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Brad Dourif's Career, From 'Chucky' To 'The Lord Of The Rings' And More, Explained
From Billy Bibbit to Grima Wormtongue, Brad Dourif is a force to be reckoned with.
Brad Dourif may be the voice of Chucky, playing Charles Lee Ray (and the murderous Chucky doll) from the start in 1988's "Child’s Play," but he is so much more than that. Dourif has returned to the franchise many times, and he continues to voice the role in USA Network and SYFY’s hit “Chucky” series. That’s all well and good, but it’s hardly all there is to the career of a man who seriously commits to every role that he plays. He commits, and he commits hard.
Bradford Claude Dourif began his career in theater in the 1970s. He broke into film when Milos Forman scooped him up for a memorable role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975. He brought an incredible mix of vulnerability and intensity to the part of Billy Bibbit, and it earned him a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This is only scratching the surface.
Dourif went on to work with David Lynch twice, first as Piter de Vries in “Dune” (1984) and once again in “Blue Velvet” (1986). His go-for-broke style attracted Werner Herzog, and Dourif has worked with him multiple times. Television fans will also recognize Dourif because he's worked on about a thousand shows.
In only three episodes in the early seasons of "Star Trek: Voyager," Dourif made a lasting impression as the troubled Lon Suder. He was also a highly memorable regular on "Deadwood" later on, playing the perpetually irritated Doc Cochran. Dourif appeared in all three seasons of the series, as well as the movie that wrapped everything up. He received an Emmy nomination for the performance.
We could go on for days about how great Dourif was on "Deadwood" and it still wouldn’t do it justice. Dourif managed to keep Cochran’s professional veneer intact, while also showing the man’s pain hidden right below the surface. His emotions looked like they could've exploded at any time, but they rarely did. With a hearty and jagged voice, glistening eyes, and one of the most expressive mouths in the business, Dourif created a legend.
On a show full of gunslingers and tough guys trying to one-up each other, Dourif stood out because Cochran didn’t care about any of that macho garbage. The town needed a doctor, everyone knew it, so he could (and did) get away with saying whatever he wanted. He’s one of the only characters who spoke plain truth to Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) and survived. He cared enough about Jane (Robin Weigert) to routinely try to reason with her.
He has also had a pounding heart, as evidenced by every interaction (and dance) that he had with Jewel (Geri Jewell).
That’s great for America’s west, but what about the west of Middle-Earth? What a great transition.
Dourif is probably most well known these days for playing Grima Wormtongue in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” He briefly appears in the Extended Edition of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" as well.
Grima is a slippery slimebag in Tolkien’s books, but Dourif gave him depth in Peter Jackson’s films. Three separate moments highlight the range that Dourif brought to a role that could easily have been played without any range at all.
In an early scene with Eowyn (Miranda Otto), the filmmakers repurposed some Gandalf lines from the book and give them to Grima. He tries to seduce Eowyn, and it almost works. We shiver along with her as he says,“… like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter’s chill.”
Another moment comes when he returns to Isengard and witnesses the size of the army of Saruman (Christopher Lee) for the first time. Saruman gives a booming speech, and Grima gives a look of both awe and dread. A single, perfect tear runs down his face. Is he afraid? Is he impressed? Is he only just realizing then and there the horror that he is a part of? We don’t know, but wow do we love thinking about it.
Our favorite moment of all comes when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and friends bust into Edoras to ruin his good time. Grima tries to talk smack, and Gandalf shuts up up with one motion of his staff.
“I told you to take the wizard’s staff!” Grima shouts, exasperated and scared in equal measure. It’s a classic fantasy line, and sometimes we shout it in supermarkets. It flies off the page thanks to Dourif.
We’ve touched on it already, but Brad Dourif never phones it in. He doesn’t even know what a phone is. How do you get anyone to take a talking murder doll seriously? The "Chucky" movies (and the hit series) is more than a little comedic in nature, but none of it would work without Brad Dourif. The show also benefits from the talents of his real-life daughter, Fiona Dourif.
Brad Dourif is one of the most talented and under-appreciated actors working today. "Chucky" is lucky to have him.
Catch up on "Chucky" on Peacock.