Why James Wan Has Never Directed A Full Trilogy

The Conjuring Patrick Wilson and vera Farmiga perform and exorcism

James Wan has shown many times that he has the magic touch when it comes to launching franchises. It started with his directorial debut, Saw, which famously went on to spawn seven sequels, and since then he has created popular brands like Insidious and The Conjuring Universe – not to mention Aquaman, which has its first follow-up in development and stands as the biggest DC Comics movie of all time.

Looking back at this history, though, one notices a particular pattern: the filmmaker has never taken the helm of a full trilogy. While Wan has made a few sequels, he’s always exited the director’s chair when it comes to making the third chapter of a series. It’s a surprising pattern when you consider his clout, and the ambitions of many of his contemporaries, but the reality of the situation is that it’s just not something that he is interested in doing.

I’ve been curious about James Wan’s trilogy philosophy for a while now, and I finally got the chance to ask him about it last week when I sat down with him for an interview at the Los Angeles press day for Annabelle Comes Home. What I took away from the conversation is that it’s apparently kind of amazing that he’s directed as many sequels as he has given his interest level in that particular arena. Said Wan,

It's weird. Everyone wants me to do the full trilogy thing; I'm like, 'If you're lucky enough to get me to come back to do the second one…' - A. And B, usually by the time I get to number two, I always feel like I've said all I need to say, and I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to move on to go start something new, do something else that excites me. That's how it's always been for me. For me, it's a very organic process. I only make movies that I want to see. That's the bottom line.

So if you’ve ever wondered why James Wan passed the baton to directors like Darren Lynn Bousman, Leigh Whannell, and Michael Chaves for the Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, sequels, respectively, you now know why.

At the same time, however, he also has not just an understanding, but an appreciation for how the franchises he’s spawned reflect on his work as a filmmaker. Trilogies and longer series don’t just happen in Hollywood – they come as a result of an audience responding to a fictional world in a particular way that sees them wanting to see a lot more of it. The fact that James Wan has had that effect on movie-goers in many ways throughout his career is a special thing, and, as he explained, it’s something that he personally takes to heart:

The cool thing is I've been very fortunate that the horror films that I've made have gone on to spawn multiple films because that means I've created a world that people really were receptive to, and creating characters that people like, and that they want to come back and visit. And I think that's kind of the key, is to create a world that is rich enough that you can continue to explore.

You can watch James Wan discuss his particular approach when it comes to series and franchises by clicking play on the video below:

It’s worth noting that while he may not specifically be at the helm, James Wan does still sometimes have a hand in the development of follow-ups to his work, and the spin-off Annabelle Comes Home is a perfect example -as he is not only a producer, but developed the story alongside writer/director Gary Dauberman. Fans will be able to see the new movie in theaters this weekend, but also be on the lookout here on CinemaBlend for more from not only my interview with James Wan, but also my conversations with Dauberman and the film’s stars.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.