What's On speaks to Five Nights at Freddy's star, Matthew Lillard

This isn’t his first horror rodeo…

Based on the jump scare-riddled video game of the same name, and scourge of parent-school WhatsApp groups, Five Nights at Freddy’s gives us manmade horrors beyond our collective comprehension. Sweet. In Five Nights, Mike Schmidt (Josh ‘District 12 tribute’ Hutcherson, ) is drafted in to guard a derelict diner, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, from vandalism and theft. The chief USP of the restaurant in its heyday was the gang of animatronic mascots that performed song and dance numbers from the up-curve of the ‘uncanny valley’ (Google it). If you’ve already made the leap to assume that these suspiciously creepy razzle dazzle robots are possessed by the spirits of murdered children, who go on gory killing sprees after midnight, congratulations you’ve officially completed the horror genre. And should probably be urged to sign some sort of register. One of our favourite things about this movie though, is that it sees the return of comic-Scream-tzar Matthew ‘I’ll be right baaaack’ Lillard, and we had the honour of speaking to him about what we should expect from Five Nights at Freddy’s, now in cinemas across the KSA from October 26.

What’s On: Looking back, how was your experience being a part of Five Nights at Freddy’s?

Matthew Lillard: Being on set was incredibly fun and it was overall a great experience, but the most exciting part for me has to do with the fans and knowing how much they are looking forward to seeing this come to life.

WO: How aware were you of the original game before getting involved in this project?

ML: Before shooting the movie, I didn’t have a direct experience with the game, although my children played it incessantly. So, I knew of the game and of the joy it brought to people even though I never played it until I got cast. Then I dug into that world…

FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S, from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse in association with Striker Entertainment.

WO: So, what were your kids’ reactions when they found out you were going to be in the movie?

ML: It’s probably the only movie they’ve ever really cared about me doing. They are teenagers, so they’re not supposed to care at this point in their lives. But there’s no doubt they are more excited about me being cast in this film than they have been with any other project I have ever been associated with in my entire life.

WO: And what has this experience meant to you?

MlL: For me, it’s a little like in Scooby Doo – where I played Shaggy – because you have to honor those characters. You must try to give the fans what they love about the project, putting a lot of energy and passion into it so that it’s reflected in the work. That way not only are you making yourself happy as an actor, but you’re also giving the fanbase something to adore – and that’s our job.

(from left) Vanessa Shelly (Elizabeth Lali) and Mike (Josh Hutcherson) in Five Nights at Freddy’s, directed by Emma Tammi.

WO: Do you think the fanbase will love this film?

ML: In terms of the fanbase, you never want to be overly confident, but we certainly dedicated a lot of attention to detail. This is a big film that had Scott Cawthon, the creator of the game, on set every day.  I think that speaks to the passion and time the people that made it put into delivering an excellent product. At the end of the day, that is all we can do. So, the fanbase may not love every aspect of it, but you can’t argue the commitment we made to telling the story.

WO: An important part of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise are the iconic animatronic characters. How was it to see them come to life on set?

ML: Seeing them come to life was nothing short of incredible. One of the great things about the animatronics was the team that came with them. I mean, Jim Henson’s best and brightest were there working every day to deliver incredible performances from actual robots. They were like a NASCAR pit crew and it was awesome to see them in action.

(from left) Freddy Fazbear and director Emma Tammi on the set of Five Nights at Freddy’s

WO: In your opinion, which are the scariest animatronic creatures in that universe?

ML: For me, the scariest of the animatronics are Springtrap – who isn’t in the original game – and probably Bonnie, who looks adorable yet terrifying.

WO: How was working with Josh Hutcherson, who plays the lead role of the night security guard that your character sets up to work at an abandoned theme restaurant?

ML: One of the great things for me on this project was getting to know Josh Hutcherson. That guy is incredible, fully present, and a consummate professional that you can tell has been doing this since he was nine years old. It was Josh’s movie, but he would still sit with me on set and have lovely conversations – that doesn’t always happen with co-stars. So, it was really great to work with him. He played the part of Mike to a tee and I think the fans are going to root for him.

Piper Rubio as Abby in Five Nights at Freddy’s, directed by Emma Tammi.

WO: And what can you say of Emma Tammi, who co-wrote and directed this film?

ML: Getting a chance to work with Emma has been lovely. I got to sit down with her even before the offer came through to play the part and have a long conversation about what her vision was, the universe she wanted to capture, and really sort of start to brainstorm about the best way to eventually do my job. Emma Tammi has been an incredible collaborator throughout the whole process.

WO: Were you excited to be in a Blumhouse film working with a high caliber producer like Jason Blum?

ML: I’ve been trying to get Jason Blum to hire me for the last ten years! I adore what Blumhouse has done in the genre, and I really coveted the opportunity to get back into horror with them, as I know how much it means to the fans. So, I had been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and it’s been really exciting.

Josh Hutcherson as Mike in Five Nights at Freddy’s, directed by Emma Tammi.

WO: So, what makes Five Nights at Freddy’s unique?

ML: I think this is a movie that’s going to thread the needle between scary and kind of creepy, while also being acceptable for young viewers, and that’s something we’re really excited about. We are building it for the fanbase, but also opening it up to the whole world.

WO: And why do you believe we should watch it surrounded by an audience in a movie theatre?

ML: The reason to go see Five Nights at Freddy’s on a big screen is because there is nothing like the response of a scare with a film like this in a theatre. To me, seeing movies is a communal experience where you gather, sit in the dark, and get taken away to a universe. When things scare you, you have an endorphin rush that changes the chemistry in your body, which explains why we love going to the movies. So, do not hesitate to grab your friends and family, sit in the dark, buy some popcorn and let us scare the bejesus out of you.

Images: Provided