Looking at Patrick WIlson‘s resume, you might think he’s one of those actors that just loves genre, but ask the actor himself and he’ll tell you he really just loves working with James Wan. Coming off his turn in one of the best TV series of 2015 — the second season of Fargo — Wilson is set to kick off 2016 by reprising his role as Ed Warren in Wan’s sequel to his 2013 Box Office smash, The Conjuring, in The Conjuring 2. The film marks Wilson’s 4th collaboration with the director, all of them paranormal horror flicks.
Back in October, I visited the set of The Conjuring 2 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California where I joined a few other journalists to chat with Wilson about why he loves working with Wan, what made him want to come back for the sequel, how the film will explore unanswered questions from the first, getting to know the real-life Lorraine Warren, and more. Check it all out in the interview below, or click here to read the 13 things I learned on the set.
How’s it been getting back into Ed’s skin?
PATRICK WILSON: Awesome. It’s good. No, it’s great. I mean, we had such an amazing time on the first one and you know, the care that they had with this script and the support from the studio and of course, James’ vision, you know, it all came together and that’s nice when, it’s nice when you, when you’re, when you do that and the movie works, not only creatively, but commercially, so you feel like when you come back, you have this feeling of well great, it’s not like we just sort of skated by with the first one, you know. We dug in deep and so we’re doing the same for the second, so we don’t feel that sense of like, we’re just coming back because it’s a sequel, you know. We’re all actually, there’s not, actors-wise, you know, just a couple of us, but we kind of knew that going into it, so certainly it’s nice to be back with my Lorraine, my wifey.
Are you a huge fan of acting in horror or is it more sort of like, “I just love working with James”?
WILSON: Yeah, it’s just that. Nothing against the genre, but I don’t, I don’t see a lot of horror movies, so like I remember when we were doing, after the first Insidious, and he came to me with this, he said, I’ve just got the rights. I want to do it. I want you to be Ed, and I remember thinking, well, are we going to do a sequel to Insidious? He didn’t know if we were doing that yet, and he was like, “Well, I don’t know yet, but if we are, would you not do this?” I was like no — and this was before I read the script, so I really didn’t understand that aside from them both being in the horror genre that they’re pretty far apart. Yeah, that’s a long way to answer it, but really it’s just with James. We have a great time together.
You must develop somewhat of a shorthand by now?
WILSON: God, I hope so. What is this the fourth? Four or five.
We were just talking about scary things or strange things that happen on set, and I just found the miniseries about the Enfield haunting.
WILSON: Oh yeah, it was on the other night.
It’s still on, and it had weird things like the photographer’s camera broke every single time he would show up to set. So, have you noticed anything?
WILSON: Sounds like he’s got a bad camera.
The cast is funny. They’re like he was just annoyed. We were scared. Do you notice anything strange happen or do you believe in this stuff?
WILSON: I believe that they believe and that’s what, I know it’s kind of a token statement, but you know, I believe there’s another force out there. I believe, I don’t think we’re, and whether that delves into religion or just spirituality, I think there’s a number of, I mean just today, I was walking and I’ve been here a week, and I was walking down, going to get a cup of coffee, and at the exact, literally the exact spot where last week I ran into Zack Snyder’s assistant, and I haven’t seen Zack in years, you know, we did Watchmen together, and just as I’m walking by there. I start to think, and he said, “Oh Zack’s in London, I don’t know when he’ll be back,” and just as I’m walking there, I start thinking, I wonder where Zack is, he literally comes around the corner. I have not seen the guy in years. Is it coincidence, probably, but I don’t just hang out there, you know. It was very, those to me are like little moments where you feel like there’s some other. I think there’s something else out there. That’s a long way of saying it, and anyway no, nothing scary has happened. It’s very funny, even the security, the lady at the security gate, Michelle, she was like, “Is there anything scary over there?” It’s the same sounds stage that you’ve been next to for a long time. It’s no different really?
So she had more experience than you then?
Obviously it’s unusual to play a real life character in a sequel, because that just doesn’t happen. Have you found it easy to jump in? Have you found anything new?
WILSON: I did have to go back and look at my performance and relook at, I got a lot more Ed Warren, like DVDs, and some CDs, and just a lot of tapes, so I could just kind of hear him talk again and sort of get back in the, get back into him, because also, I’ve been in Calgary for four months, shooting Fargo…
It went certified fresh this morning, on Rotten Tomatoes, so congratulations.
