Although he has acted in a wide range of films – from ‘Phantom of The Opera’ to ‘The A-Team’ to comedies such as ‘Running With Scissors’ – there is no doubt that Patrick Wilson is drawn to the supernatural and horror recently with ‘Insidious’ and now, ‘The Conjuring’.
In ‘The Conjuring’ which opens in theatres 8 August, Wilson and Vera Farmiga (‘Bates Motel’) play Ed and Lorraine Warren, America’s most famous real-life occult experts who investigate paranormal cases, including the Amityville house made famous by the 1979 horror film, ‘The Amityville Horror’.
Patrick Wilson at 'The Conjuring' premiere in Los Angeles. Photo: REUTERS
Before Amityville put the controversial couple team on the map, the Warrens investigated the Perron family home in Rhode Island for an alleged haunting by the ghost of a witch and the ghosts of everyone murdered on the property, which is the plot for ‘The Conjuring’.
Horror movies involving possession and hauntings are nothing new, but what drew Wilson to take up the role was its subject matter – it is based on the real-life story of the Warrens doing something that was unknown at that time.
“The Warrens were pioneers in the field of paranormal investigation before the internet, cell phones and digital cameras. Back then, there were no TV shows or movies about what they do,” Wilson told inSing.com in an interview in New York City.
The Emmy and Golden Globe Award-nominated actor added that the Warrens’ desire to help people is another reason why the project appealed to him.
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“They genuinely wanted to help people in trouble. Ed and Lorraine are known to be devout Catholics who believe that there is another form of evil in the world, and if they can do something about it, they will,” the 40-year old actor explained.
Ed Warren died in 2006, and his wife is now 86.
Speaking to inSing, director James Wan described Wilson as an “amazing actor”: “I think he (Wilson) really brings the kind of weight that I’m looking for to play these larger-than-life characters.”
Wilson will work with Wan again, returning for more scares in ’Insidious: Chapter 2’ later this year. The sequel to the 2010 horror-thriller, ‘Chapter 2’ picks up after Wilson’s Josh Lambert rescued his son from an astral plane called “The Further”. The movie also stars Rose Bryne.
You seem to have a penchant for horror and thriller, having previously done ‘Hard Candy’, ‘Insidious’ as well as its sequel, ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’. What drew you to such stories?
I resisted working in horror movies initially because I wasn’t a huge fan of the genre, but when I first read the script for ‘Insidious’, I just knew that that it was going to be a good movie. I liked all the quirks and structure of the script.
I had such a good experience shooting ‘Insidious’ that when ‘The Conjuring’ came up, I jumped at the opportunity. There was a feeling of trepidation at the outset – to jump back into this dark “well”. You can say that I am hooked.
How was it like reuniting and working with James Wan again?
It’s great to be working with him again. Two of the last three films that I’ve acted in were directed by James. We just get along. I love the way he works and he absolutely knows the genre. He knows exactly how to craft a scare. I want the people that I work with to “attack” their job with the same passion that I do and James is that person.
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Both of us have that understanding and desire for character-based and story-driven films. He is not the kind of filmmaker that just wants to go straight to the scares, and he doesn’t cut scenes just for the sake of it.
He lets the characters develop and even include scenes where the characters are doing nothing but talk. He knows that if the audience are invested in the characters, we will earn the scare. James really took the genre to another level.
Wilson with Vera Famiga
James has a stripped-down approach to the movie. While most horror films tend to rely on CGI and effects, this movie brings the art of filmmaking back to horror films. What’s your take on this?
I agree with you totally. The way the scares are done harks back to the horror movies of the ’70s. I think some of the best horror movies came out of that decade and that’s why the movie is set in that era.
If I’m not wrong, our fascination with the occult and paranormal started back then. Somehow, all these factors fit and are the right formula for its success.
In recent years, the trend is moving away from gory, bloodlust movies to ones that are more psychological in nature.
Movies like ‘The Conjuring’ pays tribute to classics like ‘The Shining’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, and those movies are very character- and actor-driven. Those are the type of horror movies that just linger. You become desensitised very quickly with gory stuff. To me, gory isn’t scary. It’s just grotesque.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga
But let’s take James’ ‘Saw’, for example. I think that movie saw a rebirth in that genre of horror. ‘Saw’ may be gory and gruesome, but the reason why it’s so painful to watch is because you become so invested in the characters. You go through the same experience as the characters in the movie when they have to do something painful… it’s that emotional response that attracts people.
I know people who love horror movies but won’t get near any that are about hauntings and possession. What do you think it is about these types of movies that terrify and fascinate people so much?
Religion and the supernatural have always fascinated people. It’s something that people cannot put a hand on.
There’s definitely another world at play. Whether you’re talking about aliens or even demons, people have this longing to find out what else is out there.
A loss of control is another reason why people are so into horror movies, especially those involving possession. We have so much control over our lives, but when you step into the cinema and a possession movie is on, we usually don’t know what is going to happen next.
A good scary movie is one where you don’t know what to expect – you’re at the mercy of the filmmaker. People are fascinated by that and that loss of control frightens them as well.