The Glorious Return of Horror Icon Jennifer Tilly

By Gil Macias

You know her face, her bubbly personality and you definitely know her distinctive, squeaky voice. Best known for her roles as Olive in Woody Allen’s comedy Bullets Over Broadway (a breakthrough role that earned her Hollywood’s top accolades) and the erotic crime-thriller Bound, where she engaged in some steamy girl-on-girl action with costar Gina Gershon, Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly is once again reprising the role of arguably one of her most popular characters.

In 1998, Tilly reluctantly landed what would become one of her most memorable yet literally smallest roles ever, in Bride of Chucky. In that film, she plays Tiffany, a trailer-park-trash blonde bombshell who just happens to be the former lover of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, better known as Chucky.

Due to circumstances involving the series’ signature voodoo magic chant and an amulet known as the Heart of Damballa, Tiffany is gloriously murdered by Chucky and her soul is transported into a doll. Tiffany and Chucky soon teamed up and became a deranged Bonnie and Clyde-like duo who killed, quite simply, for the thrill of it. It was a match made in hell and the two even got it on in the film’s now infamous doll-on-doll sex scene. Horror fans immediately embraced the character, and to this day, Bride of Chucky remains a favorite of the seven-chapter series.

Two more appearances later, Tilly is now back in Cult of Chucky, the seventh outting that sees storylines from Child’s Play 1-3 merging with Bride, Seed and Curse. Actor Alex Vincent returns as Andy (reprising his role from Child’s Play 1-2) and crosses paths with Nica (the survivor of Curse, played by actress Fiona Dourif).

Playboy Managing Editor Gil Macias was lucky enough to visit the set of Cult of Chucky,which filmed in the frigid lands of Winnipeg, Canada. There, during a late-night exterior shoot, he talked to Tilly in person while she was taking a break from film sets caked in snow. Even after 12-plus hours of filming outdoors in the freezing, below-zero temperatures, Tilly was as lively, energetic and talkative as ever. We discussed her return to the franchise, how she reacted to the screenplay and what surprises are in store for the die-hard fans.

It’s hard to believe, but next year is already the 20th Anniversary of Bride of Chucky,your first movie in the franchise.
It’s insane, isn’t it? When I first got offered Bride of Chucky, I didn’t want to do it. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do a horror movie.” A friend of mine was like, “Are you crazy? You would have a franchise. That’s what every actor wants.” I never really thought of it that way, but I really didn’t think it would become a franchise for my character because she died in the movie and turned into a doll. So I never really thought there was going to be a new human Jennifer Tilly in the Chucky universe. Little did I know.

How much creative input and improv does director Don Mancini allow you when playing Tiffany?
Don loved me in the Bride of Chucky. He started thinking, “I think the reason that movie is so successful was because it had Jennifer Tilly in human form. How can I get that bodacious Jennifer body onscreen again?” And he came up with Seed of Chucky, where I play myself and the little plastic doll. Which is kind of insanity.

When he came up to me with the idea for the second one, we would have meetings and I’d be like, “Oh my God, you have to make my character a narcissistic diva.” I would pitch jokes, he would pitch jokes. We’d laugh. He always has [actor] Brad Dourif and I record together, as Chucky and Tiffany, obviously. We would ad-lib while we were doing that. But in these movies it’s very difficult to ad-lib. It’s best if you’re working with the dolls, because they’re very technical.

What was your first reaction when reading the Cult of Chucky script for the first time?
I loved it. First of all, I was really excited when Don said he was making a new movie and that I would be in it as Tiffany. I didn’t know what to expect because Curse of Chuckywas dark and twisted and Tiffany sort of had a nominal part—a glorified cameo—but she was doing important business, like mailing body parts all over the country. When I saw the script and all the twists and turns, and how he worked Tiffany into Nica’s universe, it’s just…he’s amazing to me. Don Mancini loves horror movies, he loves classic movies and it shows in his films.

The last couple of movies raised a lot of questions, with seeming links to all of the previous films. Will this one tie up the loose ends?
With Curse of Chucky they went to this really dark place. Don did a return to his true love, which is the horror roots. I think he gets more dark and twisted in this one. I mean, it’s delightful in a twisted way but it is a continuation of the story in Curse of Chuckyand some of the surprises they had in Curse continue on into this movie. I think the fans of the Chucky movies are going to go batshit crazy. It brings back Tiffany, obviously, and you see how she comes into this twisted universe. Her universe was a little more sunshiny. This one is a universe of night, snow, and shadows.

Are we going to get an answer on what happened to Tiffany living as actress Jennifer Tilly? What happened at the end of Seed of Chucky wasn’t quite resolved.
It’s such an acting challenge for me. First, I played Tiffany as a sexy white trash person, and then Tiffany went into a plastic doll. Then I played Tiffany the doll who goes into Jennifer Tilly’s body. Then I played Jennifer Tilly possessed by Tiffany. In Curse of Chucky, I’m pretty sure I’m Tiffany in Jennifer Tilly’s body. And in this new movie, I’m the same, but then Don does this little tweak—is it Tiffany? Is she still masquerading as Jennifer Tilly or is she starting a new life as Tiffany? In this movie, she’s actually patterned herself after Cate Blanchett a bit. She got into Jennifer Tilly’s body, thought she was the biggest star in the world, then she realizes Jennifer Tilly’s actually a B-list actress. So now, she wants to be classier. She wants to be Cate Blanchett or Gwyneth Paltrow.

So you’ll see there’s a little bit of a change in the way she dresses. She’s not slutty goth girl anymore. So there’s a lot of appearances not being what they seem and you’ll see her talking fancy, but underneath she’s the Tiffany we know and love—the twisted, demented little killer that has a fatal attraction with Chucky.

The Chucky series started out as straight up horror films then drifted into comedy-horror territory. Which of the two tones do you prefer?
Comedy is my forte, so I enjoy comedy, but I love dipping into Don’s dark universe. When Tiffany arrives, she always has a little bit of a comic relief. She enjoys herself, she enjoys life, she enjoys killing, she enjoys being Jennifer Tilly. She doesn’t take things too seriously. I had a scene with Fiona Dourif, and I’ll look at the stuff she has to do. Oh my gosh—Chucky puts her through hell. And she has to cry. Horrific things happen to her. And then Tiffany sails in, kills a few people, then sails out. It’s really just fun. I love it.

Tiffany’s become almost as popular as Chucky. If they did a spin-off and she got her own movie, are you up for it?
Wouldn’t that be amazing? Maybe there’ll be a Tiffany cartoon. But I think that Tiffany is stronger with Chucky. I don’t think anybody wants to see Tiffany in her own movie. It would just be an exercise in narcissism. Tiffany would be like an unbelievable diva if she had her own movie. She’d be unbearable.

Don Mancini says there are endless possibilities for the series. So if there’s a Chucky 8, 9, 10—are you along for the ride?
I hope so. I always say, I hope Chucky’s chasing me around the old folk’s home [Laughs]. When I’m 90, collecting my residuals.

Cult of Chucky is available on VOD, Blu-ray and DVD on October 3rd. For information on where to purchase, visit Universal’s official website here.