Dolls, Disaster Movies, and Abs You Could Chip a Tooth On
my continuing bid to become the most envied horror fag in
the universe (suck it, kids!), I have had the extreme pleasure
of corresponding with one of the most horrifying homos in
the biz, Mr. Don Mancini. Back in college
in the eighties, Don wrote the script for a little number
called Child's Play, effectively sealing
the fate of the Cabbage Patch dolls left over in your sister's
closet and kick-starting one of the most eclectic and long-lasting
big-screen horror franchises around.
films later (the latest of which, Seed of Chucky,
he also directed), Mancini is still going strong -- and more
importantly, after mentioning his sexuality in a Fangoria
cover story last year, he has attracted the insidious
attention of the likes of me. "MWUAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Don took a few minutes out of his schedule of rubbing elbows
with the likes of John Waters and Jennifer
Tilly to share his thoughts on being a gay horror
filmmaker in the studio system, having sisters who will kill
for you, and the joys of discovering cough syrup at an early
before we get into that, an open plea: I was alarmed and touched
to find that Don had somehow heard that I had named him Horror
Homo of the Year for 2004 , but the sobering
truth is that I now actually have to produce a crown of some
sort. Any of you ladies work at Burger King?
on for the good stuff...
Yes, Virginia, boys DO play with dolls.
(Don Mancini with his progeny)
let’s start at the very beginning. You wrote Child’s
Play in your spare time while you were a student at UCLA,
right? What on earth possessed you to write such a story? Could
you not get a fake ID?
I did write the script while I was at UCLA in the mid-eighties.
For some time, I had wanted to write a dark satire about how marketing
affects children; my father had worked in marketing and advertising
for a pharmaceutical company, so as I kid I was often used as a
guinea pig for various campaigns -- cough syrup, sleeping pills,
and other drugs whose recreational benefits I was sadly too young
to recognize. Anyway, Cabbage Patch dolls were very popular at the
time; being a lifelong horror fan, I realized that the venerable
"killer doll" concept was ripe for updating, especially
since that in the wake of movies like Gremlins,
animatronic puppet effects had advanced to the point where you could
now treat the doll as a full-fledged character, with a vivid personality
and lengthy dialogue scenes. This, I believe, was the true innovation
of my original script for Child's Play.
Have you always been a horror fan? What kind of films were you into
as a kid?
always loved horror. As a three-year-old, I learned the word "shadow"
from watching Dark Shadows on TV. The Omen
was the first R-rated movie I ever saw, and, having been raised
Catholic, the film made a tremendous impression on me -- though
not in the way you might expect. I identified with Damien, and fantasized
about being able to supernaturally punish my enemies. Seeing De
Palma's Carrie and The Fury
further cemented this fantasy. I was also really into disaster movies
like Airport, The Poseidon Adventure
and The Towering Inferno. So basically, as a kid
I was obsessed with spectacular death and destruction. Fortunately,
as an adult I've found a way to channel these impulses in a productive
I often find that queer artists – filmmakers, in particular
– have a skewed view of the "traditional" family
unit. While the killer dolls in the last 2 Child's Play
films do seem to share a sort of familial bond, I think it’s
fair to say that they’re not exactly Ozzie and Harriet.
What’s behind your discussion of family values?
a gay kid, and an athlete, in an Italian family, I had a very contentious
relationship with my stereotypically macho father. He wanted me
to be an Olympic runner, but as I got into my late teens, I developed
other interests -- like filmmaking and guys -- and you can't be
an elite runner unless that's the only thing in your life. My relationship
with my Dad is reflected, in a metaphoric way, in Glen's
relationship with Chucky in Seed:
Chucky wants to make a man out of Glen
by encouraging him to kill, but Glen wants to remain true to himself.
I imagine this sort of parent-child discord is fairly universal,
regardless of the kid's sexuality. Most kids tend to rebel, sooner
or later -- at least, they do if they're interesting.
of family, I understand that you have 4 sisters, one of whom threatened
me with grievous bodily harm should I not rewatch Seed of
Chucky. Should I be afraid?
very afraid. My sister Denise is probably my biggest
fan. Let's just say she considers you her latest "project,"
after your regrettable and bewildering suspension of taste and judgment
in response to watching Seed of Chucky. If she
has her way, Denise will have you printing a retraction and a complete
critical re-evaluation of my movie. For my part, I consider you
the nicest guy ever to call me a talentless hack.
