At this year’s WonderCon 2013, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures kicked off Saturday in style with a massive panel to tease some of its most anticipated releases with guests including Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro and The Conjuring director James Wan.
Legendary and Warner Bros. kicked things off by introducing moderator Drew McWeeny introducing a clip from The Conjuring, a version of hide-and-seek done “James Wan style.” The clip featured a mother, Lily Taylor, trying a game of hide-and-seek blindfolded. As she approached a wardrobe blindfolded, two disembodied hands clapped twice. The scene then cut to past the girls’ bedtime, when the mother again hears two claps. With both girls sound asleep in their beds, the mother hears a loud crash as pictures above the stairs crash down to the ground. Heading downstairs, the mother turns on the lights and hears the clock chime and another two claps. The claps eventually lead her to the basement. The audiences knew what was coming next — the door slammed and the light went out, leaving her trapped in the basement. She lit a single match and two hands showed up behind her, clapping twice.
With the abrupt end of the clip, James Wan took the stage. Wan introduced a second clip from The Conjuring, saying the scene is the two daughters sharing a scene together, which details what happens to them while they sleep.
The scene opened on one of the daughters, whose feet were being grabbed by an unseen force while she was trying to sleep. The daughter peeked over the edge of the bed and immediately drew back. Sitting in the middle of her bed, for boding music began to play as she shifted to look down the side of the bed. The shot changed to her view under the bed upside-down. The door began to creek closed as the daughter sat, terrified in the center of the bed. In the darkness, she cries out for her sister, “Nancy?” The other, named Christine, asked “Did you see it?” and points to the darkness. “There’s someone standing over there.” Nancy didn’t see anyone, but Christine says whoever it is is looking right at us. Nancy goes to investigate, and smells something. Christine says, “Oh my God, it’s standing right behind you.” After a noise, the door slams. Darkness.
The movie is based on the paranormal investigations of Lorraine Warren, who joined the panel to applause. As she took her seat next to Wan, he introduced Cindy and Andrea Perron, also a part of the family on which The Conjuring is based.
“I’ve been a big fan of Lorraine for a long time,” said Wan. “When the opportunity finally arised to allow me to do a genre movie while telling something based on a true story, is really what got me on to this. I wanted to tell [the family’s] stories as well.”
“I was astounded that there were so many elements about our story that were captured on film,” said Andrea Perron, who said the most important part of the film was the bond between the family. She also praised Wan’s directing.
Wan said the fact that it was based on a true story is the primary reason he wanted to make The Conjuring. “Given the chance to do it, I want to do it right. This family, what they went through, was terrifying,” he said, but emphasized the bond of the family is what made him most excited to take on the project.
It’s Warren’s work with the family in paranormal investigation on which the film is based, and she had a good evaluation of the film. “What you have to realize is when you have infestation in a home like that house, terrifying children, terrifying mother, and at that point we hadn’t met the father and it was awful,” she said. “We had to come rushing to their home as quickly as they could and help them in any way at all. Everything about it as you could see, was portrayed in a very good light.”
Wan was excited to use an old-school approach to The Conjuring in that there aren’t any modern conveniences, like cellphones, and said he hoped people would get “sucked into the time period.”
The film is rated R by the MPAA. When Wan went in to the process, he wanted to make a PG-13 movie and when the board came back with an R, the reason they gave was “It’s just too scary.” There were no moments they could take out of the movie to get the PG-13 rating.
“It’s a testament to the studio for not fucking with the film,” said Wan.
Wan and the panelists exited the stage and the moderator introduced Pacific Rim and director Guillermo del Toro, who took the stage to uproarious applause.
“I was so inspired by the Sweeden trailer so much I’m going to make another fucking print,” said del Toro. “The film is 85% done. You’re going to see the trailer that has been done for this event. Nobody will see this again. You’re going to see a couple images that look more grainy. They are documentary images from a promo about the movie.”
The footage kicked up with a look at the Jaeger suiting up and rolling out with a mission to protect a city of 2 million people. The trailer showed the first look at alien life, the Kaiju, the first look during San Francisco. “We started winning, then it al changed.” A Jaeger goes down and a number of images of humans training and battles between Jaegers and Kaiju. The effects and the battles were incredible, culminating in a Jaeger grabbing a massive ship and using it as a baseball bat against a giant Kaiju.
Del Toro and his team built several blocks of Hong Kong to destroy, “and then we destroyed them.” The Jaeger head was about four stories high and every time the monster would hit it, it would move from side to side. “I insisted we do it with the real actors and the physical machines attached to them and not a digital machine. They had an incredible apparatus behind them they had to control that was the size of a VW beetle. At the end of the day they were destroyed physically and I would be sipping my fourth cappuccino.”
Del Toro discussed Ron Perlman’s black-market Kaiju dealer, who took the name Hannibal Chau “named for his favorite historical figure and his favorite restaurant in Brooklyn.” Charlie Day came in to a discussion with Del Toro and he said, “Can I play my character straight and have the comedy come from a situation.” Del Toro said straight from Charlie Day is still funny.
Del Toro said there were “a lot” of Kaiju and Jaegers were designed, but whittled down American Idol style, then refined. “In total, we designed about 12 Kaiju and about 9 robots in the movie active to some degree,” he said. The director also briefly discussed the challenges of wrapping everything in a single film, including the mystery of where the Kaiju came from.
The director didn’t want motion capture on the film because he wanted the animators to figure out how they moved. “The weight makes things more different,” said del Toro. “These things need to move more slowly. You need to see the compression on the hydraulics.”
A fan asked a question about del Toro’s Justice League Dark movie, called Dark Universe and the director said the next story he plans to shoot is actually Crimson Peak, but in Dark Universe, he says the lead character of the film is John Constantine. “He’s basically trying to recruit these guys. On Etrigan, I’m using Jason Blood in the time of Merlin. We find out at the top that they each have a mystery to solve. Swamp Thing is at peace with who he is, but Deadman needs to figure out who shot him. It’s all woven in. Growing up, my two favorite characters were Etrigan and Swamp Thing, so I’m in heaven.”
A father with his son, who was dressed in a Captain America costume, asked the question of how del Toro came up with the idea. “I channeled my inner Captain America,” he said, as the audience laughed, and the director went on to detail how he came in contact with Travis Beecham based on a one-sentence pitch. “I started pitching them the craziest stuff. I found out they were making the same movie I wanted to make. Captain America, if you want to see the biggest things beating the crap out of each other — [see this movie].”
After showing the footage one more time, del Toro spoke a bit about the upcoming Legendary graphic novel.
“You find out the Kaiju are sent by an alien race that consumes planets,” he said. “We wanted to show you some of that stuff.” The panel showed the cover for the OGN by artist Alex Ross that features a Mark One Jaeger. “It helped with the story of Idris [Elba’s] character … I really think Travis [Beacham] did a great job.”
With that, the panel wrapped.