With the release of James Wan’s highly anticipated sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring looming, its stars are have been hitting the promo circuit hard. While you’d think they’d be exhausted answering a never ending stream of questions, it’s very clear that their passion for the film and the Warrens has far from dwindled.
We’re big fans of The Conjuring here at SpicyPulp, and are thrilled to share this Q&A interview with Patrick Wilson who plays Ed Warren below. Enjoy!
This is your fourth movie with director James Wan. What’s it like coming back and working with him again?
Patrick Wilson: We have a shorthand. I’ll do anything with him. He has such a passion for filmmaking. It’s also nice to have the studio give him time and necessary resources to fulfill his vision for the film. His passion and his vision never waver. He’s very intuitive with character and people’s character – the people he gravitates to and works with repeatedly, and they go back to him. There’s a comfort level. James knows I demand the most of myself – that I’m not going to just walk through a scene; I’m going to push myself. I think that gives him energy as well. And I know that he’s not just going to walk through it; he’s definitely trying to push himself. I think that’s one of the reasons I love working with him.
We also have a really good time working together. There is something to be said, at the end of the day, as to whether you enjoy the people that you’re working with – and I genuinely enjoy working with James. We have a great time. We know when to dig in and go to work and we know when to just have a laugh. I think that’s vital.
All of the films you’ve done with him so far have been supernatural thrillers. Are there other genres you want to explore together?
Wilson: Absolutely. We’ve been talking about that for years. After the first Insidious, we said we’ve got to do something else together – we weren’t thinking there would be three other horror movies [laughs]! – but, no, we’ve always talked about that. Even when he was doing Furious 7, he was like, ‘I wish there was something in this for you.’
And he has been and will continue to be successful in different genres. That’s important. I think making a really good, scary movie is difficult, but I think that the way he sets up his scares is similar to the way you do stunts in an action movie, and I think that made it an easy transition for him into Furious 7. I’m sure Aquaman will be even more thrilling now that he’s on board.
You and Vera Farmiga have such a great on-screen chemistry and built a powerful bond in the first film as Ed and Lorraine Warren. What was it like reuniting in these roles for this film?
Wilson: Yeah, well, I rarely say I have favorites because I’ve worked with some amazing leading ladies, but, next to my wife, she’s certainly my favorite lady to work with. It also helped with Vera that I knew her socially and as my wife’s director and co-star in Higher Ground. So I knew her on set, through my wife, and around the business before we worked together. I think that really helped.
We both generally love playing these guys. But we also wanted to push these characters. We went and met with Lorraine [Warren] like we did on the first one, before shooting. And that always helps to ground it. You know, we’re at different places in our lives now, and it’s always strange to come back to something so comforting … but I watched the first movie again and tried to get back inside Ed. It’s a different kind of preparation the second time. I’m trying to push it forward, but remember all the homework I did four years ago.
Had you ever heard of the Enfield case before you got involved in this Conjuring?
Wilson: I had seen a couple of the pictures of the girls in mid-air and [British paranormal investigator] Maurice Grosse, but probably only as a result of the first movie, to be honest. But I hadn’t specifically heard of the Enfield case.
This new story takes place a few years after the events of the first. Did that help you with your preparation – to know that both you and your character are at different places in your lives than before?
Wilson: Yes. We had the built-in camaraderie between Vera and me, so we didn’t need to establish what their relationship was; it was more, ‘Where are they now.’ We could just cut to the meat of it. I think that’s what the story does – not that you need to see the first one, but I think it helps to lay the groundwork for Ed and Lorraine.
So you went to see Lorraine before shooting and she also visited the set of this production. Was that the first time you’d seen her since the first Conjuring?
Wilson: Yes, and that helps ground it. It would be easy to become overwhelmed with the genre or the occult, or the expectations of how the movie should do or how your performance should be … and then you go to this sweet little house in rural Connecticut where Ed and Lorraine lived for many years – where she still lives – and it keeps it very real. You understand where they came from. That makes it very authentic, especially for Vera because she’s playing her. And it gives me an opportunity to learn as much as I can about Ed as well as Lorraine’s memories of Enfield.
Lorraine also had her daughter and son-in-law there, Judy and Tony Spera, and they’re very helpful. Tony was a dear friend of Ed’s and he was constantly feeding me info about how Ed did things. They would give me little tidbits of how he would handle certain situations. That was extremely helpful.
It’s just nice to go up there and connect, and find little things we can use. I remember the first time we went up for the first Conjuring, there was a chicken running around in the house. We came back and told James, you gotta have a chicken in the movie [laughs], and we got a chicken in the movie! So this time, we were trying to find little things like that.
Wilson: I did, yeah. When we were at the local pub, they were asking us what we wanted to drink, and I remembered Lorraine and Tony telling me a story about Ed. He knew that lemons were free and water was free, and he was the kind of guy who would go into a place and instead of ordering a glass of lemonade, he would order water and a bunch of lemons and put a little sugar in there and make his own lemonade right at the table. So I thought that was fantastic. And if you look around in the pub scene, everybody’s got a drink and I’ve got a glass full of lemons and a bunch of packets of sugar. Just my little nod to Ed.
Have you been inside the Warrens’ Occult Museum?
