News Column

James Wan talks 'The Conjuring' and 'Dawson's Creek'

July 17, 2013

YellowBrix

July 17--From the efficiently gruesome torture-porn flick "Saw," to the milder but eccentric indie chiller "Dead Silence," James Wan's films are chock-full of terrifying characters and scenes that fry nerves.

Now, the Malaysian-born Australian screenwriter and director has ventured back into Hollywood studio territory with "The Conjuring," a Wilmington-filmed ghost story that has the potential to please Wan's die-hard fans and those who enjoy classic horrors that rely on old-school suspense to build tension.

"The Conjuring," out this weekend, follows the supposedly true story of famed supernatural snoops Ed and Lorriane Warren, who founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in the early 1950s. During careers that spanned more than four decades, Ed, who attended seminary and studied demonology, and Lorraine, a medium, investigated incidents of alleged hauntings across the world, including the legendary Amityville, New York, case in the mid-70s. "The Conjuring" focuses on an earlier case of a family terrorized by a spirit after moving into a new home.

"I hope people get to understand the interesting characters that Ed was and Lorriane still is," Wan said during a telephone interview. "I'm sure there are those who are skeptics about what the family went through, but if they can look past that, then hopefully, they can enjoy the movie for what it is -- a fun scary movie that is hopefully effective."

Wan spoke to the StarNews about his time in Wilmington, his unlikely inspirations and his own superstitions.

On filming in Wilmington: "I would love to come back to Wilmington. I had a great time making 'Conjuring' there. Seriously. I had shot in South Carolina and in North Carolina and I think there's something special about Wilmington just because I grew up being such a big fan of 'Dawson's Creek.' I love it -- so that was such a big highlight for me to film there. On top of that, how cool the people were and the crews were, how great the town was and how beautiful the area was. It was really pleasant. I would love to come back and bring another production."

On working on a sound stage: "I've never really had the luxury of working in a sound stage space like that -- a proper sound stage. The only other movie I got the chance to do that on was 'Dead Silence,' my second movie. I only really get to do that when I'm making studio films, but when I do my indie films they're primarily shot on location. From my perspective, Screen Gems was really awesome to shoot at. It was really cool to be able to build the set and be able to shoot in a well-run, controlled environment."

On his influences: "I pulled inspiration from period pieces, not just necessarily horror films. 'Let's Scare Jessica to Death' was the horror that inspired me in terms of trying to capture the period that the Warrens were living in. Ironically, to some degree when I was in post-production, 'Argo,' stuck with me. It was another movie that was based on a true-life story and of the same period. I was in the process of editing, so a fair bit of the film got into my head. I'm such a big Ben Affleck fan, so I love that he kind of influenced me with 'The Conjuring.'"

On being a believer and producing horror: "I have a love-hate relationship with scary things. Like most people, I'm thrilled by it because it terrifies me. That's why we love roller coasters and haunted mazes -- because they're scary, but they're fun at the same time. My approach with my scary movies is pretty much from an entertainment standpoint. I don't look for scary things outside of the films I make. I don't hunt things down or go on ghost hunts. I don't welcome things -- there's no need to seek them out. "

On creepy set happenings. "I generally run a pretty positive set, so there wasn't really anything negative that happened in terms of the subject matter influencing the film. I feel like the kind of movie we were making was dark as it was, so the last thing I wanted was anything scary to happen. But I do know that the sound stage we filmed in was the same sound stage that Brandon Lee died in (while filming 'The Crow' in 1993). And when I was doing pre production and when we were building the set, it was the anniversary of his death, so that was really weird for me. It was very surreal to be building a set there years later having grown up loving 'The Crow' and loving Brandon's movies, and then to be in the sound stage were he was killed. I can be pretty superstitious, so I tried not to think about it too much."

On working with Lorriane Warren. "It was inspiring to have Lorraine and the Perron family there. It was actually pretty surreal once again when the family visited us on location and saw what we were setting up and actually being pretty affected by it. I think all those years of growing up in that house really affected them and seeing the filming of this movie brought a lot of those memories back. It was strange in that I felt like I must have done my job in adhering closely to what they went through."

Cassie Foss: 343-2365

On Twitter: @WilmOnFilm

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(c)2013 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

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