Allison Williams Talks ‘M3gan,’ Horror’s Latest Pop Culture Phenomenon – Forbes

(Left to right) Cady (Violet McGraw), M3GAN and Gemma (Allison Williams) in ‘M3GAN.’
When the first trailer for the science fiction horror film M3gan, pronounced Megan, dropped online in October 2022, people lost their minds, and the promo spread like wildfire across social media. On the official Universal Pictures YouTube channel alone, it has racked up over 22 million views.
Even before it lands in theaters, the movie about a lifelike doll programmed to be a child’s best friend but becomes everyone’s worst nightmare became a pop culture phenomenon. Jason Blum, one of the film’s producers and the CEO of Blumhouse Productions, even dressed up as the titular character for his Halloween party.
Allison Williams, who previously worked with Blum on Get Out, not only plays the lead role as M3gan‘s inventor but also executive produces the film. I caught up with her to discuss the movie that delivers a new toy titan of terror for horror fans who gives Chucky and Annabelle a run for their money.
Simon Thompson: The last time I spoke to you was on the backlot at Universal Studios for Get Out. That movie blew up. With M3gan, it looks like you have another viral movie hit on your hands.
Allison Williams: I hope you’re right. It’s scary to hear things like that before it even comes out. The people have yet to decide, and you have to let people do that.
Thompson: You say that, but a lot of people have already decided because ever since the trailer dropped, the internet has been going crazy. When I saw the finished movie and posted my reaction on Twitter, I can’t tell you how many responses I had from people saying things like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m dying to see this movie.’ Have you been watching or aware of that excitement?
Williams: Of course. I knock on wood all the time, like 30 times a day, for various reasons, so I’m predisposed to be cautiously optimistic. I’m poised that way, but I was so thrilled by the response to the trailer. How could you not be? We labored over this movie, worked on the script for years, filmed it, and then tailored it all and shot more to make it as perfect as possible. Then there was the task of introducing M3gan to the world. Can we do it? Can we position her in a way where people get her? Are audiences going to understand the very unique tone of the movie? When the trailer came out, we started refreshing our various social media feeds, and the answer seemed to be ‘Yes.’ We were so thrilled, and after seeing a packed audience at the premiere, I feel even more emphatic in my enthusiasm about people going to see it in theaters when it comes out to enjoy with other full rooms of people. When I tell you there is cheering in very unexpected places, it’s an understatement.
Thompson: I had a similar experience myself when I saw it. There was cheering, and there was more laughter than I was expecting. In a good way.
Williams: Absolutely. It’s not in an ‘Oh my God, this is so bad’ way. It’s in a funny, more like an ‘I can’t believe it’ way.
Thompson: How satisfying and validating when what seems to be like an excellent high-concept idea on paper turns out to be a good movie? That’s not always the case.
Williams: (Laughs) I know. It feels so gratifying. I felt lucky at just about every stage of this experience. Being an executive producer on it makes me doubly lucky because I was even more involved in the minutiae than I’ve ever been. The number of people working, rowing in the same direction while trying to hit a bullseye is staggering. A lot of times that does not work despite everyone’s best efforts, so I’ve been fortunate to be part of a few things that felt like they lived up to their potential. I do think this is one of them. From the description in the scripts I read and from the initial conversations with the director, Gerard, cutting then to all these years later and seeing the final cut, we gave this movie its best life. It’s the one we all dreamed of for her, and now M3gan belongs to the world. I can’t wait to see how she lands with people.
(Left to right) Brian Williams and Allison Williams attend the Los Angeles Premiere Of Universal … [+] Pictures’ ‘M3GAN’ at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Thompson: You talked about the audience reaction, but the one person I’m really interested in hearing the reaction of is your dad, the legendary hard-nosed journalist Brian Williams.
Williams: (Laughs)
Thompson: He was at the premiere, and I’d love to know what he said afterward.
Williams: He was glowing. First and foremost, he’s my dad, so from his perspective, the feeling of seeing that Universal logo and then his daughter’s name and face is overwhelming. That was overwhelming for me, but to look at my parents when that was happening, they were so proud. When your kid is three or four years old and tells you this is what they want to do, you never get sick of that experience. The premiere was the second time my family had seen the movie. They saw it a few versions ago and had a blast. Their number one takeaway was that everything felt more heightened with the score finalized and in a theater.
Thompson: Were there any surprises that were added in post that you weren’t aware of or had missed, even just a tweak from ADR or something like that? I love the Martika Toy Soldiers moment, which is a lovely tongue-in-cheek touch.
