'Child's Play' Director Lars Klevberg On Amblin, Chucky, And His Love For 'Road To Perdition' [Interview]

"E.T. on acid" is how director Lars Klevberg initially imagined his Child's Play remake. Klevberg, known for his short film Polaroid and its unreleased feature-length adaptation, wanted to bring a healthy dose of Spielberg and Amblin to his horror remake. The influence shows, most noticeably when Andy (Gabriel Bateman) and Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) are on their own.

Klevberg is probably more referential of Spielberg than the entirety of the original Chucky franchise. He didn't want to make another horror remake that coasts by on nostalgia, which there's not much of in Child's Play. As Klevberg told us, he wanted to make his own Chucky. In addition to the challenges of filming the iconic character in action, the director told us about the movie's Amblin references, his love of Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition, and more.

You posted on Instagram five movies that influence you and listed Road to Perdition. Was that at all an influence for Child's Play?

I think that was, you know, I think you misinterpreted that a little because that was a series for one perfect shot. That for me, personally, that just in general influences my way of working. I never specifically watched that movie or brought it in [for this]. That probably just influenced me in general as a director, a storyteller. Road to Perdition is one of my favorite movies. It's just a remarkable movie and, when you make movies yourself and you're a director making a movie, you have ideas, a specific way of telling a story.

Then you shoot it and you edit it and you see that, okay, it didn't work or you have to defend your idea to the studio or the producers, then you experience all those things and it doesn't need to be defended, you see it yourself, why doesn't it work or why didn't it work in the context of my scene or sequences? I did follow all the rules but why didn't that shot work? Then you see, understand how difficult and how challenging and how great those shots are, how they achieve that because you know it's so difficult to get them. That for me is interesting, and if you watch that Road to Perdition, it's just, I think every frame of that you can just freeze frame and you could put it on the wall.

It's perfect.

I don't know how they pulled it off, like the time given. For me as a director, I'm curious, I want to talk to those guys! Like, how much time did you have on shooting that movie? Did you do whatever you want? Did you have all the time, because I don't have that, you know, how the hell did you achieve those things based on what you were given. I'd love to be on a David Fincher movie or a Spielberg movie, like how do they block the scene, how do they do all that stuff?

What scenes did you not have enough time for with Child's Play

Every day. Every day in this movie its, I talked about it before, times changed in this industry and I am fairly new in the game, I'm from Norway. Steven Spielberg made Jaws, and do you know how many days he went over to work on that?

I don't know the exact number, but a lot. 



No, a hundred. Apparently. The studio, you know, they are pretty adamant that you have to keep track of that. I like to be prepared, and I like to stick to my base but there is no world where you can do a hundred days of this. There's no world where you can do a hundred hours, no world where you can do fifty hours. It's a difference, the times have changed. Of course, you have other bigger movies that kinda accept that you can spend that much time, like The Revenant, like this director that's adamant that this is how it's going to be, and a studio that backs him up. Okay, we are going to shoot this chronologically, which means that you have to go to one place, then another and back, and that makes no sense in terms of productions, right? You spend a lot of money doing that, but what you get back is an iconic movie.

So yeah, for this Child's Play every day was tough because you're dealing with animatronics, special effects, kids, nights, difficult scenes, horror, action, special effects, and stunts, all that was in the game almost every day. It's tough.

Is shooting Chucky in action a complete nightmare? 

Yeah, it's tough, but it's really, really fun. I think my memories making this movie, I loved shooting the end sequence, I loved shooting everything that had to do with Chucky because I wanted to create that interesting character. But, you have to be prepared, and I storyboard every scene and you need to storyboard every scene when you're dealing with something like Chucky because you can't show up on set with a camera, three actors, and Chucky and say, "Okay! Let's find a way to shoot this!" You can do that if you make a drama movie or something and you come to set and block it and come up with an idea. You can't do that with this because you have to be prepared.

You can't go like, "Oh, let's put Chucky there!" Okay, you have to wait 2 hours because they have to put a hole in the floor and they have to glue something to the couch and have a rig up there so Chucky can sit there. You can't do that. Weeks ahead, like we are going to check it over and prepare it, and if you don't do that you're all in kind of hell.

You said you first imagined this as E.T. on acid.

