Cult of Chucky: Legendary FX artist Tony Gardner talks about bringing Chucky to life again
Tony Gardner is a special effects legend, and rightfully so. Getting his start working under Rick Baker on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the John Carpenter film Starman, Gardner did his first work independently on the punk rock zombie classic Return of the Living Dead, before making a name for himself on films like Aliens, Nightbreed, Darkman and eventually leading to films like 127 Hours and so on. Working all across the board on films, music videos (Gardner worked on videos from Dillon Francis and Slayer to just name a couple) and other platforms as well.
Having worked on Seed of Chucky and Curse of Chucky, Tony not only served as the animatronic effects supervisor on the now available latest installment of the Child’s Play series, Cult of Chucky, but also was an associate producer on the film as well. We spoke with Gardner about Cult of Chucky as well as the challenges of tackling the most insane chapter in the killer doll series yet.
ComingSoon.net: Cult of Chucky definitely caught me off guard. It was such an interesting, completely unexpected film. I think it’s right up there with the first two films in the series for me.
Tony Gardner: Yeah, I’d have to agree. Don (Mancini, Director) has really outdone himself.
CS: With Cult being the third film in the series that you’ve worked on, and with you also holding a producer role this time around, were you pretty hands on when it came time to come up with the kills in the film? They’re so good.
Gardner: From the very beginning, we were involved with storyboarding and brainstorming as far as what would be possible and the best methodology. We wanted to see what would be possible to do, logistically, to see what would be best and doable for what Don wanted it all to be. So yeah, we were there pretty much throughout the entire pre-production of trying to figure out how to get it all done. When we were on set later on, we were trying to see what would be effective and most efficient.
CS: It’s so rare that seven films into a series, that you’d get a sequel that feels so very fresh and exciting, completely original as well. A lot of that in Cult of Chucky has to do with such imaginative kill sequences. How involved were you with each one or was that when the producer hat came on?
Gardner: The people who did most of the makeup effects on set were Adrien Morot’s crew. Adrien and his people and also Doug Morrow from Winnipeg handled most of that. We had our hands full with all of the Chucky stuff, especially with the multiples. The only kill we had to get really involved with was the death of Carlos, because all three of the puppets had to interract. So we focused mostly on the Chucky stuff and that’s where the producer role kicked in, mostly finding the right people to do the other stuff.
CS: In Curse of Chucky, it was always a bit of a mystery whether it was a remake or a sequel, mostly because of the somewhat new look to Chucky. With Cult it felt to me, like you had more freedom to shed that mystery and do something interestingly new.
Gardner: I felt like in Curse, the story kind of dictated that new look, because he kind of had another face pulled over his face, to hide, he was kind of in disguise. He veers off the normal path and look at was more of like “plastic surgery Chucky.” In this new film, it felt like we had a chance to kind of reinvent him from the beginning. In the movie, Doctor Foley goes back to the source material and buys one of the original Good Guy Dolls…even though he buys it from Hot Topic (laughs). So it was our chance to go back to that original look, even right down to the proportions and so on. It even came down to the hands, because in the series, by the time you get to Bride of Chucky, he’s holding guns, so his hands were bigger than they were in previous films, so we went back to the original look with this one.
CS: I can only imagine how difficult or stressful it must have been having to tackle all of the multiples in this film.
Gardner: It read so much simpler on paper! (Laughs). When it came time to building them all, we thought, “Oh my god, we have just as much as work as we had on Seed of Chucky.” There were all of the various incarnations of them and each one had different things to them, like one was missing an arm, one had short hair…there was so much to do with each one. It was really challenging but I think that’s what gets us all going, the challenge.
CS: Cult of Chucky has gone through the typical and unfortunate pirated situation lately, which is awful, especially when it surely puts a damper on possibly getting more films in the series. It’s really important that fans go out and buy the film or pay for it, especially if they want to see more.
Gardner: Yeah, it’s really frustrating because you go on Rotten Tomatoes and it has 100% and the reviews have all been positive, so it’s great because with the way Cult ends, it opens the series to new possibilities, but then you have people watching it illegally and let’s be honest, the studio system wants to make money, so if it doesn’t make money, there’s no incentive to make more. I think fans need to take a few steps back and support those artists and actors that they love, so we can all continue to make more of these movies.