Williams: That’s such a good one and a great moment. That was in there from the moment we had her playing the piano. I saw nearly every cut, so there weren’t many surprises because I’ve been pretty in the weeds on this one. Honestly, the whole thing played out better than I could have dreamed it would if that makes any sense. There’s also always this worry because I have been watching cuts of it on screens about the size of my TV at home, and then we premiered it in the Chinese Theatre. I do not recommend the experience of seeing your own face that large, by the way.
Thompson: You’re a couple of years younger than me, but we come from the same generation where when we were kids, having a toy that was a friend was the coolest thing ever. Coming from that generation and having made this, do you look back at that through a different lens?
Williams: One of the great things about it is that we’ve positioned it in such an extreme way. There’s this doll, she’s very lifelike, she’s an adult but looks like a little girl, she’s so smart, her movement is so sophisticated, and she’s independently learning and AI and everything. Positioning it in a heightened way, it actually gets easier to talk about, and engage with, without feeling like we’re talking about something that already exists. We all have a lot of trouble speaking honestly about our dependence on technology, and my friends with older kids are in a daily struggle about how they feel their kids should be interacting with technology. It’s the exaggerating that allows for more freedom of conversation about kids and technology and whether or not it is a good idea to have M3gan function in the same role that parents should. Of course, I can’t imagine anything cooler than having a doll like that when I was little. That would have been my greatest dream. Many of my friends who have kids Katie’s age are like, ‘My kids are going to watch this entire movie, and they’re going to turn to me and say, ‘I want one.’ That’s a chilling concept.
Thompson: I think it’s safe to say that M3gan will be one of the most popular Halloween costumes in 2023.
Williams: The fact that people were already dressing up like her for Halloween this year took my breath away. I mean, Jason Blum aside because he had an inside track on the movie. I couldn’t believe all the other people were showing up online as her. I was so excited. As Halloween costumes go, it’s a good one because you get to wear flats, you get to wear tights, and you have to in Connecticut, where I come from. I always picked my Halloween costume based on what was the warmest. It’s not a cold costume, so in that way, it’s a good idea.
(Left to right – 3rd from left) Jason Blum and Allison Williams (centre) attend Los Angeles Premiere … [+] Of Universal Pictures’ “M3GAN” at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Thompson: Were there any moments on set where you genuinely got freaked out by having a M3gan around, even though you knew she would be there?
Williams: Oh my God, plenty of times. This is the case for all dolls, puppets, etc., but they’re most freaky when they’re in repose. When someone is operating them, you can see the man behind the curtain or whatever. I don’t want to ruin the magic of how M3gan is achieved, but it’s less frightening. The frightening moments were between cut and action, whether M3gan was just off to the side waiting to work again or she was right in my face waiting for them to switch a lens or something like that, and it felt so plausible that suddenly she would spring to life. She became so lifelike to me for so many reasons and so real that it just crossed over into the uncanny valley so many different times. I have so many stories like that, but I’m trying to be vague so I don’t spoil anything.
Thompson: There are franchise opportunities here. Have you had any conversations yet? Was it discussed as a multi-movie arc with the character when it was initially pitched?
Williams: With an original concept, the sweet spot is hoping for the best but planning for both scenarios. You have to lay enough to put the crumbs out there, so you want to entice the studio to make more because it’s so much fun. You also need to make something that can stand on its own two feet in case that doesn’t happen. We would have been silly not to set up a scenario where more would be possible. We love our jobs; we’d love to do this again, so we’ll see what happens. It would be fantastic.
Thompson: Could M3gan be the movie that removes Avatar: The Way of Water from the top of the box office? What are your thoughts on that?
Williams: Oh my goodness. Well, asking people to go to a theater these days is a big thing. Things are more different now than it’s ever been. First of all, it’s just hard to get off your couch where you can pause the movie, have subtitles, eat whatever you want, and go to the bathroom whenever you want. It’s very comfortable. I’ve been filming for a while and trying to be very Covid cautious, so I haven’t been to the movie theaters a bunch in the last couple of years. However, being in that theater for the premiere, I’m watching it on the big screen, and with all those people, eating popcorn made me remember what I love so much about being in theaters. I say this knowing it’s a big ask, but it’s one best enjoyed surrounded by strangers with different senses of humor and different levels of tolerance for horror. You’re going to come out of there and be like, ‘That was a fun use of my time.’ That much. I can promise you.
M3gan lands in theaters on Friday, January 6, 2023


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