He’s already known for two iconic roles — one live-action and one animated — and now Mark Hamill has taken on a third. Hamill, who you might recall from his starring role as Luke Skywalker in that little series of films collectively known as Star Wars, is providing the voice of the murderous doll named Chucky in the upcoming remake of Child’s Play.
Hamill, of course, is no secret to voice acting: he’s done a majority of his work there, led by his legendary portrayal of the Joker — still considered the definitive version of the character — in Batman: The Animated Series and numerous other DC animated properties (he’s also done live-action DC as well, appearing as the Trickster in three episodes of The Flash).
So having Hamill –one of the busiest voice actors in the business — embody the character so deliciously voiced by Brad Dourif in the original Child’s Play and its many sequels seems a stroke of genius for director Lars Klevberg and the filmmakers behind the reboot.
“I got a letter from Lars,” says Hamill at a press conference for the film when asked how the role came to him. “He already laid out his vision for the film, before I read it. And then they sent me this script and I thought the crucial element that was different from the original, which I love — I’m a huge fan of Brad’s interpretation — Chucky has a different origin. So it’s not the soul of a serial killer, but someone deliberately goes in and alters his operating system and takes off the safety measures.”
It’s true: whereas the original Chucky was possessed by the spirit of a vicious killer who transferred his soul to the doll while dying, here the toy given to young Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) by his mom Karen (Aubrey Plaza) is an AI-driven “companion” operated by an app and connected to the online world of its manufacturer — giving Chucky far more capabilities to kill those around him.
The new Child’s Play, like the original, has a solid dose of humor injected into all the mayhem and carnage, and Hamill admitted that the trick for him was finding the right tone: dark and intense, but a bit gleeful without going too far into camp.
“We always try and be guided by the script,” says the actor. “It was a really sort of open collaboration because I would try maybe five (takes) in a row, and do slightly different nuances. The interesting thing is to see them assemble it and what choices they made…it’s really like giving them jigsaw puzzle pieces that they can assemble later to their liking.”
Even though the removal of Chucky’s safety protocols turn him into what we would describe in human terms as an amoral psychopath, the AI is just adapting his behavior from the world he sees around him: “He was really like an innocent child, really, just learning from what goes around him,” explains Hamill. “But I thought that was crucial.”
Despite his experience and his excitement at getting to voice such a well-remembered and popular horror creation, Hamill says he didn’t take landing the part for granted: “When I agreed to it, and it sunk in that they wanted me to do this, I felt intimidation like I hadn’t felt since I did the Joker,” he reveals. “I thought, when I auditioned for the Joker, there’s no way they’re going to cast this icon of virtue, Luke Skywalker, as the Joker. Forget about it. So I had no performance anxiety because I knew they couldn’t hire me. It’s only when they hired me that I really thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this because so many people have expectations of what he’s supposed to sound like.’”
“I didn’t feel that kind of intimidation until it sunk in that I was doing this,” continues Hamill, adding that he was nervous about following in Brad Dourif’s footsteps. “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 all know from before.”
Child’s Play is out in theaters June 21.
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye