James Wigney, The Daily Telegraph, reports
Aussie Saw director James Wan is at home with the horror in his new movie The Conjuring, writes James Wigney.
[*] How did you come across this extraordinary story of real-life spook hunters Leslie and Ed Warren that forms the basis of The Conjuring?
It's hard to not have heard of these guys when you have made as many movies as I have in this genre - their names just kept coming up. After the first Insidious movie I didn't really want to make another ghost story or haunted house film but the idea of doing a film that is 'based on true life characters' - that was what intrigued me. After Insidious I knew that I wanted to get back into studio filmmaking and the way to do that is to do something that you have been successful in, but at a studio level. They weren't going to give me a romantic comedy after Insidious so I knew I had to do something in that world or with that kind of flavour.
[*] What did you make of the Warrens - did they make you believe in the supernatural through this haunted house story? Or were you already a believer?
I wanted to have a movie that was subjective - through their point of view and that of the family in the film. The Warrens come in and help this family going through these really bad supernatural experiences and I wanted to hear their stories and tell it from their perspective. I'm not here to make a documentary but I wanted to bring my approach to how I see this world.
[*] It sounds like you have a pretty open mind on things that go bump in the night though?
Definitely. I was raised with a pretty strict Christian upbringing but coming from an Asian background as well I grew up with a lot of ghost stories and superstition. So from a very young age I was subjected to this world and very much fascinated by it.
[*] Have you ever had an experience you couldn't explain?
One time I woke up in a hotel room and I thought I saw something - but I suppressed that and tell myself I did not see a ghost. If I believed that I saw a ghost I would be terrified beyond belief and I would not be able to make these films. People say to me that because I make a lot of these films I must not be afraid of ghosts. Quite the contrary - I am a real chickens---t when it comes to the supernatural and I believe my fear of that is what allows me to tackle these films.
[*] People have been watching and loving haunted house movies for years - is that familiarity a help or a hindrance when it comes to making something like The Conjuring or Insidious?
It's both. People have been sitting around the campfire and telling ghost stories since the dawn of time so that means as human beings we love to be scared and love the roller-coaster ride these movies take us to. But the flip side of that is that people are so used to seeing these stories and it takes a lot to scare a modern audience. Trying to stay one step ahead of that is quite a challenge but that's what I strive to do with all my films.
[*] Why do horror movies do so much better in America than Australia - is there something dark in the American psyche?
There is just a real genuine love for the genre that is just built in. I think a big part of that is that the second biggest commercial holiday in the US is Halloween and they love to dress up and scare each other. So I think it's very much entrenched in their pop culture. Insidious didn't do as strongly in Australia as it did in the US and other parts of the world and yet the first Saw did crazy good in Australia. I don't know why some things work and some things don't.
[*] And yet you had to go to the US to actually get Saw made - could you do what you do here in Australia?
We really gave it a shot - we spent a year to two years trying to get financing for Saw in Australia and we just couldn't get it off the ground.
[*] Would you like to make a film in Australia?
I have been wanting to for a while. I would love to take a project back to Melbourne. All my family is in Perth so they have been wanting me to shoot something in Western Australia. I have been talking to Vin Diesel quite a bit recently and we were talking about Coober Pedy where he shot Pitch Black. I have been trying to hint that future Fast and Furious films should take place in Australia.
[*] How far down the track are you with directing Fast and Furious 7?
I am knee-deep in pre-production and it's a pretty crazy world but I have been wanting to make a big-budget action film forever. Growing up, that's the sort of stuff I loved and ten years after I made Saw I finally get to do it so I am really excited.
[*] Fast and Furious is literally a billion-dollar business - are you feeling the weight of expectation that comes with that?
Definitely. Especially given how well the last two have done, not just financially but critically as well. It's funny, if you hang in there long enough the critics eventually turn around and say 'oh, you're not too bad'. The filmmakers, the studio, the cast and crew have done such a great job in letting people know it's a fun franchise and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. People really appreciate that and go along for the ride.
[*] Vin Diesel said he thought you had a darkness that would suit where the story is at the moment - what are you hoping to bring to the franchise?
I love what Justin Lin has done in revitalising the franchise and I want to honour the world they have created but at the same time I want to bring my own style to it. I want it to be a bit more gritty and grounded and I want my action scenes to feel more realistic. Number seven is at its core a classic revenge thriller and I feel that's a world I can really sink my teeth into and do it justice.
[*] And with Jason Statham as well.
Exactly - that's where the revenge comes from. Statham's character is so single-minded in what he wants to achieve and that is basically to get at the people who hurt his loved one. But he is not just a bad guy - he is a bad guy with a code. He doesn't want to hurt innocent people, he just wants to go after the people that hurt his family and you had better not get in his way. He's more like a classic, '70s antihero who straddles that grey area of a bad guy with a good guy's code. My approach to Fast 7 is the Seven Samurai - it even has the word seven in the title so I just see that as a good omen.
SEE THE CONJURING OPENS 18 JULY.