WILSON: Oh did it? And so I’ve been doing that accent for the past several months, so I had to sort of — and I haven’t worked since then, and it’s funny, when you’re in a different place in your life, you sort of, I had to go back and watch it and sort of get back into where I was and what I was doing, and then, you know, go to the different CDs.
Did Lorraine ever be like, he would never do that?
WILSON: They’re very, super supportive. Vera and I went up there this summer, again, just on our own. We just sort of wanted to reconnect with her, because it had been a couple years and she’s not young. She’s still sharp as a tack, and so it was nice hanging out. Yeah, it was nice. We were sort of both gearing back up to get back into it.
How much research had you done on the original story and just on demonology, because Ed is a known demonologist.
WILSON: Well, I read, for the first one, I read his book, the book on demonology. He’s got a couple. And yeah, I’ve got a slew of his books and I — so between sort of dusting off all of my old, a couple of years, all the research that I did for the first one, getting back into him. And when talking with Tony Spiro, who is his son-in-law, who is very, very close to him, I would sort of pick his brain about quirky little things that he’d do, and the one thing that James has done, that they’ve done with this script is a lot of his little — Mmuch like in the first one, where you know, we weren’t afraid. If there was a scene about someone being a non-believer, even when we had the creak in the floor and he was always a very pragmatic guy, so any of those qualities that were sort of character qualities, we even are pushing further in this one, confronting somebody. Like there was a story on Sally Jesse Rafael about the haunting in Connecticut. I know, it’s funny just to say that, we all see her glasses, unless you’re under the age of 30 and then you’re like, who? And where he confronts somebody that’s — it reminded me a lot of I remember when listening to Buzz Aldrin, when someone, was talking about a conspiracy of, that it was a hoax, that they couldn’t stand on the moon, and he was like, “You can not tell me I didn’t stand on the moon.” And that’s kind of…Ed takes this very personal, he takes it very personally when someone doesn’t believe him, because he believes it, and he’s got such conviction, and that’s always good to play, so we’ve pushed that in this, moments where you don’t believe, because if you know the Enfield story. It’s a little loose, they did go over there. It wasn’t all neat and tidy. Nor was really, the parent case in the first one too, these are not just go over there and fix a leak and it’s done. You know, it’s very complicated stuff, but sort of finding out their involvement over there was pretty important.
With this film being set in the UK, it must change the atmosphere slightly, and I wanted to ask you, when you read this script, and so far tonally on the film set, do you think this one is going to be a little bit scarier even than the other one? What’s the vibe that you’re getting?
WILSON: Well, I think because there’s so much history, it’s not like we’re shooting it in a castle or anything, but there is, there’s, it’s funny, for American audiences, there is a sense of when it’s, not even just in taking it to the UK, and taking one of their most hallowed horror stories — you know, we understand how much this means to sort of the British paranormal community. So there is a sense of respect that we have for it. I mean, as far as it being scarier. It’s funny, there’s nobody better in this business than James Wan at making it scary, so I have no problem. I have such faith in that and it’s hard, because we have to approach everything so technically, so you don’t feel the scares as you’re doing it, you know what I mean? So it’s hard to say oh, it scarier or this is scarier, that one’s scary. I know reading it — reading it, it gets very, very creepy. It gets very freaky and strange.
Because a lot of the scares in the first one were really scary were the ones that were not a big thing.
WILSON: Well, that’s, yeah. Well, that’s him. That’s James, who comes up with these ideas and you know, you always take your template of the true story and figure out how you can dramatize it and how you’re going to structure it in the movie. And again, there’s just nobody better. I mean, the ideas that he comes up with — and there are a lot in here, in this one — that are new and different. I think, otherwise, he wouldn’t have come back. He’s not going to come back just, he’s not going to come back for a paycheck. He just left a billion dollar franchise, you know what I mean? He’s here to make a great movie.
Are there any differences from the case files that you know of, anything different?
WILSON: What do you mean?
That was invented?
WILSON: Well, I don’t know. I think it depends on who you talk to. I mean, yeah, I mean a lot of it — that sort of public record that we’ve seen, that’s all in there, and I’m sure they touch on it even in that mini-series, you know, finding the girl and like kind of contorted in this weird electrical box. There’s a lot of things that the cops sort of corroborated on and said that they had seen that and all those, obviously, are in the movie. Yeah, I mean, I haven’t seen the A&E thing, so I don’t know. There weren’t any crazy departures from the stories that I read, but again…. like any of this stuff, I’m sure if you talked to all five girls from the Perrin family, they would all have different opinions of what went on on certain nights. I think that’s part of the supernatural and the paranormal is, you know, who sees what vision, because I do think it has a lot to do with your own perception. It’s like you walk into a room wanting to be scared, maybe you’ll be scared. So, I guess that’s my way of saying there’s a lot of different perceptions of the same events, and it’s up to James and the rest of his crew to sort of create what’s going to be the scariest and the best for the film.
