Matthew Lillard on how his Five Nights at Freddy’s role surprised him

Five Nights at Freddy’s, the recently released Universal Studios film based on the popular video game series of the same name has been doing scarily good at the box office as well. Not only did the movie open at $132.7 million globally ($80 million domestically in the US) — making it the most successful horror movie opening of 2023 — it also became the most-watched film or series on Peacock in its first five days of streaming, terrorizing the records of previous big-name properties like The Super Mario Bros. Movie (which had the biggest opening ever for an animated film), Halloween Ends and Bel-Air.

Actor Matthew Lillard, previously known for his work in Scream, Thirteen Ghosts and Scooby-Doo, originally didn’t know what to expect when he landed the role of the movie’s main antagonist. The first sign he might’ve stumbled onto something big however was the unanticipated reaction of his kids.

”When I got the offer to do the movie, it was an incoming call. Basically, the proposition was ‘Go sit with [director] Emma Tammi, and if you guys get along, and you want to do the movie, you’ll get the offer,”’ the 53-year-old Lillard said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. ”Every time that happens in my life, it usually means the movie’s pretty bad. At this point in my career, it’s not like I’m out there just getting Academy Award opportunities. I have to fight for those great roles. We met, and she explained the character, and he’s the Voldemort in the Five Nights at Freddy’s universe.”

Lillard’s sentiment quickly shifted when his kids asked about his role in the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie.

”I came home, and I was talking to my wife about it, and my middle child was sitting there, and they heard me say Five Nights of Freddy’s and were like, “Wait, who are you playing?” I said, ‘William Afton and some rabbit.’ And they were like, ‘Dad. That is going to be huge!’ Then, my son came in, and he affirmed the exact same thing. The fact that the two of them agreed on something was crazy.”

At first Lillard thought the reaction of his kids might have been overblown but the reaction from fans became overwhelming as well.

”At conventions I immediately I saw my line triple in size,” Lillard continued. “Every third kid would come up saying, ‘I cannot wait for you to be a part of this movie and this franchise. We’ve been waiting eight years for the film.’ They were so excited. You start seeing projections coming out for the movie — and, in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘I think it’s going to be way bigger.’ I’m in the trenches at these conventions. Kids come up to me all the time. Cut to early projections being $40 million and then doing $80 million on the first weekend. It was remarkable and super exciting.”

Five Nights at Freddy’s, directed by Emma Tammi, sees troubled protagonist Mike (Josh Hutcherson) as he tries to care for his 10-year-old sister Abby (Piper Rubio) and the mysterious disappearance of his younger brother from ten years beforehand. Mike reluctantly takes on a job at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, a seemingly innocent pizza restaurant where nothing is actually as it seems.

Were you as surprised as Matthew Lillard at Five Night at Freddy’s success thus far? Let us know in the comments.

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