Tiffany, and Don discuss script changes as Jennifer rests
(okay, not really... from Seed of Chucky)
the 4th and 5th films, the emphasis shifts to Jennifer
Tilly’s character, Tiffany
(and even to Jennifer herself). This seems to coincide with
the shift to comedy – do you see a relationship? Did
you have Jennifer in mind when you wrote the character?
and I have been friends for years, and I'm also a huge fan,
so I wrote Tiffany specifically for her. If you're making
a funny movie, you want funny people around you, and Jennifer
is one of the funniest people I've ever met. She's an incredibly
skilled comedienne. Plus, she's sexy and she's got an unforgettable
voice -- qualities necessary for the role of Tiffany. And
of course, she was just born to play Jennifer Tilly -- and
I don't mean this in just the obvious way. Not every actor
can play himself successfully; most, you wouldn't even want
to see try. It'd be boring. Jennifer Tilly is one of the
most fascinating characters I've ever written. It was a
true collaboration between me, Jennifer, and God.
I'm sure working out the royalties with his people was murder!
You’ve said in other interviews that sequels are hard
to pull off, and that the choice to introduce comedy into
the Child’s Play universe was necessary
given audiences’ expectations. When you first created
Chucky, did you imagine that he’d one day be wisecracking
about gender identity issues and offing John Waters?
never imagined that it would become a franchise. You can't
plan that; it's luck. But once you've got a franchise, you
have to balance being its custodian, on the one hand, and
satisfying yourself creatively, on the other hand. After
the first three Child's Play movies, I
felt that we'd tapped out the concept's potential for truly
disturbing scares. We were already repeating ourselves.
Hence the move into comedic territory with Bride
of Chucky and now Seed. It reinvigorated
the franchise. And even if you don't like Seed of
Chucky, you have to admit that it's not your run-of-the-mill,
formulaic slasher sequel. For the fifth in the series, it's
an original, eccentric movie. That was very important to
me, and I'm proud of that.
introduction of a gay character in Bride of Chucky
was revolutionary for the genre – especially in a studio horror
film. Did you have any problems getting the character to screen?
at all. No one so much as bat an eye. When I was writing Bride
of Chucky, I didn't create the gay character in order to
promote an agenda; I made him gay because it made the character
interesting. All the main characters in that movie are dealing with
issues regarding love and romance, and the gay guy just represents
another point in that spectrum. It was important that the character's
sexual persuasion be utterly incidental. That's what was innovative
about it, I think.
Was it hard to kill him off? It’s interesting that he dies
in an accident rather than at the hands of Chucky…
it's very important that he dies, for a couple of reasons. First,
he's the one likable victim. Up until that point in the movie, everyone
who gets killed more or less deserves it, and we enjoy their deaths
along with Chucky and Tiffany.
But it's important to remind the audience of the "sting"
of death, and a sense of loss. When the gay kid dies, you feel bad,
and you're reminded that Chucky and Tiffany
are capable of doing terrible things. They're the villains of the
piece, after all. Or at least the anti-heroes. Plus, I think the
fact that the character is gay made his death more shocking. People
might assume that we'd never dare kill off the gay kid; that'd be
so politically incorrect! Well, all the more reason to do it, I
say! Cute straight kids have been dying in horror movies for decades.
This is simply a matter of equal rights. Finally, the exact circumstances
of the character's death were another way of shocking the audience.
Chucky pulls out a gun. You think he's going to shoot the kid --
and then BAM! He gets hit by a truck! It was a matter of subverting
say that writers "write themselves” into their
scripts. Does Don show up in any/all of the films?
Part of me totally identifies with Chucky,
and his anarchic spirit and rebellious impulses. I think everyone
-- particularly teens, and perhaps especially gay kids --
can identify with this; that's one of the reasons for
Chucky's popularity. I also probably identified with
Andy, the little boy in the first Child's Play.
I identified with his loneliness, and his bond with his mother
and his need for a special friend. And I certainly identify
with Glen in the new movie, with his tense
relationship with his father.
the Glen doll in Seed modeled
after Mia Farrow? Seriously...
has also been compared to David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust,
as well as to Lucille Ball. I was going for
a Tim Burton or Edward Gorey
sort of look -- monstrous yet innocent. I suppose that description
could apply to all of the above -- but I have my doubts about
Mia Farrow's innocence.
You waited a long time before taking the reins as director.
Was the opportunity made available earlier in the series?
What made you take the plunge?
wanted to direct for a long time. In fact, I'd wanted to direct
Bride of Chucky, but it turns out that these
studios are very particular about whom they trust their millions
with. Very frustrating. Fortunately for me, David
Kirschner, the producer on all the Chucky
films, really believed in me. He made me an executive producer
and second-unit director on Bride, so I got
a lot of practical, on-set production experience on that film.