Wilson: Several times. My goal this time was to get Vera in there. On the drive up, I said, ‘You are going in that damn room [laughs].’ And she did and, of course, she was fine.
In the first movie, a lot of the physical action was centered on Lorraine, and in this Conjuring, a lot of that action now falls to your character. How did you prepare for that? Did you do a lot of your own stunts?
Wilson: Yeah. I’ve always loved stunts. And that was one of the things I loved about this film. The first Conjuring ends with this exorcism and everything that goes down with it … Well, what happens if you try to do that and it doesn’t work? Or there is no response or the force is too overwhelming? I thought it was cool that James wanted to try that with this film, and I think the physicality was just part of James wanting to push the envelope – what happens if Ed’s in that situation, what’s he going to do? He’s a very practical, hands-on guy. So it would make sense that if push comes to shove, he’s in it to win it. If it’s fight or flight, he’s definitely a fighter.
That goes along with what I’ve heard about him anyway. There’s a scene in the movie where he confronts a doubter on a television show. That was taken from a real episode of Sally Jessy Raphael in the ‘80s. Ed’s not going to sit down quietly while someone’s doubting him or, more importantly, his wife. He’s going to come out throwin’ and I love that about him. Because Lorraine is so sweet and clairvoyant and quiet, it’s nice that he’s just so sort of meat-and-potatoes, ‘If you say something to me, I’m gonna punch you in the face if I don’t like it.’ I kind of like that; he’s very direct.
Janet and Margaret Hodgson, the real sisters who as children experienced the events that inspired the film, visited the sets in Los Angeles and London. Did you have the opportunity to talk with them at all, and did that affect your performance in any way?
Wilson: Yeah, I talked to them for a while. They were not at all star-struck to be on a movie set. Not at all. It was very painful for them. And, more importantly, when they met Lorraine [Warren] again for the first time since the time period of the movie, there was a hug and an understanding that they knew this woman tried to help them. There was a definite connection. That, to me, is enough validity for what we do.
You know, it’s very easy to judge the unknown, and even if you and I tell a story of this interview later, we would tell different things. Some maybe thought their experience was trivial or made up, but, of course, many believe them. And like anything paranormal, you probably question yourself: Are you seeing things? Is there some kind of mental illness or disturbance or is it real? That’s all obvious. But what I found with Janet and Margaret was – whatever your thoughts on anything paranormal or the occult are – when you talk to these women you realize that this experience was extremely personal for them and took a real toll, and is, I think, still very hard for them to deal with.
You know, we’re talking about demonology here, but let’s go to the flip-side. When some people go to church they feel they’re being endowed by the Holy Spirit and they feel God. Well, is God someone who talks to you or is God in your heart? This is just the other side of that coin, right? It’s very real for some people, and you can’t take that away. It’s still not tangible; you can’t touch it, just like religion. It’s not any different to me. I think you have to honor it with the same amount of respect, because whether it was real and there was a possession or whether someone’s going through something very traumatic, you can’t trivialize it – mental breakdown or nervous breakdown, whatever it is. It’s still real. It still affects them in a profound way, and that’s what I saw with them.
Can you talk about working with Frances O’Connor, who plays Peggy Hodgson, the single mom whose home and children come under paranormal assault in the film?
Wilson: Unbelievable. Frances is just wonderful. She has the right amount of strength and frailty. As soon as you walk into that house and lock eyes with her you feel her; you feel she’s this mother who’s just trying to make ends meet, but who’s in desperate need and will do anything for her kids. She just killed in the role. Frances and also Madison Wolfe, the young actress who plays Janet Hodgson, were fantastic. I’d worked with Madison before. We did a movie shot in Louisiana a few years ago. Her ability and her accent are great … she’s no joke. She’ll be a big star.
Can you talk about working with the international ensemble of actors James brought together for this film – Simon McBurney, Franka Potente, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney …
Wilson: The cast is unbelievable. Eclectic, dynamic, different. And you have to thank not just James, but the studio, the producers, and also the casting department. They just cast it so well. And that’s the beauty of this movie; it’s a real, proper studio film. It’s difficult to pull in so many great British, Irish, Welsh actors – people who are in high demand and have careers all over the world. Simon Delaney hosts a morning show in Ireland as well as being an actor, for example. Simon McBurney, who directed me in All My Sons on Broadway, has not only a busy acting career but is a world renowned theater director.
This is a movie about England’s most documented case; and you need to treat it with – I keep thinking of this word ‘respect.’ You need to find the right actors for the job. When you think of the great horror movies, you see the impact of a great cast. In The Shining, you have Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. It’s dedication to the genre and to the script. You’ve got to take it seriously. And James just knows…
What do you hope audiences will walk away with when they experience The Conjuring 2 in the theater?
Wilson: I want them to be scared; that’s sort of the point here. But more than that – even more than the first one – this movie has tremendous heart. You will have people not only frightened, you will have people smiling, you will have people laughing, you may have the odd person cry. There’s a great romantic story in here as well. That’s what sets the movie apart. You will care about these people, watching this family go through this. And, at the same time, you will be genuinely freaked out [laughs].
You can catch Patrick in The Conjuring 2 when it’s released in the US on June 7, New Zealand and Australia on June 9 and the UK on June 13. Check back tomorrow for Vera Farmiga’s Q&A.