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“Imaginary” actress DeWanda Wise says teddy bear costar was total 'diva'

"Jurassic Park Dominion" actress battles a supernaturally-powered toy in Blumhouse horror movie.

DeWanda Wise is full of praise for her costars in the new Blumhouse horror movie Imaginary (out March 8), except for one. "Chauncey was our diva," recalls the Jurassic Park Dominion actress. "There always needs to be one, and Chauncey was it. His ‘last looks’ took the longest," she says, referring to the final hair-and-makeup touch-ups before the cameras roll.

No need to be down on Wise's slamming of her costar: "Chauncey" is not a member of the film's human cast but rather a teddy bear, the imaginary friend Wise's artist character Jessica had as a kid who returns when she is an adult to wreak supernaturally-fueled mayhem. As director Jeff Wadlow elaborates, "Imaginary is the story of a woman who is an incredibly creative person, who has fallen in love, and gotten married, is now trying to make a blended family work, because her husband has two kids from a previous marriage." Jessica's family moves into her childhood home, and, Wadlow continues, "we quickly discover that she had an imaginary friend, and that friend is still there, and that friend potentially might not be very happy that he was left behind. That friend is Chauncey, and he is a stuffed bear, but he is so much more."

<p>Parrish Lewis/Lionsgate</p> DeWanda Wise in 'Imaginary'

Parrish Lewis/Lionsgate

DeWanda Wise in 'Imaginary'

Wadlow, whose previous directing credits include 2013's Kick-Ass 2 and 2018's Blumhouse-produced Truth or Dare, wrote Imaginary alongside writing partners Greg Erb and Jason Oremland. Asked if he had an imaginary friend as a kid, Wadlow replies, "All my friends were imaginary as a kid. I was a comic book-action figure-movie nerd. All I did was play with my imaginary friends." Years on, after signing a first-look deal with Jason Blum's company, the director "had this idea for a scary movie about an imaginary friend, and Greg and his writing partner came in, and they said they'd always wanted to do a scary movie about an evil teddy bear named Chauncey. I thought we could combine the two ideas."

Wise learned about Imaginary when she met with the Blumhouse casting department and "reached out to my agent about it immediately." The actress explains, with a laugh, that she "grew up on the kind of films where you’re just waiting for everyone to die. I loved the Freddy Krueger movies, and I think part of the reason I gravitated towards this one was because it has that same element [of familiarity]. When you’re watching Freddy Krueger movies, you’re like, you’ve got to go to sleep, you can’t not sleep, everyone sleeps. There’s no way you can’t watch Imaginary and see yourself in it. Everyone has a childhood."

Wise remembers that when she first met with Wadlow about the project, he was concerned that she might not be suited for working on a movie that, like most Blumhouse productions, had a comparatively small budget.

"It was really funny because he was like, listen, this is not Jurassic World Dominion," says Wise. "I was like, I don’t know if you’ve checked my resume, Jeff, but it’s full of indies. Like, I know how to make a movie."

The actress not only played the film's lead role but also served as one of the movie's executive producers.

"Some people take the credit and then don’t show up and do the job," says Wadlow. "But DeWanda really took ownership of it and honestly was the partner I needed. One of the things I knew about working with Jason is that he lets me do my thing, but the downside is that I’m off on my own, doing my thing! Having someone there to be my partner was really just wonderful."

<p>Parrish Lewis/Lionsgate</p> "Chauncey" and Pyper Braun in 'Imaginary'

Parrish Lewis/Lionsgate

"Chauncey" and Pyper Braun in 'Imaginary'

Chauncey was designed by the effects house Spectral Motion with an assist from The Conjuring and Insidious director James Wan, whose production company Atomic Monster recently merged with Blumhouse. Wadlow explains that Wan "saw the designs, and he sent a note to me to really lean into the asymmetry of the design. I thought it was a brilliant notion because I was struggling with making this thing creepy but also appealing. That asymmetry note just solved the problem for me perfectly because it’s like, oh, we can make him cute, a little threadbare, but as long as his eyes are off, and his ears are off, you’re just going to feel on some subconscious level that something is not right."

Wise says having more films set in the Imaginary universe "would be cool. It definitely has franchise potential. Whether or not it would need any of us remains to be seen, but I feel like the guys have constructed a solid foundation for a really rich world."

How about having Chauncey battle his fellow Blumhouse villain, M3GAN?

"If the people want it, I’m sure we can find a way to make it happen," says Wadlow.

The cast of Imaginary also includes Tom Payne, Taegen Burns, Pyper Braun, Verónica Falcón, and Betty Buckley. The film hits theaters on March 8. Watch the film's trailer below.

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