With James Wan’s The Conjuring sweeping (and spooking) all before it at the US box office and UK filmgoers getting a serious frightening from this Friday, Empire’s curiosity has been piqued. What makes a $20m film recoup its budget in less than a weekend and go onto make nearly $100m in less than a fortnight? Is it a talented director with a track record in low-budget, high-concept filmmaking? Good old-fashioned storytelling? A seasoned cast selling the scares? Then we realised: it’s witchcraft! So we went along to the film’s press junket in San Francisco to burn everyone involved.
Writer-producer Carlton Cuse and the cast of the hit A&E show stop by our lounge to talk about their geeky childhood obsessions and the festival experience. “I was a spectacle collector, like glasses, and I wanted to be an ophthalmologist,” says Vera Farmiga. “The problem was that I had ace vision.”
Has Vera Farmiga been getting into her latest role, or is the role getting into her?
In “The Conjuring,” which is expected to take the number one spot at the box office this weekend after raking in a scary good $17 million on Friday, Farmiga plays Lorraine Warren, a paranormal investigator who is studying a haunted house in Rhode Island. The film was based on the real life adventures of husband-and-wife paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren (whose work also inspired “The Amityville Horror”), and in an interview with Yahoo! Movies at the San Diego Comic-Con, Farmiga revealed that at least one of the spooky happenings in the story has touched her in real life.
In the New England farmhouse Lorraine and Ed (Patrick Wilson) are investigating in “The Conjuring,” clocks keep stopping at 3:07 a.m., the same time a murder took place in the home. Farmiga insists she now keeps waking up at the same witching hour. “It’s in my subconscious,” Farmiga said. “I know there’s an alarm clock beyond that. It’s a joke now. I look over, I flip over the cell phone, and sure enough, it’s 3:07.”
While Farmiga and her co-star Wilson initially laughed this off as a coincidence, she isn’t taking the matter too lightly. “The things that happened [in the house] were pretty diabolical, and just talking about it conjures up or gives it relevance,” Farmiga said. “You’re dealing with dark, negative mysticism, and I just don’t want to give it more relevance. You don’t want to give it power.”
This isn’t the first time an actor bringing one of the Warrens’ stories to life has had to deal with a similar sinister coincidence. In the 2005 version of “The Amityville Horror,” a noisy ghost makes itself known every night at 3:15 a.m., and Melissa George, who appeared in the movie, found herself similarly waking up at 3:15 a.m. during the production.
“That was scary for me, but I laughed,” George told reporters during the shoot. “I thought it was quite funny.” However, like Farmiga, the experience of the film heightened her belief in the spirit world. “I can’t say I believe in ghosts, but I do believe in something else other than us,” George said. “The supernatural. I think there’s something out there.”
And the real Lorraine Warren doesn’t think there’s anything funny about her work. Warren, now 86, told Yahoo! Movies that the “Amityville Horror” case was the most traumatic she ever dealt with, and that she refuses to set foot in the former Lutz Family home again.
“Amityville was horrible, honey. It was absolutely horrible,” Warren said. “It followed us right straight across the country. I don’t even like to talk about it. I will never go in the Amityville house ever again. You don’t know how long my career is; that’s the only one.”
Farmiga may still be dealing with the spooky fallout from “The Conjuring,” but soon she’ll be returning to another disturbing residence. This week she was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Norman Bates’ mother on “Bates Motel,” which will be coming back for season two in 2014.
The stars of the year’s scariest movie talk about the way it came together.
I sincerely hope that “The Conjuring” is just the first of many films in which Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine Warren.
After all, the Warrens spent decades investigating paranormal phenomena in real life, and the film introduces a structure that practically screams for sequels. We see that the Warrens have in their home a room where they keep all of the various items they have removed from the haunted houses and the other supernatural events they’ve witnessed, and that room serves as a sort of museum and safehouse in one. Everything in that room has a story of its own, and “The Conjuring” begins with the story of the Annabelle doll, a sort of introductory haunting to show us who the Warrens are.
Patrick Wilson was evidently the only cast member who was willing to visit the real room in Lorraine Warren’s house, and he showed me a photo on his phone of him in the room standing next to the real Annabelle doll. Talking to him and to Farmiga, it’s obvious that they really enjoyed making this one, and that they’re happy with the way it came out.
They should be. I reviewed the film already, and when we had the HitFix screening of the film at the Vista Theater, I paid close attention to the audience around me. I’d already seen the film, so I wanted to watch reactions, and sure enough, people were freaking out. It’s a very skillful film, and it treats the Warrens with respect. I think it is uncommonly respectful of the faith that was obviously such a cornerstone of the relationship that Ed and Lorraine had in real life.
Farmiga in particular rocks a very memorable look in the film, and I would not be surprised to see many people adopting the high collars and the long skirts for Halloween this year. This is one of those movies that has been relatively low buzz so far, but it’s going to be huge in terms of word of mouth, and I am excited to see what sort of reaction there is to it once it’s out there.
“The Conjuring” opens in theaters July 19.
Warner Bros. has released a new trailer for “The Conjuring,” highlighting the Perron family members who are portrayed in James Wan’s tale of demonic possession.
The trailer depicts Roger and Carolyn Perron (portrayed by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five daughters in several scary scenes before switching to interviews with the real-life Perrons.
“As I was the youngest and most vulerable,” recalls April Perron. “I was approached more than anyone.”
It’s the third trailer released for the film, based on the work of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. They’re played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
“The Conjuring” made its official North American debut last week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film opens July 19 and has the earmarks of a potential sleeper hit:
Though little is known about Bates Motel season 2, some of the show’s stars hinted about what’s coming for their characters.
Both Vera Farmiga (Norma) and Freddie Highmore (Norman) went through the press junket on June 22 to discuss potential Emmy nominations and details about what season 2 of Bates Motel will look like.
Farmiga told Deadline that the story of Bates Motel and 1960′s Psycho, the original film on which the show is based off of, is “the great American tragedy.” She explained that everyone knows where the story leads: “We know that Norman’s going to become some sort of version of the guy in Psycho, and that Norma’s going to become some sort of version of that skeleton with the updo, but how are we going to get there?”
Though Psycho inspired the show in many ways, it isn’t necessarily a prequel, since the show takes place in modern times and the Bates family has other significant members in the show, such as Norman’s half brother. The producers have never actually said that the series will lead to Norman killing his mother, but Farmiga seems to believe that that’s the natural ending.
As far as more specific details going into season 2, Farmiga said that she couldn’t divulge that information but likened the show to composer Frederic Chopin.
“It begins and it ends with dissonances,” she explained, “but in between I want to strike all those beautiful chords that make the story so complex.”
In Highmore’s interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor speculated about how the writers would go forward after Miss Watson’s untimely death in the first season finale.
“I think that who everyone thinks killed Miss Watson is Norman, and unless they decide to dramatically change that, I guess that’ll be the case . . . I think he probably did her in. But whether or not he remembers it or . . . has any recollection of it, is something different.”
Bates Motel will air its second season in 2014, though a specific date has not been set yet.
Watch a behind-the-scenes look at the first season finale: