With The Conjuring 2 releasing this June and the fourth season of Bates Motel premiering in March, Vera Farmiga is at the center of the horror genre. But whether it’s playing the iconic mother of Norman Bates or the real-life demonologist Lorraine Warren, Farmiga’s approach to character remains as thoughtful as ever.
Farmiga sat down to discuss her flesh-and-blood counterpart and the skepticism that’s followed Ed and Lorraine Warren their entire lives.
What’s it like to be back to The Conjuring? And with Patrick Wilson?
Vera Farmiga: I’m very, very happy. I knew it was gonna be a blast because I just adore him. I love working with this guy. It’s just a party, and we blow through it. It’s just various dark things we’re considering, but the fact is there’s so much joy working with him. I was looking forward to it, but even more so with James [Wan]. It’s just masterful what he’s doing. He knows the script, and to see how he tweaks it and how he puts his spin on it is just wonderful. The three of us are just a very good fit.
Does Lorraine Warren have an emotional arc from the first movie to this one?
Vera Farmiga: I think so. I think the older she got, I think, the more depleted she became. It’s spiritual warfare we’re talking about, you know? It takes a toll on you physically, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s draining, and we continue with this thing that she saw. It still plagues her, so yeah, you will see an unraveling with Lorraine. It never got easier with her. This kind of work never gets easier. Her instrument’s fine-tuned, but it takes a beating. She needs these tune-ups, and just a break, and obviously she never got one. Lorraine [is] so plagued. Even to this day, when I go to her house, she won’t go downstairs. She won’t go to the artifact room. I mean, why have it in your house to begin with is my question, but she won’t. She’s very haunted by all of this - and, I think, her daughter even more so. Her daughter’s very skittish when it comes to this kind of stuff. You will see that. It will continue to be an emotional rollercoaster for Lorraine, because that’s just the nature of her business.
Her 70’s costumes were so awesome in the first movie. Is there as much attention to her style in The Conjuring 2?
Vera Farmiga: This is a costume that will sort of take a bashing in a variety of scenes towards the end. I’m sure she hit some the old McCall’s and Vogue and Butterick patterns of the late '70s. I remember wanting so badly to do some of her signature, her tartan skirts, her velvet suit jackets, her lace blouses with these mad, wonderful up-dos. I remember her seeming sort of resistant, and saying “Oh, we really don’t want [the audience to be] swayed by her eccentricity.” But that’s who she is! God, I think from the outside-in, she had to button up from the outside. She was such a wreck on the inside, and she’s so sensitive. She’s like, as long as her appearance [seemed put-together] then she was put-together. It was part of her coping mechanism. She was always very fashion-conscious. She was always very genteel, very put-together. Never as rattled as the inside.
How did Lorraine respond to skepticism throughout all that she and Ed did in all those famous cases?
Vera Farmiga: She has full-blown conviction that this is an ordained position, that each of us have gifts, and if you don’t utilize them, they whittle away. And this is her gift of sight. And if you go cross denomination and cross faith, whether you call it clairvoyancy, whether you call it foresight, whether you call it pre-cognition, prophecy, a soothsayer, you know. I think it’s the physical danger that she was in, and Ed was in at all times. You know, I have these tapes in my trailer of the actual recorded sessions, and these voices you hear… at times it’s actually quite light-hearted and corny. They call Ed names and make fun of him, they have a sense of humor. It’s so funny. I think their actual lives were in danger. [They were] getting thrown around. I mean, it’s hard to say. Because, to a degree, yes we’re friends, but she’s older now and her memory is not as keen.
A lot of times when I’m talking to Lorraine, it’s just about perennials and what annual flowers she’s planted in the front garden, and wigs or not wigs, and where do I get my wigs for Norma Bates, and you know… This is the stuff that she and I spend time talking about. Sharing meatball recipes and stuff like that. I really rely on the reading material. It’s anguish. I know, in the stuff that I’ve read - and, again, whether it’s madness, whether it’s negative mysticism that gets a hold of someone - it is sheer spiritual anguish to feel that on behalf of someone. She feels. It plays on her emotions, on her body. She feels it physically. She was never afraid of the human. She was afraid of the inhuman. I just saw one of the episodes on Sally Jesse Raphael where they received a bunch of skepticism. If you look at her, she never lost her cool. Ed lost his cool quite a bit. I think she was just so secure in her gift. I think there’s a reason she was the go-to medium for decades. She was the one police called. I don’t think she had anything to prove to anyone, but to whatever entity was in the room.
Has Lorraine changed over the years?
Vera Farmiga: She has and she hasn’t. I think she just became more of herself, like the way we all do. Yes, she was weary, but she’s a very [fun person]. It’s interesting having gone through years and years and years of this, she’s actually quite light-hearted and joyful and gentle. When you meet some of the other girls who were involved in the Enfield case as grownups now - either this case or the other case we explore in [the first] Conjuring - they have a real sense of being haunted. It clung to them. But Lorraine doesn’t. She has a real effervescence. I don’t experience that. I just really experience a joyful sweetheart. A heart-on-two-feet kind of woman. I know how her speech patterns changed, I see how her physicality changed when I break things down. Ed and Lorraine had an extraordinary love, they were an extraordinary duo. They were such a dynamic couple and they had a fierce love for each other and they had a best friendship. All I had to do, really, is keep that in mind.
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.