Until last year, filmmaker James Wan was primarily known as a master of horror. Having directed films including "Saw," "Insidious" and "The Conjuring," he established himself as a master of the genre. But 2015 saw him strike out in a brand new direction, helming Universal's "Furious 7," a little movie that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide, the sixth-best finish for a movie ever.
Wan returns both to horror and to a franchise he started this June with "The Conjuring 2," following paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they head to north London to investigate a house plagued by malicious spirits. While some would think the pressure would be off Wan following the box office success and massive budget of his last movie, he told CBR TV's Jonah Weiland this may have been his greatest challenge, calling it both more intimate and more personal than "Furious 7."
During his visit to WonderCon in Los Angeles, Wan visited the world famous CBR Tiki Room to discuss setting "The Conjuring 2" in London and dealing with the expectations of another sequel. Wan also discusses his journey as a filmmaker from "Saw" to the upcoming "Aquaman" solo film and explains what he saw in just two minutes of "Lights Out" that let him know the story and its director were ready for a feature film.
In part one, Wan explains why setting the sequel to "The Conjuring" in London rather than the United States allows it to be even more terrifying than the original, and how he approached the sequel having just finished "Furious 7" and not wanting to repeat himself.
On how he dealt with the expectations of a sequel while trying to both stay true to and improve on the original:
James Wan: I went into "Conjuring 2" thinking, "Oh, this is gonna be pretty easy." I'm working with the actors and the crew that I know before and we had such a great time doing it. I think it might be a little bit of a cake walk, but that wasn't the case at all. It was difficult. And the reason why it's difficult is because I really did put a lot of pressure on myself to try and live up to how beloved the first film is. There was this constant shadow of the first film just hovering over me throughout the entire production. And I actually think that's a good thing to have that pressure behind you because that just means I wouldn't be complacent, I wouldn't phone it in -- not that I would anyway in the first place, I don't think I've ever done that in any of the movies I've made -- but I do think there was actually so much more pressure on this one in a lot more ways than even "Furious 7." In "Furious 7" it was taking on someone else's franchise that they started, but with this one I -- it's more intimate for me. It's more personal for me and I wanted to make sure that I worked very hard to not let all of the people around me down.
In part two, Wan talks about how far he's come in just eight movies since since making "Saw" in 2000 and tees up what to expect from his approach to superheroes when he takes the reigns of Warner Bros.' "Aquaman" feature film.
On what makes a superheroes compelling to audiences:
The biggest thing why we love our superheroes is because we love the idea that there's someone out there that can do things that we can't, that is more than just a normal human being. We love the idea that these people, even as powerful as they are, try to do what is right; trying to do the things that are just and that's why those are the superheroes. The ones that do the bad things are the super villains, right? In a lot of ways those are probably more fun to play and to tell the story of. But I think it's the idea of beings and characters out there that take who we are as humans, our strength and our flaws, and amplify them on such a huge level. And I think part of the fun there is seeing what those characters will do.
In the final part of the conversation, Wan discusses what made him want to produce a feature film version of David Sandberg's short film, "Lights Out," brining on a screenwriter to help expand the world and why he thinks the horror movie will resonate with fans.
On the challenge of turning a two-minute short into a feature film:
That's not easy. When you look at these Internet shorts -- and what, there's like a viral short every two seconds these days that pops up on YouTube. But there was something there with David Sandberg's work that made me go, "I think this guy has got it. He gets it." Sure, the short is just David shooting it in his apartment back home in Sweden with his wife, and just shooting down some halllway. And it may not be the slickest looking, but I looked at that and I kind of go, "Well you know what, if we give him the right tools, give him the right support, he might have the opportunity to tell that story on a bigger scale."
So Lawrence Grey, my other co-prodcuer on "Lights Out" was the one who saw this very early on and he approached me kind of going, "James, what do you think?" Early on I'm like, "Yeah, it's a great short, but I'm not quite sure if a short could necessarily lend itself to a feature." Then I met up with David Sandberg and I saw how smart this guy was, and how cool and down to Earth, as well. And how he gets the genre. So that gave me a lot of confidence that we could potentially do something here. Then the next step was finding a great writer, and we did find a great writer in Eric Heisserer who kind of came along and helped David. And between all of us we kind of fleshed out the story of what it could be, but keeping that great mythology that David had already set up in his short.
"The Conjuring 2" arrives in theaters June 10.