Q&A: “CURSE OF CHUCKY” stars Fiona Dourif, Chantal Quesnelle and Danielle Bisutti
While Chucky may be the name most synonymous with the CHILD’S PLAY franchise, the killer doll’s adversaries have been noteworthy in their own right. Who can forget young Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay in the first two films, Katherine Heigl doing her best to ward off Tiffany and her beau in BRIDE OF CHUCKY and SEED’s turn by rapper Redman? The franchise tradition of memorable performances from a wide variety of performers continues in CURSE OF CHUCKY, most notably in the casting of Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona as wheelchair-bound heroine Nica.
Following CURSE’s Audience Award-winning world premiere at this past summer’s Fantasia festival in Montreal (ahead of its DVD and Blu-ray release today from Universal Studios Home Entertainment), FANGORIA sat down with three of the film’s leading ladies: Dourif, Chantal Quesnelle (who portrays Nica’s mother Sarah) and Danielle Bisutti (also seen in this fall’s INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, here playing Nica’s domineering sister Barb).
FANGORIA: How familiar were you with the franchise when you took on this project?
CHANTAL QUESNELLE: It was one of the first horror movies I ever saw. I was a teenager, and I can’t remember if I saw it in the theater or rented it on VHS, but I loved it. Horror movies were definitely my favorites as a teenager. I watched tons of them, like HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH. I was definitely familiar with Chucky.
DANIELLE BISUTTI: My uncle, Tony Thomopoulos, produced the first one as part of UA, and my father [Richard Bisutti] was a set dresser on the third one. So I got to see the doll, be on set and meet Don when I was 14 years old. So of course, to be a part of the sixth and, in my opinion, the best of the franchise was an incredible experience for me. The story is so satisfying for the fans.
FIONA DOURIF: I had heard of it. [Smiles]
FANG: Fiona, it seems like the most meta thing to have you star in this film. Were you hesitant about it at all?
DOURIF: I was over the moon to be cast in this. I’ve identified with it my entire life. The coolest thing about dating me in high school was that I was Chucky’s kid, and I capitalized on that. I was not shy about it. We had a Chucky doll in my house that we would scare people with. I was really into being Chucky’s daughter. And to be associated with it as an adult was really cool, but also kinda scary. Being a lead in a studio movie is intimidating enough, but with it also being my father’s legacy, my family legacy—that just added pressure, so I wanted to do it as well as I could.
FANG: Chantal, you have very important flashback scenes—old footage of home movies and a sequence late in the film shot in black-and-white. What was it like shooting those?
QUESNELLE: What I loved, when I read the script, was that I would get to play the age of my character and then go back 25 years earlier and play her then. It was great as an actor to play two different ages and two different times in this woman’s life. Nica has a line where she looks at her mother in the home movies and says, “She looks so happy.” And that’s kind of what horror’s about: You see the Norman Rockwell beautiful family. She’s pregnant with possibilities, and then everything goes wrong. It looks like, “Oh my God, isn’t it great that we’re in this beautiful, idyllic setting,” and then the ax comes out. I really took to the script, and that’s what excited me so much about playing the part.
FANG: And Danielle, your character has a surprise twist that subverts our assumptions. Don Mancini [see interview here] said that it was a subconscious choice. Could you talk a little about creating that extra, surprising layer to the character?
BISUTTI: What a great payoff it was to hear the reaction to that from the audience last night [at the Fantasia premiere]. Obviously, throughout you see Barb very concerned every time she watches her husband and [au pair girl Jill, played by Maitland McConnell] together, but obviously it’s because I believe my husband’s cheating on me. I think it’s that Barb is so disappointed in so many areas of her life, the way things have turned out. She harbors a lot of guilt because of the way her sister was born without the ability to use her legs. She’s holding onto all of this emotion and energy, and because she had a mother who was weak and a sister who she felt she always needed to help and whom she perceived as weak, she always felt like, “Listen, I have to come in and take charge. No one asked me to do it, but I have to do it, and this is how I’m going to survive.”
So with that sort of mentality, the second her husband, her male counterpart, starts to weaken, it’s way beyond the pale at that point—the fact that she’s not getting any support or appreciation. She needs somebody—someone who gets her, who has her back—and then she sexualizes that, which is something that many times we do as human beings.
