In the third chapter in the Insidious franchise, Dermot Mulroney portrays Sean, a father whose teenage daughter – played by up-and-comer Stefanie Scott – becomes the target of otherworldly spirits.
In a rare dip into the horror genre, Mulroney talks about his own parenting experience and discusses his upcoming thriller, Lavender.
Your character deals with so many real-life things – as well as the supernatural – in Insidious 3. What was the process as an actor and a parent to mix the two genres?
It was really fun. I knew it was going to be right from reading the screenplay. Because the film really has a heart. You know that something bad is coming, but what the filmmaker is really doing is softening you up for that one-two punch. It was clearly stated – you come in to play this realistic dad and get your family through this period of grief and recovery. Of course, that’s when the bad guys on the other side know this family is vulnerable. They use my daughter as a conduit to the living; they want to kill and her drag her to The Further. And we do everything we can to keep her safe.
I know you have a son, but what was it like to have an on-screen daughter with Stefanie Scott?
I have daughters, but they aren’t this age. I do have one teen son. It was interesting! It was made easy by Stefanie Scott, just a really appealing young person and really talented. It didn’t take a lot of work for us to have an established, unique rapport. I say it that way because, of course, there’s the onscreen father-daughter relationship. And also, a sort of a friendship, too. Ordinarily, I don’t become friends with people of that age group. Here I am, a 50-year-old guy with a 17-year-old girl, but we got along great. You can see on-screen that we were cast well as father and daughter. And I can’t say enough about Stefanie Scott’s performance! So fun to watch…
It was fun to watch you two together. You do a great job at misunderstanding teenage girls!
You’re referencing earlier scenes in the film – where we really soften the audience up. We knew making this movie that the audience is expecting the other thing to happen. So that kind of suspense was really fun to play with. When I’m doing a scene that’s normal scene – as a normal dad – in the back of my mind, I know this is just the platform for the real show.
You’ve only done a few horror movies. How was working with Leigh Whannell who’s so deeply rooted in horror?
I had a small part in 'Stoker', but that was more of psycho-maniac, homicidal movie than it was horror. I love joining the whole morphing empire. With those guys over there – with the 'Saw' franchises and 'Insidious' – with James Wan who was involved, as well. It gave me great confidence the minute I met Leigh. I could see he was a real sharp dude, really fun.
Last up, tell me about Lavender.
Oh, 'Lavender' is going to be fun! I play opposite Abbie Cornish. It actually gets kinda supernatural right at the end. It’s a thriller, definitely, a recovered-memory mystery. But the screenwriter couldn’t help himself and it gets pretty freaky at the end! I hope you enjoy it!
Insidious: Chapter 3 opens in theaters June 5, 2015.