Plus, Ronny Yu had some immigration problems
and had to return home after principal photography, so I basically
inherited his post-production responsibilities -- editing,
sound, reshoots, etc. After Bride became
a success, the studio felt I was ready to direct the next
Do you prefer writing or directing?
like comparing apples and oranges. There are pros and cons
to both. Writing is of course very solitary and lonely, but
it's also comparatively calm. Directing is very social, but
it's also utterly chaotic. When I was shooting Seed
in Romania, I had some very exhausting, dark, and depressing
moments, and I'd pine for the serenity of my laptop, away
from the hundred or so people who were bombarding me with
non-stop questions every day. But now that I've been away
from that crazy, stimulating energy for a few months, I can't
wait to do it again.
(Don's role model -- in fashion and temperament --
the son of Satan)
Happened to Kit Du Bois?
I guess this answers that question.
(from Cellar Dweller)
you seen Nick Stabile’s buns?
hasn't? He isn't exactly shy. When we were shooting Bride,
Nick kept suggesting different points in the movie where his
character would want to take his clothes off. It was his idea
to do the car-washing scene shirtless -- and he was absolutely
right. It's definitely a high point of the film.
year I named you the Horror Homo of the Year
(a distinction I’m sure you’re thrilled about)
because of your jaw-dropping decision to come out as a gay
man in a Fangoria cover story. What made
you choose to speak so openly about your sexuality at this
actually been out for a long time. I just seldom have the
opportunity to talk about it publicly. I'd done interviews
with a couple of gay magazines in connection with Bride
of Chucky, six years ago. The writer of one of those
articles was Michael Rowe, who also writes
for Fangoria. So it just seemed natural to
address the issue with him, especially in light of Seed's
gay-intensive content. And for the record, I am thrilled with
the Horror Homo accolade. Do I get a crown?
Of course! Well, it's a tiara. And it's plastic. Have there
been any repercussions?
if I were single, I'd probably be having loads of fun now,
and getting into all sorts of trouble.
Do you have a lot of gay horror fans approach you? Are they
(if at all) has your sexuality informed your craft as a horror
filmmaker? On the flipside, why do you feel horror is attractive
to you as an audience member?
think the horror genre is often characterized by a sort of
operatic stylization that attracts gay filmmakers as well
as gay audiences. You're dealing with big emotions and themes
-- fear, love, and death -- which can lend themselves to an
over-the-top, operatic approach.
Who is Kit Du Bois?
He's a talentless hack -- even less talented than myself --
who wrote a piece of shit called Cellar Dweller.
Fortunately, we've never heard from him again.
is from an interview last year with Moviehole:
“I'm working on a PG-13 haunted house thriller, and
another in the vein of Airport meets Babe,
focusing on all the pets caged in the cargo hold of a 747
-- dogs and cats and birds who have to set aside their natural
animosity towards one another and band together to save the
day when the plane is hijacked.” You’ve been so
entrenched in horror films that it’s interesting to
hear you talk about moving to other kinds of films (family-friendly
terrorist movies with talking animals, for example). Are you
looking to step away from gore?
like all filmmakers in Hollywood, I've sold a bunch of projects
that haven't yet made it into production -- and may never
make it. It's the nature of show business: there's a very
high development-to-production ratio. And like most filmmakers,
I'm interested in many different genres. But once you have
a success, you tend to get pigeonholed. Still, if I never
get to make anything but horror movies, that's okay. I love
the genre, and I feel really lucky to be able to make a good
living doing this.
What’s on the horizon for Don Mancini?
still writing that aforementioned PG-13 haunted house movie
-- a horror-comedy in the vein of Beetlejuice
-- which I hope to direct next year. I'm also getting ready
to pitch a TV series. I've had almost no experience with TV,
other than having written a Tales from the Crypt
episode for HBO many years ago -- and I'm interested in exploring
that venue. The speed of TV is attractive to me, as compared
to the glacial pace of feature film development.
naturally be remembered as “the guy who created Chucky”.
Is there anything else you want to be remembered for? Not
like we’re trying to get rid of you, of course…
like to be remembered for my abs. I spend a lot of time on
Death and Destruction" -- with a Great Tan!
comedies in the vein of Beetlejuice? Talking
animal terrorist movies?! Damien?!!! Don,
blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere.
from cementing his front-runner position as Buzz's
Future Husband of America or Canada (sorry, Mr.
Reynolds!), Don certainly has me excited for what
he's got in the hopper. Big wet-kissy thanks to Don for his
time, his wisdom, his humor, and for not telling his sister
where I live (pleeeeeeease....). We here at CampBlood.org
are looking forward to what this fella's got in store for
the guy in the picture with Don at the right? His boyfriend,
actor Daniel Getzoff... or as I like to call
him, "Slight Interference". Just kidding, Danny!
No need to hire any security!
Eli Roth, your Freshness Date has expired.
(Don and Daniel, looking chummy -- and yummy!)