Wildling, the feature-length writing/directing debut of filmmaker Fritz Bohm, is the story of a teenage girl named Anna (Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl), who knows little about her own origins and has been raised in isolation by a man she knows only as Daddy (Brad Dourif).
But when a series of events brings Anna into the outside world under the care of a local sheriff (Liv Tyler, The Leftovers), Anna begins to experience changes within herself that gradually reveal who and what she really is.
The movie, which is part fable and part horror, is a different twist on the classic werewolf story and benefits greatly from the presence of Dourif, the terrific character actor who first broke out in 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (as the stuttering hospital patient Billy Bibbitt). His career since then has encompassed one memorable role after another, including the voice (and human form) of Chucky in the Child’s Play/Chucky horror franchise; Piter de Vries in David Lynch’s Dune; the frightening Gemini Killer in William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III; Grima Wormtongue in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings; and Doc Cochran in the HBO Western series Deadwood.
Now semi-retired (according to Dourif himself), the actor found some time to get on the phone with us and discuss what motivated him to work on Wildling, along with his thoughts on Amazon’s possible Lord of the Rings TV series, the future of Chucky and whether that Deadwood movie will happen.
Den of Geek: I scanned your credits, but I don’t think you’ve ever played a character like the Bel Powley character in this movie, where you have to go through that kind of transformation?
Brad Dourif: No. I mean, not really. I’ve done full makeup like she has, but I’ve never turned into a werewolf.
What did you like about this take on this kind of creature and also the character that you play?
When I read it, the character was ambiguous enough that I talked to Fritz. I decided that I would go and talk to him and when we talked I realized that I could add a little bit of something that wasn’t there and it would make the story stronger, I felt like, and move it in a better direction and it was something that I more wanted to do. It’s not really a horror film. It’s something else.
How would you describe it?
It’s more of a fantasy film, I would say. It is more than a horror film.
What did you want to add to it?
Here was somebody who desperately needed to find meaning in his life by taking care of someone.
When you work with a director like Fritz, who’s a first-time director on this, or a young actress like Bel who’s only done a handful of films, do you find them inspiring in a way, especially because of the fact that you’ve also been a teacher?
It’s very exciting to see a young actress like Bel, to watch her work. I like young people and obviously, I wouldn’t teach if I didn’t. It’s really cool to watch her, how she comes into a character, how she prepares when she’s on set. Just to watch her work. I felt like she was my daughter. She was wide open and incredible. As for a director I really look for somebody I can communicate with and who I feel has a real clear idea of the story and what he’s getting at.
I don’t know if you’ve read about Amazon doing a Lord of the Rings TV show. I’m curious if you’ve heard that, and if so what your thoughts are on that and would you ever play Wormtongue again?
Well, I have no idea what the story line is, so it’s impossible for me to say. I don’t know anything, really, about it. I can’t really comment on whether Wormtongue should be a part of it or not. It just depends on what they’re doing. I’d be interested to see it.
One of the stories I read about the Peter Jackson movies was that several of the actors actually thought you were British because your accent was so perfect in the film.
I practiced it all the time. I do that with accents. If I take on an accent, I just do that accent all the time. I just talk from the time I wake up till I go to bed. That’s the accent I use. It was important, especially with that, because he’s so much a person of his mind that I had to really, really get very used to the accent so that it would become more English and I would slowly drift into more English. There were plenty of English actors there so it was very helpful.
What do you remember about working with Christopher Lee on those films?
He was fun to work with. He was quite a guy. He was pretty extraordinary. He spoke like 15 languages and he was just brilliant and talked a lot. My girlfriend’s daughter was there and she’s very interested in accents and he spent hours teaching her rhyming cockney and all kinds of things. He was a good guy.
What’s happening on the Chucky front? We’ve heard there could be another movie and a TV show.
I haven’t spoken to Don (Mancini, creator and director of the Child’s Play/Chucky movies). My daughter is very close to him, they speak almost every day. She assures me that the TV series, at least, is something that there’s a lot of interest in. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, but it certainly could.
After playing that role so many times, do you still find something fresh about it each time you do it?
Yes, yes. That’s basically because Don is always up to something different. He doesn’t do things the same so I have to adjust. This last one, I had to play several different Chuckies!
Do you have a personal favorite role that you’ve done, either in film or in television, that you feel has gone under seen or that you’re surprised if people ask you about it?
No, not really. I did a small little film called Humboldt County years ago and it’s interesting that that crops up from time to time. People will ask me about that.
What you remember about working on Exorcist III?
That was a nightmare. I did it the first time and they decided to cut me out completely and use somebody else. They were going to use a guy that had some kind of name recognition, but they assured me that I did a really good job and they loved what I did. They brought him in and he couldn’t do it. And they changed the set, so I had to completely redo the part. I had, like, 48 hours to get it ready, but I did it.
Your IMDB page has a new version of Re-Animator listed on it.
I have no idea what that is. I can share nothing. I don’t have anything else right now that’s coming out. I’m kind of semi-retired here. I stopped doing bad guys so, you know, there are fewer offers. Plus I’m getting my pension and I don’t really need the money, so I’m fine like I am.
Have you heard if the Deadwood movie is going to happen?
I’ve heard about that. I hear fall, maybe. But I’ve been hearing fall every year. I think it’d be very difficult for them to get that cast together. I think it would be very hard. I know that David (Milch, Deadwood creator)’s written some things and he likes what he’s written, but whether it will happen or not I don’t know. The last time I heard about it, it was more real than the other times. But we will see.
Wildling is out now in limited release and on VOD and Digital HD.