections with that character, and I thought maybe it's time to let those maternal instincts surface, and just show another side of me. And what a dilemma for Karen. The stakes are very high when a tiny robot is trying to murder your child. It's a challenge."
Lars Klevberg, director of the new Child's Play, says he pitched his take on the film as "E.T. on acid". The film's marketing reflects a similarly playful approach, with the campaign cheekily referencing Toy Story 4, which is released into theatres on the same day. Some advertisements have depicted Toy Story characters as having been ... murdered by Chucky.
"On Twitter, I got blamed for it," says Hamill with comic exasperation. "From Toy Story fans, they said 'Are you doing this?' and I would say 'Not me'. I think it's brilliant and very tongue-in-cheek and conveys the humour of the movie in a way that is spectacular."
Although Plaza is clearly relishing starring in an out-and-out horror film, she says that she prefers more naturalistic thrills in her viewing habits.
"I'm not a big slasher movie fan. I don't wanna watch people get stabbed. And I don't wanna get stabbed. I go more for the psychological horrors like Misery, that kind of thing. Something that could really happen. That is scary to me."
When it comes to horror favourites, Hamill has classic tastes.
"I'm old-school," he says. "I like the original Psycho. I remember my parents getting home from seeing it, and they were scared. I'd never seen my dad like that before. So I waited another 10 years. It's amazing, that film, it's perfectly made.
Hamill also cites a classic Twilight Zone episode about a possessed doll.
"There's something about creepy toys," says Hamill.
Indeed there is.
Who: Mark Hamill and Aubrey Plaza
What: Reboot of cult horror fave Child's Play
When: In cinemas next Thursday