The Conjuring 2 stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have been friends for years and their easy and effervescent chemistry is so evident on screen, playing paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Conjuring 2 follows the Warrens, just coming off the Amityville case, in which they are labeled by some as charlatans for believing the house was possessed by a demon. Lorraine wants to pull back on their work because she has visions of something horrible happening to her husband. But a case across the pond in Enfield, north of London, brings them back into the demon fold. They are sent to investigate claims that a malicious spirit is plaguing the home of a single mother, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), and her four children living there. Particularly affected is 11-year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), who seems to be the conduit for the spirit. Let’s just say this… it’s just as scary as the first one!
At the recent press day, Wilson and Farmiga the chemistry continued as they talked about the love between the Warrens, working with director James Wan and their thoughts on Ouija boards.
Q: Have you helped anyone yet? What advice do you give them?
Farmiga: No, no one thinks I’m clairvoyant.
Wilson: No one thinks you’re clairvoyant. They strangely think I am. They know who wears the pants. Yeah no, I haven’t really…
Farmiga: Yes. People, yes, people are very eager to share their wily stories, their experiences with mysticism. Yes. Yeah, I see that. Absolutely, yeah.
Q: You could give them Lorraine Warren’s number.
Farmiga: I don’t give them…no, not really. And by the way, she will take that call.
Wilson: She would.
Farmiga: Still, in her 80s, in Connecticut.
Wilson: That’s was a big thing. Her number wasn’t always unlisted.
Q: When you guys look at this film, do you look at it as a horror movie with a love story element, or as a love story with horror elements?
Wilson: I think depending on what…yeah. Well, I’ll say this. The biggest response that I got from the first film, and I’m sure it’s similar for you, is people that say, ‘I don’t like scary films at all, but I loved yours.” It wasn’t just a great horror movie, it was great film. I love that. And I think that’s what the first movie did is transcend the genre. I think why you don’t set out to do something like that, you certainly want to craft a great story about relationships, and humanity, and a love story, and what their relationship was, and how that works in this world. And I think so different people react to the movie in, some people only want to talk about the scares, some people only want to talk about our scene in the bedroom. I think that’s one of the things…there’s nothing worse than somebody saying, this movie has everything.
But I love the fact that that’s what makes a movie stand the test of time, and certainly within this genre. And If you think about it, because I’m not a huge horror fan, or I’m just not…I don’t know every horror movie like it. James will go through ten movies and I’ve never heard of any of them. But for me, when I think of like The Shining or Poltergeist, or some movies that, I mean, even something like Paranormal Activity. Something that, it’s always about people, and people that you care about, and you get invested in. For these people that loved each other so much, that does become the cornerstone for this franchise.
Farmiga: It’s always been my approach. I knew a thing of Lorraine Warren when the offer came, and as soon as I Googled all the videos of yesteryear, I was just absolutely delighted by that coupling. They are so darned cute, and they are connected. They have a connection that is undeniable. So for me, coming aboard this was going to be very much about, I mean, it is a love story for me.
Q: What did you want to bring from your experience directly with Lorraine to this one, and how do you find the relationships which we see so much more of in the second movie?
Farmiga: Again, I think I always wanted to mine for the love. I requested the dance, didn’t I?
Wilson: Are you taking credit for it?
Farmiga: I’m going to take credit for this one. I demanded a dance this time.
Wilson: Oh right.
Farmiga: I did. I remember, there wasn’t in the initial draft. He’s a great dancer, I’m a great dancer. We didn’t get to flex our dancing muscles too much.
Wilson: That’s in number three. They enter a dance competition. Salsa, actually. You probably don’t know that until the very end. Wonderful at Mambo.
Farmiga: Wait to see her breakdance.
Wilson: It is the ’80s. Just kidding.
Farmiga: No, I’m always mining for the love.
Farmiga: The great love, because when we spend time with Lorraine, it’s time spent talking about Ed.
Wilson: Yeah, that’s so true.
Farmiga: The two of them together. She exudes love. You feel it. It’s so palpable.
Wilson: Yeah, that’s all you…
Farmiga: Who they were to each other. I mean, that’s really what I try to do. I just try to display that accurately and tap into their great love, their immense love.
Q: What about creepy stuff on set? James said to ask you about a video?
Wilson: I don’t have my phone with me, yeah. One of the videos that…we had a priest bless the set. We didn’t…they had a priest bless the set before we, on like the first day of shooting, which can’t hurt, really. So there’s that. Did I ever show you that video? I don’t know.
