Living With Chucky documentary director was terrified of the killer doll as a child
Like many film fans, director Kyra Gardner was terrified of Chucky as a child. But the filmmaker had particular cause to be terrified of the killer doll: Her father is the legendary special effects artist Tony Gardner, who has been responsible for bringing both Chucky and his pint-size partner Tiffany to life on screen since 2004's Seed of Chucky.
Unfortunately for Kyra, her dad also had a habit of bringing his work home with him, with the result that she frequently came across the dolls — or "the bad people," as she called them — at the family house.
"My mom said when I was leaving preschool [one] day, I told my teacher that I couldn't go home because 'the bad people' were there," Gardner recalls to EW. "My teacher almost called CPS on my parents because she thought that they were hitting me. I didn't understand that it was dolls. It was scarred Chucky, so it was absolutely frightening."
A couple of decades on, Gardner has faced those childhood fears with her directorial debut, the documentary Living With Chucky. The film details the history of the Child's Play franchise, the close-knit group of people who worked on it over the years, and her own family's relationship with the horror movie series.
The project began as a short named "Dollhouse," which Gardner directed in college.
"I went to Florida State University for film school, and and my sophomore year of college we had to make a documentary," she says. "I was originally intending to make a documentary about my dad and growing up with him. Then a teacher pointed out, 'You refer to Chucky as your little brother, I would watch something on that in a heartbeat.' I was like, he's got a point. So I did a seven-minute short [but] I was like, there's no way that a 30-year-old franchise can be covered in seven minutes. Nightmare on Elm Street has had its own documentary, and Friday the 13th, but there was still no documentary on Chucky, which is insane."
So Gardner set about making the feature version of her short. In addition to footage of her father, the Living With Chucky includes interviews with franchise creator Don Mancini, producer David Kirschner, longtime franchise actors Alex Vincent and Jennifer Tilly, and Seed of Chucky cast member John Waters. Speaking of fathers and daughters, the documentary also features the Chucky-voicing Brad Dourif and his actress daughter Fiona Dourif who has appeared in two of the films as well as the Chucky TV show.
"I honestly had a bit of resentment towards Chucky because it was this thing that for several years in my childhood took my dad away from home for a very long time," Gardner says. "Interviewing Fiona, it's like we've had the same childhood, just the fact that her dad was also gone for long periods of time. It was nice because I felt less alone in the way that I grew up."
Living With Chucky will make its world premiere Aug. 13 at the Popcorn Frights festival in Florida, where fans of the franchise can expect to see a film made with them as the target audience. (The movie will also be available to watch digitally nationwide during the festival, starting Aug. 14.)
"If someone was interested in Chucky and hadn't seen [the films], they'd be able to follow along," Gardner says. "[But] I definitely kept fans in mind and I love the fact that we got to bring them in to the film later on. There were so many amazing people who donated pictures or videos of their time at conventions."
These days, Gardner is no longer frightened of Chucky — even if the little maniac is still capable of giving her an occasional scare.
"My dad sometimes puts him in the passenger side seat in the car," she says. "He'll come home and park the car, and he'll just leave the doll in the seat without telling anybody. So there have been many instances when I would literally scream and hit the floor because Chucky's in the car."
See exclusive images from Living With Chucky below.
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