The Conjuring 2 set visit: Scary cast stories, Amityville, & James Wan
Ed and Lorraine Warren are coming back to the big screen, and it looks like we may have a ton of ghoulish goodness heading our way. Not only will the husband and wife paranormal investigators take on the infamous Enfield haunting in England, but they will also be checking into something hinted at near the end of THE CONJURING. Yes, the Warrens - once again played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga - will stop by Amityville before heading to the UK in the upcoming THE CONJURING 2.
JoBlo.com (along with a small group of journalists) had the chance to visit the set of THE CONJURING 2 where we took a trip to a soundstage on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California. Inside, we saw a fantastic recreation of the home in Enfield where most of the new sequel takes place. Amityville appears to play a similar role as Annabelle did in the original. In the trailer for the upcoming film, there is a room with an assortment of crosses, and a little girl facing a seemingly dark entity. Here is what makes this really special. What we saw happening on camera was almost exactly what is in the trailer! The crosses hanging on the wall that spin upside down are all practical. We watched this happen. And the strange apparition that attacks her, we didn’t see him at all until he jumped into frame. This is scary stuff, and it was nearly as frightening witnessing it happen in person.
The first set we visited was the home in Enfield, England where a reported poltergeist terrorized single mom Peggy Hodgson and her children. From the faded wallpaper and the grim Christmas decorations, to the gloomy outside with a rickety swing set, the set design is especially fitting for a scary story of poltergeist activity. Aside from watching the frightening happenings involving young Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), we also wandered through an impressive recreation of the house in which the Lutz family claimed to face an unexplainable evil - I’m still excited that I stepped into the top floor of “The Amityville Home.”
Much of our time on set was spent talking to the cast. This included the insanely talented Wilson and Farmiga, both of whom seemed thrilled to be stepping back into the world of Ed and Lorraine Warren. We also talked to the wonderful Frances O’Connor as well as Madison Wolfe - who play Peggy and Janet Hodgson respectively. Along with the other journalist in attendance, we even heard a few spooky stories about Stage 4 on the Warner Brothers lot. Unit publicist James Ferrera shared a couple of stories that definitely piqued our interest. Mr. Ferrera told us about one of WB’s own that happens to have a very close connection to ghosts.
There's a Warner Bros security guard that you may know, Johnny Matook? So, Johnny is a real life ghost hunter. Did you know that? He has his own business and apparently in his off time and on vacations he travels the world hunting ghosts. Yeah, and so I was talking to him and he said that stage 4 is notoriously haunted, it's one of the most haunted stages on the lot, but he said he believes that the ghosts that haunt the set are former WB employees, so guess where you get to go later?
Of course, where we went later was the Amityville set. I was ecstatic.
Vera Farmiga was incredible as Lorraine Warren in the original film. And with Bates Motel, she has proven to be one of the most intriguing actresses working today. When she sat down with us to discuss playing Lorraine, she happily opened up about what it was like to be back.
It feels like yesterday. I’m very close with Patrick [Wilson] and James [Wan]. So just partnering up with Patrick is really like stepping into your old comfy pair of shoes. He’s a good friend. He’s a very, very good friend. His wife is one of my best friends. So that closeness, I think, lends itself to that familiarity. And we have a blast doing it. It’s dark. Exploring negative mysticism is not fun. [Laughs] It’s arduous, it’s emotionally taxing. But, in between takes, and you’ll see, we’re so silly. It doesn’t feel that long. I guess it was three years ago, and in turn we’ve both been very busy, so it’s not like we’re pining to get there. But when it comes, it’s very familiar. We’re very close with Lorraine [Warren], she’s a good friend of mine. We went to go visit her this summer. I suppose that closeness to her also helps me with the role. She’s a phone call away. I know her well, by now. So it’s certainly...it feels like a switch I can flip on.
When it comes to the supernatural, we asked the actress about her own beliefs in the unknown.
I believe in negative mysticism and positive mysticism. I have forged my own spiritual narrative in terms of what I believe. I don’t necessarily feel it is important for me to sort of give you a dissertation because it’s hard to talk to about my concept of God without spending hours deciphering that for you. But yeah, sure. I mean, I think what’s important for me to buy it hook, line and sinker because I’m portraying Lorraine and she believes it. And I honor that, and just because I have not had -- I’ve had the experience of a teacup flying off a shelf in a house rental in Massachusetts. I’ve had strange happenings. I’ve had sort of physical manifestations after the first Conjuring. Not enough to spook me, because the people in my life who have had very valid experiences with negative mysticism, one tip that is unanimous is [that it’s] a choice for you whether you accept it or not. You have a choice in terms of repelling it. I like to think I have that armor now. I was very persuaded -- I was really challenged by the first one.
It was harder for me, especially in pre-production, all the research that went into it, it was very difficult for me psychologically. I was very spooked and at all times would look over the kids to make sure they weren’t levitating. Living in fear. My life was drenched in fear and that’s very different this time around too. Which is a lot more pleasurable. I know how to turn it on for the camera and really just repel any negative thought, any fear, anything that from this perspective and certainly, Lorraine’s Roman Catholic perspective. And I find that translates, it’s funny that no matter what denomination, no matter what faith you are, whether you’re Jewish or you’re a Shaman or whatever Christian faith you come from, some cultures call it soothsaying, some call it clairvoyance, the Christians call it having the voice of a prophet, everyone has got a name for it, but there’s a consistency. When you ask people and compare different stories about negative and positive mysticism, people’s experience with the unknown.
As far as her own experience, she shared with us an appropriately unexplained situation that she had when originally taking on the role.