Can you talk about where we find Ed and Lorraine in this movie, like were they pretty heavily affected by the events of the first film or is that sort of just what they do?
WILSON: Well, I think we get into where — that scene in the first one, that scene in the first one where you’re wondering where she kind of…what was so traumatic to her when she did not want to pursue this anymore, and we push that even further. I think they’re constantly in that battle of trying to raise their daughter, and yet this is their calling — and how do they remain good parents and are they towing the line between, not just not being there, but really dealing with some pretty emotional, paranormal, if you want to believe in it, but either way, very emotionally disturbing events that are, that can take its toll on the family. So, we definitely pushed that.
With it being in London, do we still see elements of their home life as well?
WILSON: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think one of the things that I loved about the first one were the moments of levity and the moments of their relationship. I mean, I think one of the biggest compliments that I got from the first one is when they were either women or not the typical horror — you know, 25, or 18-35 white male or whatever it is. I don’t know if that’s the actual demographic. It was strictly, “Oh, here’s your horror audience.” It reached a broader spectrum and it wasn’t, in my opinion, just because — well, it was because the movie had a lot of layers and had a lot of character development and you cared about these people and part of that is creating those scenes. I remember James fighting for that. We call it the carburetor scene, me and Ron in the first one — just talking, me fixing his car, and those kind of metaphors that speak about humanity, we have in this, especially when you’re dealing with… we’re leaving our little girl, we’re dealing with a family who is in distress, so that human element, there’s a lot of that, and hopefully a little humor as well.
Is that tricky to find that balance of still basing it on characters and still upping the scare-factor?
WILSON: I don’t concentrate on if a moment if scary or not. That’s not my job. You know what I mean? You’ve got to go — what you can’t do is bail out of it, or half ass it, you know. You can heighten the moment, you know, if you don’t scream like that, then if you just go “Ahhhh,” it’s not going to peak and do whatever he wants. It’s not going to be scary. So every actor has got to dive in, you know? So, we don’t concentrate on if this moment is scary. It’s not, “Oh, I’m seeing something that I kind of don’t like”. It’s, “I’m seeing something really horrible that’s going to kill me”. Those are the moments that you have to — that’s how we can help. That’s how the actors help, you know? So, it’s not really different than any other movie. It just makes you…you dive in. You can’t — especially some of the things that they say, you know — you can’t judge it. It’s the worst thing I could do, is judge his belief as a Catholic. I’m not a Catholic, but when I’m Ed, I’m a Catholic and you’re believing what he believes and he’s very devout in his beliefs. You play it. You don’t go, “Eh, maybe they don’t exist”. No way! You go for it.
One thing that’s been kind of teased has been the presence of Amityville and I’m curious, obviously that story has a great cinematic history, but just in terms of kind of accessing that story…
WILSON: Well, I won’t give all of that away, but you’ll, yeah… [laughter] yeah, you know. It was a big case, and a controversial case, and that’s one of the things that James loves to do, is like he’s not afraid of the of the controversy. It’s not like, “Well, we can’t bring up Amityville because there have been 77 movies.” No. They went to Amityville, they have very strong feelings about Amityville, so it’s ok. You go for it. We have all this — that’s the thing about them, they have thousands of cases. So, yeah, we touch on that.
WILSON: No, not really. I mean, I just, it’s got to be different, you know.
Everything has to be different from what you’ve done already?
WILSON: I try to. If I’ve gone there before, it’s, that’s not really that exciting unless it’s obviously something like this where you’re continuing a man’s life. That’s cool. Even that’s different, you know? But when I look at things to do… I mean, you know, there’s certain genres that I don’t need to do anymore, which is, I’ve got my horror niche here. Anyone who sends me a horror movie is probably going to get a quick no, but that shouldn’t shock anyone. Even something like Fargo or got this western coming out in a couple of weeks with Kurt Russell [Bone Tomahawk] and this sweet little romantic movie, Big Stone Gap, out right now. I just try to just be as varied as I can. So there’s no sort of Hamlet role that I’m dying to do.
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