The history of cinema is replete with partnerships that seem so set in stone we can’t imagine the people in them working independently of each other. Where would Simpson have been without Bruckheimer in the 1980s? Where would Kurztman be without Orci, the writers behind films in the Transformers and Star Trek franchises?
And what will Leigh Whannell do without James Wan when the latter takes the reigns of one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood right now, Fast and the Furious? But before he takes a leave of absence from the genre that made his name, Wan talked about the sequel to his and Whannell’s breakout hit, Insidious.
Question: Interesting that it was announced you were doing something other than horror when you had another huge hit in the genre (The Conjuring, which beat many of the blockbuster hopefuls of 2013).
Answer: Yes, we’re very happy with how well The Conjuring is playing in Australia and all around the world.
Question: Do you think the success of The Conjuring will give Insidious 2 a boost in territories [like Australia] where the first Insidious didn’t do as well?
Answer: I hope so. I hope the effect will push people to see the Insidious films or at least introduce them to the franchise more than they were aware of it in the first place.
Question: Although video is also a major revenue stream – horror has a long shelf life.
Answer: I think so, and I hope the Insidious films or the Insidious world is something people can get into maybe years from now.
Question: Your work with Leigh has been transformational for both your careers, but how important is it to forge your own paths as you have with stuff like Death Sentence and now with Fast and Furious?
Answer: It was really weird to make The Conjuring because it was the first film that I’ve literally made without Leigh’s presence at all. Even in Death Sentence I got him to come in and play a cameo role. The Conjuring was strictly Leigh Whannell-free and it was kind of weird to not have my buddy around so we could joke in between set ups and stuff like that.
But I do think it’s good and important that Leigh does his own thing and I go off and do my own things as well. We can go off and grow as separate filmmakers and then come back together to cook something else up.
Question: Do you think it’ll be a case of not being able to wait too long before you have to work together again?
Answer: I think so. Leigh and I just get along so well when we work, so hopefully we’re not apart for too long. But it’s kind of hard to say – who knows how long and how far separate paths can take you? But we work so well together so we definitely have aspirations to want to come back at some point.
Question: Post-Saw projects like Dead Silence and Death Sentence didn’t connectwith audiences. What was it about Insidious that re-established you in horror?
Answer: I guess after Dead Silence and Death Sentence we kind of went back to our roots and thought ‘we did it once with Saw, maybe we could do it again’. So that’s exactly what we did, we wanted to go back and make a movie we had full creative control of. We didn’t want any interference, we just wanted to make a movie that we believed in and just let it be what it is.
I also think between Saw and the first Insidious, I definitely grew as a filmmaker, so where I am right now as a director is very different to where I was when I first started in this business ten years ago. That growth has a lot to do with the way you look at things, the way you understand how the game is played in Hollywood and how to navigate this pretty treacherous world and be able to survive it.
Question: You were known as the Saw guy for a long time. Did the success of Insidious make you feel vindicated as a horror director?
Answer: Yeah, definitely. Leigh and I will always be very grateful for what the Saw films have done for us, especially the first one. It gave us our start, it allowed us the opportunity to have a career.
But it took me a while to get up from underneath its shadow because of what it became – it became this larger than life thing and it’s own mythology. For better or for worse it became its own brand as well, and I felt it had a lot of baggage going with it.
So it definitely took me a while to get out from under it, and it was around the time Saw VII was finishing off and Insidious was starting when I think people starting seeing me, not just as the Saw guy but started seeing me as a film, director.
Question: You’re still synonymous with horror though, at least for the time being. Does that bother you?
Answer: I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s always kind of good in today’s commercial world to have a brand. Plus I’m a real fan of the genre so I don’t look down at it in any way. I’m a big fan of all kinds of films so I always want to prove to people that I’m more than just one thing.
That was one reason why I went off and did Insidious and The Conjuring, because I felt those movies serviced different things and allowed people to see me in a different light. And now with Fast and Furious I think people are going to see me in a different world as well. I want to keep growing as a filmmaker and not really be known just for one thing.
Question: Fast and Furious is going to be quite different from low budget horror. Any thoughts on handling the increased scrutiny, money and pressure?
Answer: You hit the nail on the head with all those points. I definitely feel the weight of taking on something so big. It has its challenges and they’re big challenges, but I’m not looking at it like a bad thing, I’m looking at it as a positive thing I can use to my advantage, showcase what I love and what I’m capable of to people. And I think ultimately, it will be really fun.
What I’ve always admired about the Fast and Furious universe is that they’re always reinventing themselves, they’ve never been just one thing and I really admire that, so the chance to be part of the world and continue with that trend is very exciting for me.