Filmmaker, John J. Lafia passes at 63

John J Lafia
Filmmaker John J. Lafia

Film and television writer, director, producer and musician John J. Lafia passed away on Wednesday, April 29. Born in 1957, Lafia was influential in the Los Angeles experimental music scene in the 1980’s before launching a successful film career.  

Lafia attended UCLA. His first feature film was The Blue Iguana (1988), which he wrote and directed as well as producing the soundtrack. It featured a theme song by Kurtis Blow, was Dylan McDermott’s first role as a leading man, and starred a diverse cast including the likes of Flea, Jessica Harper, Pamela Gidley, and James Russo. The Blue Iguana was screened at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.  

Most notably, Lafia co-wrote the screenplay for the North American #1 theatrical horror film Child’s Play (1988). John coined the name “Chucky” and contributed the cinematic classic line: “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?” Lafia went on to direct Child’s Play 2 (1990) and then New Line Cinema’s Man’s Best Friend (1993), which he wrote and directed.  Other notable career highlights include multiple episodes of television series such as Babylon 5, Dead Zone, Dark Justice and TV movies such as The Rats, Chameleon 3: Dark Angel, Monster, Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, and Code 1114 for Paramount, Fox, A&E, CBS and UPN.  

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In 2004, Lafia wrote, directed and produced the NBC miniseries 10.5, which became the highest-rated miniseries of the year, drawing twenty million viewers over two nights. It is amongst the top five miniseries of the decade. He also created the sequel 10.5: Apocalypse which followed in 2006.  

In the mid-1990’s, Lafia directed the Digital Pictures/Sega live-action video game Corpse Killer and interactive featurette Bombmeister for Sony/Interfilm. These two early works paired computer technology with live-action imagery and digital graphics to immerse the audience in an interactive world.  

In 2012, Lafia independently released his passion project, a musical drama called The Ballad of Frank and Cora. He wrote, directed, shot, and edited the film as well as co-producing the soundtrack with musician Bill Jones. The film featured lead vocals from Lafia and Michele Rene and starred Irena Costa and Tobias Jelinek. It was his final film. 

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Beyond his accomplishments in the film and television world, Lafia was also an inventive musician. His early analog music was recently painstakingly transferred to the digital realm and made widely available on streaming platforms, as well as limited-edition vinyl record releases. 

Lafia was an unstoppable creator and a passionate advocate for the rights of artists in every field.  

He is survived by his children Tess and Kane and his former wife Beverly. 

Quote from Don Mancini, screenwriter and close associate from the Child’s Play franchise: 

“We’re devastated to hear of the passing of our friend John Lafia. He was a crucial part of the CHUCKY family from the very beginning.  He co-wrote the original CHILD’S PLAY script along with director Tom Holland and myself, and John directed CHILD’S PLAY 2 — the consensus favorite film among CHUCKY fans.  John was an incredibly generous artist. He let me tag along with him to every meeting, and shadow him on set; he taught me more about filmmaking during the production of that movie than several semesters in film school. John was also one of the most naturally curious and constantly creative people I ever met, someone who was always taking pictures, and jotting down ideas. We’ll miss him terribly. Much love to his wife Beverly and his children Kane and Tess, of whom John was so very proud.” 

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress.