Today, we shine the spotlight on one of the true unsung heroes of the horror genre; an actor by the name of Ed Gale, who actually played killer doll Chucky in the three most beloved installments of the Child’s Play franchise. Say what? Wasn’t Chucky a… prop?!
Though it’s mostly Brad Dourif and special effects artist Kevin Yagher who are credited with bringing Chucky to life, the character never would’ve been able to move around on screen if it weren’t for Ed Gale. Inside the Chucky costume in Child’s Play, Child’s Play 2 and Bride of Chucky, Gale is essentially to the franchise what Kane Hodder is to the Friday the 13th series – though unfortunately most fans don’t realize or recognize his contributions.
Wanting to learn more than the little bits of information that are provided on his IMDb page, I recently had a chat with Ed Gale, in an effort to paint a picture that’s gone unpainted for far too long. No, Chucky wasn’t just an animatronic doll, and this is the story of the man you probably didn’t even realize was underneath the costume!
Measuring just under 3 ½ feet tall, the career of Ed Gale began at the age of 20, when he left his home state of Michigan and moved to California – pursuing his dreams of making a living as an actor. Armed only with $41 and a belief that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, Gale’s dreams came true just a few years later – when he auditioned for and landed the title role in the 1986 film Howard the Duck.
It was because of his portrayal of Howard the Duck that Gale caught the attention of Child’s Play director Tom Holland, who knew that an animatronic Chucky doll alone wouldn’t be able to do everything he needed it to do. And so he reached out to Gale, who had proven himself to be the man for such a task.
“I am told Tom Holland requested me personally after hearing that I was Howard the Duck,” Gale told me. “He wanted someone physically capable of bringing the costume to life. I was known for doing just that.”
Credited only as ‘Chucky’s Stunt Double’ on Child’s Play’s IMDb page, Gale is quick to point out that he’s an actor first and foremost, and that he was far more than a stunt performer on the film – which Holland himself has also pointed out over the years. While Gale did perform many stunts for the movie, including the full body burn that turns Chucky into a charred mess, he was also the one responsible for playing the character in all of the scenes that required the doll to move around more than a doll ever could on its own.
In other words, whenever Chucky is walking, running, jumping, climbing, falling, tumbling or rolling, that was Gale underneath the costume. “[That’s why] I will not allow people to merely say I was Chucky’s stunt double,” said the actor – who clearly has never quite been given the appreciation from fans that he by all means deserves.
While Gale is only 40” tall, he’s still a good 10” bigger than the Chucky doll was, which is why oversized sets had to be built for the scenes in the original film where he donned the costume – in order to make him look as small as the actual doll. Larger scale replicas of locations like the Barclay’s kitchen and living room were constructed, seamlessly blending together the shots of Gale and Kevin Yagher’s many animatronic creations. In fact, so seamless was the blend that it’s hard to even tell whether you’re watching a doll or an actor at any given moment, which is probably why so many people don’t even realize there was an actor involved.
Gale returned to play Chucky in Child’s Play 2, but it was that film’s director (John Lafia) who was responsible for the actor not being involved with the third installment. Without getting too into the details, Gale revealed to me that he was quite offended by things Lafia had said about him, after filming wrapped. “His comments in a magazine were deplorable and an outright lie,” Gale opened up. “So when [the third film] came around, I said absolutely not.”
Though Gale by no means takes all the credit for playing Chucky, calling the character a “team effort,” he does believe that Child’s Play 3 suffered by not having him on board. “Chucky could not move as freely,” Gale explained. “They were relegated to moving the camera to give the illusion of Chucky moving. Hence it being the least successful of the franchise.”
It would be nearly a full decade after Child’s Play 2 before Gale put on the overalls and striped shirt for the third and final time, once again portraying Chucky for several scenes in Bride of Chucky. “I returned for many reasons,” he told me, when I asked why he had a change of heart from the last time he was offered the chance to reprise the role.
“I loved the script. My good friend and executive producer David Kirschner called me at my home in Palm Springs to ask me to do it,” Gale recalled. “He said something like ‘We need you to make Chucky move… you are our Chucky.”
It was all Gale needed to come back on board, though he also jokes that the money didn’t hurt.
As far as Seed of Chucky is concerned, Gale doesn’t recall if his agent was approached about him being a part of it, but it was ultimately the filming location that prevented him from being involved with the follow-up to Bride. “Seed of Chucky was filmed in Romania,” he said, “and by that time I had stopped flying.”
When I talked to Gale about the latest installment in the franchise, Curse of Chucky, he echoed the sentiments most of us fans have about the current state of the genre. Some CGI was utilized to help bring Chucky to life this time around, a modern day technology that’s hurting not only the movies, but the careers of actors like Gale.
“I am afraid that CGI is the wave of future, which is sad because many times it looks horrible and fake,” said Gale, taking the words right out of my mouth. “Computers have replaced the practical costume,” he went on to say, in regards to how his career has been affected by the shift from practical effects to computer generated ones.
But regardless of the changes in the world of filmmaking, Gale told me that he’s more or less retired from acting nowadays, and that he’s mostly been playing human characters for the last several years anyway. Would he play Chucky one more time, if he was asked?
“At this point in time I would like to think I would never return to costume work,” Gale told me. “However, as you well know in the biz, you never say never.”
In addition to playing Chucky, Gale also played a hooded dwarf in Phantasm 2, Dolly in Dolly Dearest and he even doubled for Warwick Davis in Leprechaun 3. Needless to say, he’s definitely made his mark on the genre, despite not really being a fan of horror movies. You can learn more about Ed Gale and his career on his official website and Facebook page!