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FNaF movie director reveals why horror legend had to be William Afton

One of our favorite horror stars plays the sadistic William Afton in the Five Nights at Freddy's movie, and he's perfect for the job.

Matthew Lillard as William Afton in FNaF movie

Only Matthew Lillard, the man behind Scream’s brilliantly crazy Stu Macher, could have ever played William Afton in Five Nights at Freddy’s. Or, at least, that’s the view of the film’s director Emma Tammi, who shared her thoughts with us in an interview celebrating the release of FNaF.

“Matthew’s got such an incredible energy and has so much delight in finding characters’ darkest, darkest moments but mixed with a dash of delight,” said the Five Nights at Freddy’s director, who’s created one of the best horror movies of the year so far, as we explained in our Five Nights and Freddy’s movie review.

Continuing her praise of the William Afton star in our Emma Tammi interview, she explained, “He always had a little twinkle in his eye and I think what we needed for Five Nights at Freddy’s was someone who inhabited all of those elements with true charisma, and Matthew Lillard is the perfect person for that.”

Alongside Josh Hutcherson, Lillard helps to lead the FNaF movie cast, and has one of the defining roles in the new movie. Anyone who’s familiar with FNaF lore (and there’s much more of it than any non-fan could ever expect) will know that nailing the role of William Afton is absolutely vital to the success of the film, because he plays such an integral and expansive part within the story.

As the founder of Fazbear Entertainment Inc. and a mastermind serial killer, he’s the heart of all the horror, murder, and violence – even more evil than Stu Macher.

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Thankfully, Lillard’s embodiment of Afton has clearly gone down a storm with fans of the game because the film currently holds an impressive
89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s no mean feat given the level of devotion in the FNaF fanbase: it’s one of the most beloved video game series in the world, and the source of endless lore-related speculation.

Critics, meanwhile, have been harder to please. Tammi’s film has largely been met with negative reviews, unimpressed by a fairly formulaic approach to the genre. Our own review was more kind, praising Lillard for embracing the “campiness and theatrics of his role,” and calling the whole thing, “a lot of fun.”

Clearly, wider audiences agree. It’s had the biggest opening for a horror movie in 2023, already earning treble its budget at the domestic box office alone. That makes the prospect of an upcoming Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 release date (likely in 2025) seem almost certain. Like the video game before it, FNaF looks set to take the world by storm, cementing itself as the next big horror franchise.

For more from Freddy Fazbear, check out our guides on the FNaF Easter eggs you missed, and see how to watch FNaF on streaming. Or, learn how the animatronic thriller was inspired by Stephen King classic, before checking out our picks for the best movies of all time.