The strangest occurrence for me was the day I had a creative conversation with James Wan on The Conjuring. I had just been researching Lorraine, I wasn’t familiar with her. Before the phone call, I was on the computer. I had closed it. We had our conversation. I was just smitten with James, and I said, “If Patrick Wilson is in”, because I knew at the time that he had also been offered, “then I’m in.” I just wanted to be sure that Patrick was going to be my partner. We agreed, and we said goodbye, and then I opened the computer screen and there were three digital claw marks from the right diagonal to the lower left. And I wish I had my phone -- maybe Sarah can send for my cell phone so I can show them. The day that I finished The Conjuring, I came back to upstate New York to my house, and I had woken up to three claw mark bruises across my side.. But I acknowledged it. When I woke up with that, I knew I had a choice to give into the fear. It’s mental gymnastics, you just gird up and you don’t accept it. There’s evidence there, but I was adamant about not feeling fear. It’s emotional armor. You figure it out. You figure out how to build it around yourself. Even though it was clear evidence of some strangeness that’s occurred. My husband did not do that to me, I did not scratch some mosquito bite. I’ll show you.
Moments later, she shared a couple of photographs of the scratch that she had on her phone. Yep, this was creepy. After being slighty spooked, we took time out to talk to her her on-screen husband. Patrick Wilson is one actor that tends to bring a real credibility to on-screen paranormal events. When asked about his own beliefs in the unexplained and if anything strange happened on set, he told us an interesting story about running into Zack Snyder.
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 going to get a cup of coffee. 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, and 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. 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.
The actor also discussed how it felt to once again step into Ed Warren’s shoes.
[It’s] 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.
Since the film mostly takes place in England, did that add a level of fear onto what already took place in the first film? And did he feel this would this be a scarier chapter?
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… it’s funny, for American audiences, there is a sense of when it’s not just, 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. You know, there is a sense of respect that we have for it. I mean, as far as it being scarier, it’s funny, I, 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. 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.
One of the things that made the original special was the personal tale of the Warren’s. We asked Patrick if Ed and Lorraine’s personal life would play as big of a role in the new film as well.
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 that in this. Especially when you’re dealing with us leaving our little girl, we’re dealing with a family who is in distress. That human element, there’s a lot of that, and hopefully a little humor as well.
And speaking of family, this time around we meet a brand new one that is being facing a frightening foe. One of the things that THE CONJURING franchise seems to do is find some the perfect cast. And in this, Frances O’Connor is a perfect choice to play a mother unable to protect her children from the unknown. She cheerful expressed the positive experience of working with director James Wan in this continuation.
It’s been great. I think he’s very talented and just like a true kind of creative artist in a way and he’s just so into it, into moviemaking I think. In a weird way I think he kind of reminds me of Spielberg when I was working on AI. He’s just into cinema and telling a story. It’s very infectious I think. He’s great, really good.
I just feel like he’s such an all-rounder. He seems to be -- for all the different departments -- he’ll hone in and give you, like, two notes, and then you’ll see him go to the camera department or lighting -- all the different aspects of when you’re shooting a shot. And he’s just on top of all of it. I feel like he kind of edits in his head. I think Spielberg does that a lot too. He just seems very calm too. He also just has that love of it, I think. He just loves being on a set. It’s just a nice environment to be in. Even if it gets stressful, it’s motivating, I think, for actors.
Considering this is based on a reported real life event, the actress talked about the research she did on the family on which this story is based.
I live in London so I got to go to Enfield and I went to the street where it all happened and took some pictures of the house and walked around and listened to people talking to get a feel for Enfield and what the people of Enfield are like in Northern London. I looked at all the online material that is available. I read This House is Haunted which is an account from Guy Lyon Playfair, one of the psychic investigators, he wrote an account so I read that. I read a bunch of different stuff and kind of had a look around.
In regards to the validity of the story.
I don’t know. I guess I kind of have to believe it because I’m in it and I want to believe that -- I mean some of the stuff seems very genuine to me and there is just so much evidence, surely some of it is right. But I don’t know definitively. Some of it seems a little bogus to me, perhaps. But a lot of it then seems intriguing to me.
From her own research, we asked how much of THE CONJURING 2 relied on artistic license.
Perhaps a little bit here and there. Some of the events in it are from the accounts, but it is a film [laughing] so we jazz it up here and there. But I think it comes from an authentic place in terms of the seed we started with and we kind of expanded on in terms of an event happening in the house.
Sometimes you step onto a set and find that the cast truly seems to love the project, and what they are working on. That is certainly the case here. And part of that may be the young talent involved, bringing something fresh to the series. When we sat down with the young Madison Wolfe, it was apparent that this was a terrific environment to be working in. The actress has possibly the most challenging role in the film as Janet Hodgson, a young girl tormented by an demonic force, yet she appeared ecstatic to be a part of it. Was it difficult for her to step away from the horrific on-screen happenings while not shooting?
No, I don’t have that problem, but I think it has a lot to do with the people around me. Their energy is so well balanced and so great that it doesn’t make it hard for me.
And as far as her involvement in the new film, we asked if there was a moment during shooting that was her favorite.
Yes [there is]. It was Friday, the falling through the floor. It was so fun because, like I said, I don’t really do many stunts. Even though I love them, but you know, for safety reasons. Even though it wasn’t an extreme stunt, it’s still so much fun to be a part of one. It really makes you feel like you’re in the moment. It helps with your acting a lot.
THE CONJURING hit all the right notes for me, and frankly, after witnessing the trailer for the sequel and what I experienced on set, I’m really looking forward to the new film. After the success of FURIOUS 7, it is gratifying to see that James Wan has returned to continue the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Expect to find THE CONJURING 2 haunting a theatre near you on June 10th, 2016.
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