Director James Wan 'rejects' F&F sequel for The Conjuring 2

Until he made last year's action blockbuster Fast & Furious 7, Australian-Chinese film-maker James Wan was primarily a horror movie helmer, best known for kickstarting the movie franchise Saw.

He is also the director of the Insidious films and 2013's supernatural sleeper hit The Conjuring, which had the largest opening ever for an original horror movie.

The US$20 million (S$27 million) spookfest eventually went on to make US$318 million worldwide.

Wan picked its sequel to direct over the Fast & Furious follow-up Fast 8, refusing a "life-altering" amount of money in the process to do so.

It's no surprise, because of the toll that F7 took on Wan's health, dealing with leading men Paul Walker's shocking death and Vin Diesel's difficult personality.

We are at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about The Conjuring 2. He is thrilled to return to another story of real-life husband-and-wife team of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga).

The couple travel from the US to Enfield, North London, to help a single mother (Frances O'Connor) raising four kids in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

It opens here tomorrow.

Looking much younger than his 39 years, diminutive Los Angeles-based Wan has an energetic, upbeat personality, waving his arms as he makes a point. He sports a shirt patterned with clocks, his tousled dark hair tipped with blond. His next project is the highly- anticipated DC Comics superhero spin-off Aquaman (2018).

You were born in Kuching, Sarawak, and lived in Malaysia till you were seven, then moved to Australia. Do you have any memories of your time there?

It's mainly of trips where I go back to visit. I have relatives back there. I just love going back and experiencing the culture that is so different from Hollywood. And on top of that, my favourite thing to do in Malaysia is eat. I am not ashamed to say this, but I love durian (laughs). I don't think it smells, I think it smells amazing. It's my favourite fruit.

You had a priest come and bless The Conjuring 2 set before you started shooting this movie. Why was that?

(Laughs) I think we did it because even though on the first movie, I didn't experience any of it, there were a few spooky things that happened to some cast and crew. I don't know whose idea it was to bring in a priest... Listen, nothing bad happened, the shoot was very smooth and maybe the blessing worked.

The first movie was under the radar, yet became a huge success. Do you feel pressure going into the second one to deliver similar results?

Oh my gosh, a lot of pressure. Especially coming after Fast & Furious 7, there was a lot of speculation as to why I decided to go back to do (The Conjuring 2). I was very anxious about the sequel when I knew how much people loved the first one. So believe me, the cloud of the first movie hung over me for the entire production. But I think that was great. It made me keep pushing myself, not just in the storytelling but in my film-making as well.

Not many directors successfully break out of the genre they are known for.

That is what is annoying about Hollywood - if you are good at one thing, they just want you to keep doing it because they think that is all you are good at and they want to make as much money as they can from you in that one area.

I love the horror genre and it's been very kind to me.

But having said that, I love all kinds of films and I really want to take the opportunity to go and do other things... But now I think after I have proven myself with F7, I wasn't as worried about coming back to another "scary movie".

And moving forward, the doors are kind of wide open for me to branch out.

I was attached to the MacGyver property back when it was supposed to be a feature film and so I stuck around with it and now it's going to be rebooted as a TV series again which is very exciting.

And Aquaman is percolating away in the background.

tnp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 08, 2016.
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