FANG: I love the way that factors in, and then hiding behind religion and having the priest character in there as well.
BISUTTI: Oh, totally, the priest—who’s now sober, by the way, so there’s a real humanity involved [laughs].
FANG: Fiona, how did you develop your relationship with young actress Summer Howell, who plays Alice, for the film? She’s kind of the franchise’s new Andy.
DOURIF: It was great. She was lovely and a sweet kid, and really fun and easy to work with. Sometimes kids can be difficult; there can be so many rules or they can get scared, but Summer was great.
FANG: Was the Gothic mansion created specifically for the film?
DOURIF: Yeah, in Winnipeg. It was built on a stage with a full house interior and the roof, and it was beautiful. I walked in and said, “If I could own a house, it would probably look pretty similar to this.” It was beautiful.
FANG: Was the physicality of your performance—stemming from Nica being in a wheelchair—always apparent in the script?
DOURIF: Yeah, I think Don wanted to make her paraplegic so Chucky would be a little more frightening. Nica’s on his level, and actually can’t run away from him. It was challenging. It was actually the second time I’ve played a paraplegic [following the Hallmark TV movie AFTER THE FALL], so I don’t know what that’s about! It was physically demanding, like the part where I drag myself up the stairs, which of course I did like 18 times. I remember the bit where I had to fling myself off the stairs and go down the hallway; I was so beaten up by it. Universal made me sign a release when they saw my bruises. They were like, “Hey, do you mind signing this?” [Laughs] I bruise really easily, so it was just an over-precaution thing.
FANG: Were you always determined to stay in the wheelchair on set?
DOURIF: I want my career to be in a wheelchair!
BISUTTI: She’s very natural. She wielded it like a pro.
DOURIF: I’ve done it for a long time. Don said, “I believe her in the wheelchair,” so clearly something’s going on there.
BISUTTI: Some past-life thing happening…
FANG: I was wondering if you could each speak about the way Mancini writes for women, avoiding cut-and-dried characterizations. You bring a lot to them as well, but he provided each of you with extra backstory to work from.
BISUTTI: That’s what turned me on about the script, first and foremost: that family dynamic. I won’t go as far as to say “feminist point of view,” but certainly, there are strong heroines in this piece—all fractured, all wounded, but survivors, every single one of them, and fighters for what they believe in. There is a real sense of commitment to family, which I can relate to, being Italian and knowing there is a certain sense of neurosis inherent in that, but also the love and devotion, which is also what I enjoyed.
QUESNELLE: These characters were written very strong. I didn’t see my character as weak. She has gone through this horrific experience and survived—she’s there, she’s on her meds, she has a glass of wine first thing in the morning, she’s doing her painting, but she is a survivor. She DVRs REAL HOUSEWIVES. She does what she needs to do to get through the day. She’s a fighter, and I love that her daughter is as well. When Nica says to Chucky at the end, “This has got to be the longest murder in history. What are you waiting for, a sign from God? C’mon, give me your best shot,” and he says, “You have your mother’s eyes,” I almost expected him to add, “And you’ve got your mother’s spunk too.” I love the way the women in this movie are written.
DOURIF: Don wrote a script with full characters. He wasn’t dealing with clichés; even though Danielle’s role, Barb, could’ve been just this bitch, there are a lot of layers. I hope I brought that. There was a moment that he directed me to take the power back, which was when Chucky chops into my leg. And I love playing crazy. My favorite part of the movie is the courtroom scene. Mental illness runs in my family like crazy, so I always feel like it’s a possibility with enough stress [laughs].
FANG: With you three and Howell, this is the most female-empowered entry in the franchise, and has its first real female lead since Catherine Hicks’ mother in the first film.
DOURIF: Yeah, I think they wanted to switch it up and have it be a little girl instead of Andy Barclay.
BISUTTI: I don’t really see these women as weak as much as there’s a great obstacle for them to overcome. It wasn’t necessarily an easy walk for any of them.
DOURIF: No, it wasn’t!
QUESNELLE: No pun intended!