Oren Peli - director of indie horror hit Paranormal Activity - reveals that he turned down the chance to direct The Conjuring. Released wide in 2009 by Paramount, Paranormal Activity was at its essence the indiest of indie films. Originally made for only $15,000, Paranormal Activity made waves at festivals, before ultimately getting picked up by the Hollywood machine. The found footage fright flick would ultimately gross nearly $200 million worldwide, making it insanely profitable for all involved.
Paranormal Activity would in turn spawn a franchise that has so far consisted of 6 total films, with a reboot now reportedly being considered. The series as a whole has hauled in over $400 million domestically, and nearly $900 million worldwide, all on production budgets of $10 million or less. Peli returned as a producer on all the Paranormal Activity sequels, and also served as a producer on the Insidious franchise, and Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem.
When Paranormal Activity first hit though, many horror fans assumed Peli would use this success to become the next big genre director, similar to how James Wan used the huge success of Saw to make inroads as a filmmaker in Hollywood. However, Peli did nothing of the sort, only directing one other film since, the little-seen 2015 found footage entry Area 51. During a recent appearance on Mick Garris' Post Mortem horror podcast, Peli detailed the reasons for his lack of directing work, and also revealed later on why he turned down The Conjuring gig.
"I kind of wanted to just kind of cash out and be done [after Paranormal Activity]. I got sucked into [producing] the Paranormal Activity sequels, then I had lunch with Steven Spielberg and he said, ‘Let’s do a TV show together.’ And we did The River. I kind of kept having different opportunities to get me sucked back in. And then I thought, ‘Yeah, I could find something to direct.’ I got sent a lot of scripts. There was one I really loved called Eliza Graves. It ended up being a whole big legal mess and the project fell through.”
As for why he said no to Conjuring specifically, Peli explained that after several film projects fell apart and his girlfriend got pregnant, he decided to step away from directing altogether. Not even the offer to make The Conjuring for Warner Bros. was enough to lure him back behind the camera - while released in 2015, Area 51 was actually filmed several years before - and the job of course ended up going to the aforementioned Wan. Under Wan, The Conjuring has itself spawned a huge franchise, recently passing $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Despite how big a phenomenon The Conjuring has become, Peli doesn't appear to have any regrets about not taking the directing job, saying that he loves his "peaceful life now" and that he's "very happy not to have to deal with" the "crazy world of directing" anymore. Since Peli is happy - and The Conjuring was a massive hit anyway - it seems like everything worked out for the best.
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