With two chapters in the Insidious franchise and another two in the Conjuring universe, Patrick Wilson has teamed with director James Wan on four of horror’s most terrifying films. With The Conjuring 2 mere months away, Wilson’s once again suiting up for a battle with the supernatural.
Reprising his role as the real-life, plain-spoken demonologist Ed Warren, Wilson sat down to talk about the responsibility of portraying such a debated figure amongst both believers and skeptics.
When you're playing characters that are based on real people and real life events is there a different responsibility that you have as an actor versus playing somebody totally fictional?
Patrick Wilson: I think so. I think you have to pick and choose what is most important to tell the story. Physically, we kind of made our own version of him. That being said, he spoke in a very blue-collar, Connecticut, very direct kind of way. I took a lot of audiotapes and could mimic as much as sounded right for the film. There's always a responsibility, especially something like this because he was such a passionate person. You never want to judge your character. He’s a devout catholic who believes in this stuff very deeply…So I have to believe it, as well…
What as one of the most harrowing things you've had to go through in character?
Patrick Wilson: We've pushed a lot of the physicality, a lot of the stunts. When you think of those unbelievable shots in the first one. James [Wan] likes everything very practical, so that the effects department doesn't have to do a lot in post. I've done quite a bit. We can't re-tread the same thing. I can't just be there with a bible at the end giving an exorcism. I think there are certain rituals that you do, that he did, but obviously every case is different. You have to fight them in different ways.
What are the ghosts like in this one? Are they more malevolent than even in the first one?
Patrick Wilson: It's a different beast. Literally. It's a different case. It's not handled the same way. I think that's one thing I really loved about this. It was a very concrete image for them, a very physical villain.
There's a lot of skeptics out there of Lorraine and Ed. Does that color how you portray him?
Patrick Wilson: I think they walk in there wanting to help. This case, you can read the history of it. It’s the most documented case in the world. They tried really, really hard and you only do that when you truly care. I tried to believe that as I was playing him. Because it was a long, long process and any of those skeptics, those doubters, when I saw those two women…When Jen and Margaret were here, they were still very much in it. You see how it took a toll on them. You could tell that whatever your skepticism – whether you believe in this or not – these were two people who needed help. And the Warrens helped them. That's enough for me to go, okays, they were in it for the right reasons.
Having gone from horror to do a big-budget action film like Fast & Furious, have you noticed any change in James from your last few films together?
Patrick Wilson: He lives, breathes and eats this. It takes a toll on him. He sleeps basically only on the weekends. His schedule is crazy and he puts everything he has into it. He'll be the first to tell you, this is harder than I expected. He just burns for this. When you have that passion, it doesn't matter the genre. I said even before he did Furious, the way he sets up his scares is the same way that you set up the set pieces in an action movie. You build them, you block them. He's very methodical like that.
Having worked in movies for so long, how does it affect you as an actor not using so many visual effects?
Patrick Wilson: I've been really lucky. Even on Watchmen. My whole storyline, there wasn't a lot of CGI. I think once you can get over having a camera literally right in your face, then acting in front of a green-screen, in a strange way, pales in comparison. That's the biggest hurdle. To be completely natural.
During the research for this did you learn anything new about Ed that maybe you didn't know during the first movie impacted how you portrayed him?
Patrick Wilson: That's interesting. I think his passion and his defense. There were a couple moments in the first movie where he was a little more calm and collected. I think, if anything, he let it go a few times here. I wouldn't say he was angry, but he certainly was not afraid to stand up…I'm glad I could sort of dig into his guts a little more because we’ve got a few of those moments where you're thinking, "Oh, don't mess with Ed.”
Reprising their roles, Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air, Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Fargo), star as Lorraine and Ed Warren, who, in one of their most terrifying paranormal investigations, travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
The Conjuring 2 opens in theaters June 10, 2016.