Wilson: I’ll show you the video, of yeah. Yeah, after one night, one of the painters noticed, you’re in a sound stage with curtains, floor to ceiling, these huge curtains, just sort of waving violently. No door open, no fan on, no nothing. It’s pretty trippy. And he films, he goes right over there behind it and sort of can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It goes on for like a minute. Apparently, they felt it was a very, very, very odd occurrence because nothing else was moving around it. There was nothing else blowing. You can’t even hear any sort of air, you just watch these curtains sort of violently going. It’s pretty trippy. Yeah.
Q: Is there any sort of tips, if there’s a demonic presence in your house that you think you might be able to…do you feel like you’re ready now if it ever happened to you?
Wilson: I think I would laugh, because I know it wouldn’t be nearly as scary as anything that James came up with. Yeah, in all honesty, I get that question a lot. Has it changed because I’ve done a couple? If anything, I’m less wary of it because I feel like I’ve just exhausted every side of it. So it doesn’t really…it interests me. I’m fascinated by people’s stories of the paranormal. But I don’t…it doesn’t scare me. I don’t think that every spirit, if they are out there, I don’t think they’re bad. Maybe I feel sorry for more of them I guess. That’s curious to me. That would be the one thing that I didn’t really understand before is why, if you believe in this stuff, then why has that person not passed on? I think that’s kind of cool, unexplained.
Q: If you can talk a bit about what you notice about changes in James Wan as a director, if anything, from the first Conjuring to this, especially after he helmed Furious 7.
Farmiga: I’m not sure. He and I have a very specific way. I’m sure he dealt with me differently than he deals with Vin Diesel.
Wilson: Very similar.
Farmiga: Or he has a way with me that is our way, and has to do very much with choreography, and it…like Bob Fosse telling me what to do, literally, with head turns, and tempo, and don’t make that…close your mouth a little. He’s very precise. It has to do with movement. He directs me like a dancer, in our very unique relationship.
Wilson: Because he knows you do the homework and you can fill in the blanks. A lot of directors go the opposite way and try to get you to feel something. He knows he surrounds himself…
Farmiga: But also, I think within the scope, I tend to have, Lorraine tends to have these choreographed, long things where a lot has to do with movement and timing. So he and I have a very specific type of collaboration.
Wilson: Yeah, after the first Conjuring, he also in there did Insidious 2, we did another film together. Then he went off and did Furious 7. So I think this time, because he had been so immersed in that, however many billion dollar franchise, it only puts pressure on himself. I think the exciting thing was to come back understanding how the other side works. Meaning, huge action sequences, crazy huge budget, and the amount of time that he can spend on a scene. Whereas I think in this, he was very…so what did he gain? I think if anything, he gains a confidence to pull off something like, in the scene where I’m talking to Bill, and the camera’s basically right here the whole time. He could never do that in F7, have a take three minutes long, whatever it is, a four, three page scene. I remember him coming in that morning being very excited. I was slightly nervous because usually, you don’t need to learn that many pages. They come for rehearsals like, so I want to do this whole thing in one take. You’re like, okay. Got to learn my lines. But I think it gave him this freedom of like, I know how that other genre works, therefore I know…because there is a similar vibe of setting up your set pieces like settings up your scares, for an action, right? But I think it gave him the confidence to go, okay, let’s just sit into these people, because he wasn’t afforded that on…it had a different set of circumstance. So I guess that would say, I saw that sort of change of him pushing himself. Long takes, sweeping camera movements. Whereas you look at F7…so I think it made him go the completely opposite way.
Q: What’s your perspective on horror movies and horror TV?
Farmiga: I’ve only made two horror movies, and Bates Motel is not even horror television. I think it’s misdiagnosed. It really is misdiagnosed. Bates is a family drama. It’s horrifying to have a son with a different kind of neurology, with…it’s really difficult having a special needs kid, and trying to make that kid the best possible version of himself. So I don’t see it as horror, and she’s had also a sorted, painful history, which also plays into it. But there’s so much. There’s just so much. It’s just a playground for me as an actress. Obviously, there’s the talent to boot in terms of my co-stars. I don’t know. Both these films, I certainly wouldn’t put Bates in the horror genre, at all. No. I’ll fight that.
Q: A lot of great horror films actually start with a Ouija board. This one includes it at the beginning. You guys are both parents. Would you ever let your kids play with a Ouija board?
Farmiga: I’m kind of, no. I wasn’t allowed. I was not allowed. My father in particular, he believes in negative mysticism and possible mysticism. He really believes that. So we weren’t allowed to have those games. I wasn’t allowed to see horror films growing up, but I would go to Misty Burner’s house.
Wilson: My kids have a ouija board, but they don’t…I just saw it the other day in the game room. I was just like, oh, interesting. They’ve played with it.
Q: All these movies and you haven’t burned them?
Wilson: I think, yeah. I’m not, come on, you’ve got Ed Warren in the house. He’s not afraid of it. We’re fine.