Director James Wan is currently publicizing his upcoming paranormal horror movie The Conjuring (out July 19) as well as his other paranormal horror movie Insidious: Chapter 2 (out September 13) and he’s currently prepping the seventh entry in the Fast & Furious franchise. So, how much sleep is getting at the moment? “Seriously? Not a lot,” says Wan. “I will be lucky if I’m averaging five hours each night.” Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad. “No, it’s not too bad, except I’m one of these people that need at least eight hours. I’m always very groggy first thing in the morning.”
Below, Wan talks about his three new projects and explains why the man who brought us Saw is, at heart, a complete “chickens—.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In The Conjuring, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. When did you first hear about them?
JAMES WAN: When you’re dealing in this [supernatural] world it’s hard not to have heard of the Warrens. I’ve always found them to be very fascinating characters. I’ve always said, “Someone needs to make a movie about these guys.” For a long period there I was kind of tracking their life rights. I heard the life rights were with one place, that they were at another place. It was kind of messy.
When Insidious came out and was successful the story about the Warrens came to me and I was like, “Oh my god, this is really cool.” I knew I wanted to get back into the studio filmmaking system and I felt that basically making a movie that’s similar to the world that I came from would make the studio feel comfortable giving me the chance to do it. But I didn’t just want to make another ghost story or another supernatural film. One thing I had never explored was the chance to tell a story that’s based on real-life characters, real-life people. So those were the things that led me to The Conjuring.
I recently spoke to Andrea Perron, one of the real-life people whose haunting is depicted in the film. She could not have said nicer things about you and the movie. But she also said that after hearing you had been hired to direct The Conjuring, she rented your breakthrough film Saw and was horrified at the idea of you telling her family’s story.
[Laughs] Yeah. Saw was good and bad. It was good in that it gave me a career start but it was also negative in that it really marginalized me as a filmmaker. It made a lot of people in Hollywood think that I was “that guy,” that that was the only kind of movies I made — despite the fact that I only directed the first Saw film and I did not direct any of the sequels at all. But because I was the guy that created it, so my name is attached to the franchise, which I’m very proud of by the way. That was part of the reason why I went off and made Insidious because I wanted to prove to people that I could make a very classic, old-fashioned haunted house film and show that I could make scary films without relying on blood and guts, which by the way the first Saw movie had very little of compared to all the sequels, but people forget that.
Conjuring producer Rob Cowan told me that he offered to arrange for you to visit the real farmhouse depicted in the film and you basically said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
[Laughs] Yeah, he’s right. I cannot believe he told you that! [Laughs] But that is true. Just because I make movies in the scary world doesn’t mean I want to visit scary worlds. I am such a chickens—. I believe in these movies, I believe in ghosts, and the supernatural, and the spiritual world. But I don’t want to go there.
The Conjuring features an evil doll called Annabelle, which is again based on something in real-life. But the movie Annabelle looks very different from the one which Lorraine Warren still owns. Why did you change its appearance?
I could not use the actual Annabelle doll because it’s a Raggedy Ann doll, right? And I’m pretty sure that the company that owns the right to that are not gonna want us to say that the doll which they make is possibly possessed. So when I knew that I had to change the look of the doll anyway I thought, “You know what? I’m going to use this opportunity to just create a doll that’s more to my liking.” So I created a doll which was more human-like.
Are there other tales from the Warrens’ case files you would like to turn into movies?
That’s the crazy thing. They’ve got so many stories. Whether or not you believe in these guys, that’s a whole different thing. But they’ve investigated so many cases in their lifetime. There’s many cases that one could pull out of their files and they could be future installments. I myself think the Annabelle story could be a great movie on its own. I couldn’t cram it all in but the full Annabelle story is really interesting and really, really scary.
Next: Wan talks Insidious 2 and Fast & Furious 7