Composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) admits he was wary of signing on to write the score for Child’s Play (out June 21), a remake of the 1988 killer doll movie and the first film in the franchise not to feature creative input from Chucky creator Don Mancini.
“I knew the classic films and originally I was a little hesitant to get involved in the new one, because of my appreciation for the old franchise,” says McCreary, whose many previous credits include the TV show Outlander and the films Everly, Happy Death Day, and 10 Cloverfield Lane. “I agreed to watch the new one and immediately I was really struck by the storytelling, by the take on the material, by the unique spin on it, and the sophisticated filmmaking on display. What sealed the deal for me was talking with Lars Klevberg, the director, and realizing that we were just talking about all of my favorite movies over and over as his reference points. I realized, this is a guy that I would get along with, and I signed up immediately.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about your rather unusual approach towards scoring the new Child’s Play.
BEAR McCREARY: One thing that I decided to try was to score the entire film with toys. I eventually formed a group of toys that I called my Toy Orchestra. It was toy pianos, toy xylophones, plastic guitars. I raided my daughter’s playroom and got little action figures that make clicking sounds, I got toy drums, anything that made a sound. Then, I augmented that with just weird handheld instruments that I could play myself: Accordions, hurdy gurdys, melodica, pocket synthesizers, Otamatones. Really strange sounds.
I assembled them all together and wanted them to be the foundation of this score, and in fact, I wanted to avoid entirely anything resembling a traditional orchestra, and in that, I succeeded. 95 percent of what you hear in Child’s Play is me, performing something, or singing in my own studio, layering it over and over and over to create the sensation of an orchestra filled with toys, and I augmented that with a little bit of a string quintet, for some of the more emotional passages. I sometimes come up with my best ideas when I set myself unusual limitations, and here, completely removing the ability to use an orchestra, or use orchestral techniques, I had to get inventive. I really had the time of my life.
What did your daughter think about her father stealing her toys to do his job?
[Laughs] Clark, I’m going to admit this to you — she was not happy. She came into my studio on the second or third day and said, “Daddy, that’s my piano! That’s my xylophone!” She insisted I pick all of the instruments up and take them back into her playroom. Thus began a process which I repeated for about six weeks of where, when she went to school, I would go into her playroom, take the instruments out, set them up in my studio painstakingly, work all day. When she came home, I would quickly put them back in her playroom, so she could play and not notice that I’d been working with them, and then, when she went to sleep, I took them back out again and would keep them overnight while I worked into the evening. It was tiresome but it kept everybody happy.
In addition to Child’s Play, you’ve recently also been responsible for the music on the films Happy Death Day 2U, The Professor and the Madman, Rim of the World, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. What was that like? Did you ever dream about Chucky battling Godzilla?
[Laughs] Well, thankfully there was not any overlap in my creative process, when I was scoring Godzilla and when I was scoring Child’s Play. So, you don’t have to worry about hearing Japanese Buddhist monks in Child’s Play, nor will you hear toy pianos show up in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
I will say that my approach to both was similar in that I am making an effort to be respectful of these franchises that go back decades. Where possible, and where narratively necessary, I am making references to old themes. Even on the soundtrack to Child’s Play, I did a rendition of Joe Renzetti’s classic theme from the first film. The full song didn’t end up in the new movie, but I put it on the record just to show fans that I’m a fan too and I love that theme. But, in both cases, I’m also trying to move the scores forwards in time. I want them to sound like movies that have come out in 2019. I wanted them to sound very modern. So, in each case, it was a balancing act between referencing fan expectation from the cinematic legacies that I’m drawing from and just bringing my own voice.
The Child’s Play soundtrack is now available to buy. Watch a video of Bear McCreary performing “Child’s Play Theme” above.