There are certainly common fears that unite all of us, but the truth is that we are all have our own personal terrors and horrors that drive us straight into shock. A person can be completely fine around snakes - a species that gives many the frights - but completely lose bowel control when a spider skitters past their feet. In the film world, a person might only be able to watch a slasher movie through the slits between their fingers, but be skeptical enough to be completely unfazed by ghost stories. It’s a challenge that The Conjuring director James Wan has faced his entire career.
A couple weeks ago I had the chance to fly up to San Francisco, California where I was given the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with the filmmaker and dig deep into his latest movie. Check out our conversation below, in which Wan discusses finding the real terror in the story of the Perron family, the impact that being based on a true story has on a movie, the mind-melting process of making three films - The Conjuring, Insidious Chapter 2 and Fast & Furious 7 - at the same time.
How’s your day been going so far? It’s still early.
It is early. I think I just woke up.
Honestly, I’m kind of amazed that your brain isn’t completely mush by this point.
Oh, it is mush.
What has been your schedule these past couple of weeks? It must be completely insane.
It’s pretty crazy. It’s been pretty hardcore. Basically, I’m literally doing three movies back to back. I literally just flew back from Atlanta, back to LA, to work on stuff and then skip here literally the next morning to come in to do this press stuff, literally going from Fast 7, back to Insidious to push that off, then here to promote this, then back to promoting Insidious 2. It’s kind of crazy.
Do you kind of thrive on that pressure?
No, I don’t. I prefer sleep [laughs] But, you know, this is the kind of stuff, that when they happen, it’s a good thing. It’s a good problem to have, as they say.
You had Dead Silence and Death Sentence come out in the same year previously…
Yeah, but I didn’t make those movies at the same time.
Oh ok, I guess that would explain it.
This time, I’m making all three at the same time.
To kind of talk more about The Conjuring, one element that separates this film from any of the previous films you’ve made is that it’s based on a true story. How much that changes your film making process?
It definitely dictated a lot of my filmmaking process. That was really the only reason why, or one of the main reasons why I did The Conjuring is after Insidious I didn’t really want to do another supernatural ghost story, haunted house movie, but the chance to make a movie that, make a movie about the Warrens and to do, you know, a true life, you know, a true life story based on characters that are still alive today, was what made it very fascinating for me. That was what made it interesting because then I feel like I can know attack the film and the filmmaking from a perspective that I’ve never kind of approached before.
How has that changed specifically?
One of the things I really wanted to do, was to stay as true to the characters as I could, you know. So, very early on, the writers would really get in there and talk to the Perrons family and talk to the Warrens, talk to Lorraine and just basically, and not just talk about the case itself, but talk to them about who they are and what makes them tick and I think that was really important in helping me shape the characters on the page so that when my actors came on board I could really help them through the movie.