Yeah, yeah I did. Did you feel it when you watched the movie though? Did you feel the Amblin, the E.T. while watching Chucky and Andy in the beginning?

Yeah, there were a few shots of Andy and Chucky alone that reminded me of E.T. and probably A.I. even more.

I think the Amblin word it's a bit washed out these days. Everybody was like, "Oh, it's an Amblin feel," and then people imagine that's the official trademark. But for me it means something more, it means you're spending time with characters, or a character, that is isolated alone in the status quo and it has this entity or stranger that happens in a very magical way. Dealing with just normal, blue collar people. That was me with Andy, like, he was a lonely child with his young single mom and was in a place that wasn't good for him and then he meets this doll by no means they shouldn't believe that they should forge a relationship but Andy's status quo as a character and Chucky's status quo as this new entity looking at the world for the first time. They kind of find each other and it all opens watching those two people. That, for me, is an Amblin feel.

Child's Play Remake Rated RTowards the end, was Gremlins on your mind at all? 

Oh yeah, Gremlins was also a big reference for me during this. I was, you know, the massacre on paper it does look bigger, it had a lot more carnage. Due to the circumstances, choices, decisions — I felt pretty good about it — but it was bigger and it showed a bit more. But yeah, that was a reference. I made a fake poster, it's the Gremlin poster but instead of Gizmo popping out from the box it's Chucky with a knife and it's glowing. So, it's all there but you want to try to keep it fresh and personalize, but you need to be self-aware okay it shares a lot of narrative structures of movies. Not that you pay homage to it but you can kinda be influenced by it somehow.

[Minor Spoiler Alert]There's one scene towards the end that got the mean-spirited tone of the Chucky series when you show the little kid gets covered in blood. I had a good laugh at that and enjoyed you went there. 

Oh, great!

How mean did you want to get like some of the older Chucky movies? 

You know, it was pretty crazy on the script already when I got it. It was that part of the humor that resonates with me. I think it's funny, but it's interesting in the story and it's fun but it's not totally absurd. Dealing with humor, humor is tragedy in terms of how you see it in storytelling. Tragedy and humor is the same. To see someone slip on the floor, smash his head on the ground, it's tragedy. It shouldn't happen, it's sad, but god it's funny! It's interesting how those two things are combined when dealing with a Chucky movie or a horror movie like this. It's a tragedy that this Wes guy, who clearly has no money, who hates his job, gets killed almost a couple of times, gets shredded by the drone and splatters his stuff on the little girl, that's tragedy, it shouldn't happen, but it's putting in a concept that's absurd. So that makes it funny, right? So I think it's funny, she was an actor, she was an extra I believe.

And we said like, "you're going to do this," and she said, "that's cool!" We did it and of course, as a director, you're always like, let's do this, let's get the shots we need. We had one take, and it just splattered her and with that kind of special effects its source is the eyes, it's not pleasant. It almost burns a bit. So she had a bad time after that and she didn't want to do anything else after that, which we didn't force her to do. It was just one shot and we got everything we needed.

[Spoiler Over]Are there any images from the franchise you wanted to pay home? Are there any deep cut references? 

No, I just wanted to tell the story that was in the script and the story I had inside me. When I signed on to do this project and I got offered the job, I kinda wanted to go back and watch the movie, and I saw that there was some cool stuff that seeing Chucky running and all those small footsteps. All those things you don't think about it too much, but when you're making the movie yourself you're like, "Oh that's neat, you need to create something similar to that." It's also that you want the animatronics and practical effects as much as possible.

I am determined to create my own Chucky in one way or another. I won't shy away from, "Okay, this is my take on it, but at the same time, I love the first one and I wanted to try to keep the atmosphere and the absurd violence, some of the one-liners, something that makes sense for me." The first one is, it's a funny movie, it's a great movie, but it's also a little absurd how everything blows up in that movie. I don't know if you've seen it lately.

Not lately, no.

It's a lot of action, like the cars chase and all that stuff. W have pieces of it in our movie so, I think the writer Tyler did an amazing job to nitpick and sew it all together so when you watch it you can see all those small elements, not that it's directly that scene, but you can see it from other scenes, so that was important. As the movie went along we tried to pay a little more homage to it, as I moved forward and when I signed on to do the job.


Child's Play is now in theaters.