It may be hard to imagine anyone not being thrilled to have Mark Hamill voice the latest incarnation of an iconic horror monster, so when the news broke at Wondercon this weekend that Hamill would be providing the voice for the murderous star of the new remake of the of the 1988 horror hit Child’s Play, fan reaction to the news was one of excitement and approval.
Hamill is, after all, the man who thrilled and chilled comic book fans of all ages with his iconic portrayal of the Joker in the beloved Batman: The Animated Series. He’s done voice acting for animated series like Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, The Simpsons, and Robot Chicken, and provided voice work for video games like the the Crash Bandicoot and Kingdom Hearts series. He’s narrated documentaries, performed in audio books, and even starred in some science fiction films that have something of a fan following.
When Hamill appeared in a taped announcement at the Orion Pictures panel at CinemaCon to declare “If you’re wondering who’s going to play Chucky in the new Child’s Play, you’re looking at him”, the fans roared. When he posted the video to Twitter, fan reaction there was equally positive, including from the director of the original film, Tom Holland, who called it a “Smart Move”.
"People let me tell you 'bout my best friend…"🎶
The wicked fun begins when @ChildsPlayMovie is unleashed in theaters: Friday, June 21st 2019. #SoLuckyImChucky 🤪 @MGM_Studios @OrionPictures pic.twitter.com/ExOYuwj9sP
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) March 31, 2019
Not everyone is quite as excited, however, although that has little to do with Hamill voicing Chucky. The writer of all seven of the original Child’s Play & Chucky films, Don Mancini, would rather there be no remake at all.
Mancini – who has worked on Hannibal and Channel Zero, and who also directed the last three films in the Chucky series – talked about the remake on the Post Mortem Podcast in December of 2018. The entire discussion between Mancini and Mick Garris is a fun and fascinating history of the creation of the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise, and Mancini’s pleasure in being involved with it, and well worth the listen for fans of the series and horror fans in general. And it must be noted that there is a lot of humor and understanding in Mancini’s thoughts on the new film… alongside the concern of what it means for the character’s future.
“MGM retained the rights to the first movie, so they’re rebooting that,” Mancini told Garris. “They asked David Kirschner and I if we wanted to be executive producers. We said no thank you, because we have our ongoing thriving business with Chucky. Obviously my feelings were hurt. Ya know, I had just done two movies… forgive me if I sound defensive, [they] were both at 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Even though they didn’t get theatrical releases, they were well regarded. And I did create the character and nurture the franchise for three f-cking decades.”
“They just wanted the imprimatur of our approval, which I strenuously denied them. I hesitate to say too much about it because I don’t want to sound like I’m belly-aching too much, because I’ve been so lucky with this franchise for so long. But the producers of that movie are the producers of IT, which of course was very successful. But how would they feel if there was some legal loophole that allowed David Kirschner and I to swoop in and make our own IT movie, with our own version of Pennywise and say like, ‘Oh but hey guys, we would love to put your names on it,’? They wouldn’t like it. I imagine they wouldn’t like it. That’s how I feel.”
Mancini is not alone in seeing his creation go off in a direction he doesn’t want, of course. Clive Barker has been very vocal about his distaste for what has become of the Hellraiser franchise, and Alan Moore has never met an adaptation of his work that he had anything pleasant to say about. It’s also not too unusual for the original creator of a character, book or film not be happy with what later writers or production teams did with it. The history of Hollywood is full of stories that have nothing to do with what the people who created the original had in mind. It is, however, not terribly common to have a reboot of a film while the original creators are trying to continue the story themselves.
Because even as the reboot heads for a June 21st release, Mancini, Kirschner and original voice actor Brad Dourif are heading to SyFy with a new TV series starring the possessed doll, one that returns the character to his more horrific and less-comedic roots. It’s a venture that could possibly be negatively impacted by the new film, and that’s something that understandably worries Mancini.
“I don’t have any grudge against the cast and crew, they’re taking a job… The people who are making that movie, they don’t know how that’s going to affect my livelihood,” the filmmaker said. “I still do other things other than Chucky. But I think I’ve demonstrated that it’s not just a paycheck to me, or David. This is very personal to us, this is like, we’re a family. We’ve worked with the same actors and a lot of the same people behind the scenes for 30 years. And MGM’s screwing with that, potentially. So it’s hard not to resent that.”
Hopefully fans of the series – old and new – can enjoy both versions of the character. And while it may be too much to much to hope for – OK, it’s probably far too much to hope for – maybe, just maybe, someday we’ll get Hamill and Dourif bringing both versions together for an epic Battle of the Evil Doll Voices.
Don Mancini appears in the December 5th episode of the Post Mortem with Mick Garris podcast. Other episodes include discussions with David Cronenberg, Annabeth Gish, Don Coscarelli, Barbara Crampton, John Carpenter and other iconic creators and performers in the world of horror.