Brad Dourif's Horror-Filled Career
Dec. 03, 1990
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The 1990s may be a true horror story for actor Brad Dourif, who currently appears in no less than four spooky films.
The coincidence of so many chilling movies shines light on the darker side of his career. And here's a guy who cringes at fright films.
''I get real scared,'' he confesses. ''I never watched horror pictures when I was growing up. I have a daughter, Christina, who loves horror films. She brings them home and watches them in our living room. I'm sitting there with pillows over my head, and she's sitting there stonefaced. She just absorbs them somehow without flinching.''
November was kind of a Brad Dourif Film Festival month with the release of ''The Exorcist III,'' ''Stephen King's Graveyard Shift,'' ''Child's Play 2'' and ''Grim Prairie Tales.''
In addition, Dourif was seen playing ''a weasel'' in ''Sonny Boy,'' a drama that came and went in a wink. Not so ''The Exorcist'' and ''Child's Play'' sequels, which landed No. 1 on the box-office list. ''Grim Prairie Tales'' was a bomb.
The actor commented on the films during a recent interview.
-''Graveyard Shift'': ''It was fun. I went down and shot little scenes for two weeks and then returned in summer and shot one day of a big scene. I was working in two other movies at the same time. I was doing 'Chaindance' most of the time. When I got a break, I went to Toronto for a film called 'Murder Blues.'
''I met Stephen King once. I was trying to pick out some breakfast cereal and all of a sudden this hand came in and a voice said, 'Hi. Steve King. Like your acting.' I shook the hand, looked up and he was gone.''
-''The Exorcist III'': ''I was an extremely nasty guy (he plays the devil). People don't come much nastier than that guy. The fun thing about that character was that he really enjoyed his work. It was the most intelligently written part of the horror genre that I have read. (William Peter) Blatty is a wonderful writer.''
-''Child's Play 2'' (as the voice of Chuckie, the evil doll): ''That is what I call my generic Bad Guy from the North voice. I do it off the top of my head without any effort at all. When I think, 'What does a bad guy from the North sound like?' Chuckie comes out.''
-''Grim Prairie Tales'': ''It's sort of a horror film, but I don't play a crazy person.'' He and James Earl Jones sit around a frontier campfire and spin yarns of terror.
Why do producers of horror pictures think of Brad Dourif?
''Well, I started my career in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' as a kind of crazy guy,'' the actor said. ''Now we're in an era of horror films. That's a field day for actors who can do crazy people. Of course, they're going to think of me - 'Get Brad. He does this kind of thing.'''
Dourif, 40, spent his early years in Huntington, W.Va, and two movies had a profound impact on him during his youth.
''I went through a very difficult time when I was young,'' he recalled. ''My father died when I was 3, and I went through a period of adjusting to a stepfather. My way of dealing with it as a child was to kind of escape into a dream world. I had a horrible time in school because I was always staring out the window.
''I saw two films with my grandmother. One of them was 'The Red Balloon,' the other was 'The Bicycle Thief.' These films really had an impact on me. They dealt with problems I was going through. The problem of adjusting was in 'The Red Balloon.' The world was against this kid, but he has something about him, the red balloon.
''Then there was the father-son relationship in 'The Bicycle Thief.' I learned I wasn't alone. I connected bigtime with them. That was the moment when I wanted to have something to do with film.''
In 1973, director Milos Forman saw Dourif in the play ''When You Coming Home, Red Ryder?'' in New York and cast him as the tragic Billy Bibbit in ''Cuckoo's Nest.'' That resulted in an Academy Award nomination as supporting actor and a host of offers. Forman cast him as the younger brother in ''Ragtime.'' Other films have included ''Eyes of Laura Mars,'' ''Wise Blood'' ''Heaven's Gate'' and ''Mississippi Burning.''
''It would be lovely to say that I made a wise choice by choosing to play character parts,'' he commented. ''But let's face it, all the money and all the screen time is in playing leading men. You get the girl, you get more time on the screen and they pay you more. Of course I would prefer that.
''On the other hand, if you show people you can play all kinds of parts, your career is going to last longer.''