Living With Chucky Is The Story Of Chucky By Someone Who Grew Up With Chucky [Exclusive Interview]

There are few, if any, horror franchises like "Child's Play." For more than 30 years now, the evil, killer doll, possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, has been terrorizing audiences. Yes, we did get a remake in 2019, but the main franchise can still trace its continuity all the way back to that original slasher flick in 1988, and it now lasts right up through the "Chucky" TV show that is entering its second season.

The upcoming documentary "Living With Chucky," which recently held its world premiere at Fantastic Fest, aims to be a one-stop-shop of information for fans of the franchise, albeit one that offers up a unique perspective. The film is directed by Kyra Elise Gardner, daughter of visual effects maestro Tony Gardner, who has been with the slasher series from the very beginning.

I spoke with Gardner about making the film and what it was like entering into the family business, as it were. "Chucky has been a franchise that he's been a part of since I was the ripe old age of four," Gardner says. "So I had the privilege of growing up alongside Chucky the doll as basically a sibling that I refer to as a sibling. So I've always had a very personal connection to the franchise."

Keeping it in the family

It wasn't always Gardner's intention to become a filmmaker. Like most young people, she actually rebelled against following in her parent's footsteps. "I actually originally wanted to be a nurse," she said. "Because of my dad, though, I was really desensitized to blood and guts and those types of things from a young age. So I thought, 'Hey, I could be a nurse. I could handle the ER.' Then I volunteered at a local hospital for a summer, and I was really bored."

That boredom paved way to another thought. Specifically, Gardner looked into being a combat nurse. "My mom was like, 'Absolutely not,'" she explained. That was when her parents encouraged her to take a film class at University of Southern California for a summer, where the many famous filmmakers studied cinema. Gardner recalled, "I directed my first short film at that summer class. And I was like, 'Oh, this is what I want to do.'" She continued:

"When I directed my first short and then started thinking, 'Oh, I might want to go to film school,' it was that connection with the actors that I got through watching my dad that you still get through directing on an even bigger scale is why I think I really liked it."

Gardner spent a lot of time on movie sets growing up, hanging out with her dad in the makeup trailer alongside actors who were at the other end of his work. So it makes sense that she wants to focus on movies that have practical special effects. "Child's Play" is and always has been a shining example of that. Taking a page from that book, her college short centered on a four-foot animatronic fish puppet.

History with a personal connection

So Gardner followed in the footsteps of her father, and for her first feature, she decided to examine the franchise that has been near and dear to her for most of her life. "Living With Chucky" sees her speaking with those who have made the series what it is, including creator Don Mancini, the voice of Chucky himself, Brad Dourif, and yes, her father, amongst many others. But Gardner is aiming to shine a real light on the history of these movies, even if it's not always a pretty one. She told us:

"Not many people actually talk about their budgets getting drastically cut. And if you talk to my dad about it in an interview, he'll be really kind about it as well as probably Don and David [Kirshner]. But I was like, 'You know what? This is my chance to,' because I'm not hired by so and so, and I can say it. My chance to be like, 'Yeah, the budgets really were cut drastically.' This was the reality of it."

As for her hopes for the film as it seeks distribution coming out of Fantastic Fest? "I hope that it becomes a one-stop shop for your Chucky information for fans," she says. "Some things are said in behind-the-scenes interviews over the years or a TV interview, but it's not all in one spot. So I hope that this serves as a history, but also the personal connection and really gives people insight into just how hard all these people work on this franchise."

"Living With Chucky" does not yet have a release date set, but we'll keep you posted.