Jennifer Tilly, who starred in “Bride of Chucky” and “Seed of Chucky,” returns to “Chucky” land in the latest installment, “Curse of Chucky,” part of a six-film package — “Chucky: The Complete Collection Limited Edition” — that Universal is releasing Oct. 8 to celebrate the killer doll’s 25th anniversary. Tilly also appears in the high-school romance movie “The Secret Lives of Dorks,” which opened this weekend, and in Wallace Shawn’s “Grasses of a Thousand Colors,” which will have its American premiere at New York’s Public Theater on Oct. 7.
How did you get involved with “Chucky”?
Actually, when I first got offered “Chucky,” I was really resisting it because I felt like horror movies were something you did at the beginning of your career and at the end of your career, and when I got “Bride of Chucky,” I was sort of in the prime of my career. But I’d never seen a “Chucky” movie. I just knew the horror genre is sort of the red-headed stepchild of actual filmmaking, and that’s kind of apropos for “Chucky.”
Ba dum dum.
Ba dum dum. But I’d been dating a German artist who used to take me to Hong Kong films. And when they said that Ronny Yu was directing “Bride of Chucky,” I was really intrigued. But I think the capper was, there’s an actress I’m really competitive with and she had said to my makeup artist, “I would love to do ‘Chucky.’” Because she wanted to do it, that was the clincher.
I thought that “Chucky” creator Don Mancini wrote your bride character, Tiffany, with you in mind.
Yes, he said that he heard my voice when he was writing Tiffany. I think Don and [producer] David [Kirschner] agreed to take a pay cut because I wanted more money. I think my exact quote was, “I’m going to need a lot more money to ruin my career.”
Actually, at that point, I was on board with “Chucky.” It’s funny to think of Chucky as an actual person, because you would think the doll would just go limp after the scene, but he doesn’t, because the puppeteers are always practicing. I was in the bathtub and he languidly dips his hand in the water. Uh, hello! Is Chucky plugged in somewhere? Am I going to get electrocuted? And he looked at me and smirked like Jack Nicholson and he raised his eyebrow. He was like that obnoxious little costar that you can’t stand.
How has “Chucky” affected your career?
I’ve made so many films that I’m proud of, but everybody knows me from “Chucky,” and it crosses over all generations. Any time a 7-year-old comes running up to me, they always know me from “Chucky.” And those movies are quite gory. They’re R-rated, so I’m like, “Where are your parents?”
Tell me about the latest film, “Curse of Chucky.”
Even though Don knew it was going to be a video on demand and not in the theaters, he really crafted it with such loving care. Universal wanted it to go back to being scary, and I think it’s actually time. When he did “Bride of Chucky” and “Seed of Chucky,” [campiness] was the way to go because he was always trying to reinvent “Chucky.” But I think the new movie is really truly horrifying. I just have a cameo in the movie, but it’s amazing the buzz on the Internet. This is the first movie they released to the critics. It won the audience award at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal.
Tell me about “Grasses of a Thousand Colors.”
It’s directed by Andre Gregory, who’s Andre in [the film] “My Dinner With Andre.” Andre and Wallace Shawn have been collaborating for 30 years, and it’s so brilliant to be working with them because they’re true artists. Every day you feel like you’re at the Algonquin Round Table, just listening to the two of them talk. We opened it in London four years ago, and when my friends came to see it, I had to warn them — there’s no tap dancing, and there’s no explosions. I love the play, but it’s a lot of ideas. People sit around on a sofa, and they talk for seven or eight pages. Once in a while they get up and have a knife fight and then they sit down and they talk some more.
Your public persona is a ditz, but you’re clearly not. Do people ever underestimate you in real life?
Constantly. I started out playing dumb blond characters, even though I wasn’t blond, and it stuck. And it doesn’t help that I’ve done so many appearances on talk shows. I’ve always thought of talk shows as a performance; I’m not a major motion picture star. Angelina Jolie does not have to make jokes to have everybody want her to be on the show. But I prefer to make people laugh than cry. When I see myself in a movie when I’m going through emotional turmoil or sobbing, to a certain extent I think it’s indulgent.
The problem with America is that it’s too confessional. They want to talk about being abused as children, how horrible their breakup was or devastating their drug problems. In polite society, those are things you save for your husband or people who are very close to you. I don’t think that anybody who has a remote control should be privy to these things.
I know you’ve had an on and off relationship with professional poker.
Nine years ago, I met my boyfriend, Phil Laak. He’s a professional poker player, and I became obsessed with the game. Poker is such a brilliant game. All these books I’ve read about psychic phenomena, because a lot of times when I’m playing poker I can read people’s minds. Also, I failed math twice, but now I know the particular odds of your card coming up. It’s psychological warfare. I’m really, really competitive. I became obsessed with becoming one of the greatest poker players in the world. And the way you become the greatest is total immersion. I would spend 14 hours a day playing poker. But I’m trying to pull away from that now because lately I’ve been doing theater. Acting is more of an art form. I used to hate when actors would say about acting, “Oh, it’s not brain surgery.” I think they have contempt for the audience.
When my dad was in a coma in the neurological department of the hospital, the doctor was so fascinated by what I did. He goes, “How do you remember all those lines?” I thought, “Oh, my God, this is so ironic. Here’s a neurosurgeon saying, ‘How do you do it?’ And I got to say, ‘It’s not brain surgery.’”