LOS ANGELES — With “The Conjuring 2” (opening Friday), Patrick Wilson and Vera Fermiga return as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, now helping a single mom raising four kids in a North London house where mysterious things are going bump in the night (and day, for that matter). Yes, the scary spirits are back in this latest horror offering from director James Wan.
Asked about things that scare him, Wilson laughed during a recent interview and quipped, “Frankly, I’m pretty steadfast. Not much really scares me. … Look, I’m a husband and a dad trying to keep the ship afloat around our house. Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you intend them to. Sometimes making sandwiches rattles and scares me! Did I put too much peanut butter on my 6-year-old’s sandwich?! That can rattle me.”
Sitting next to him, Fermiga added, “I don’t really scare easily either. But often it’s people who scare me by their crazy or inappropriate words or actions. That can be very scary in our world today!”
Making a sequel to the 2013 film gave Fermiga a chance to revisit Lorraine. “I think this time we investigate a bit more of her own psychic turmoil,” she said. “That was a new chapter for me to explore. I liked going along with Lorraine as she continued this journey — and experienced the toll that journey took on her body, mind and soul.”
Though he’s as mild-mannered in real life as can be, it can’t be ignored that director Wan has created some of the scariest films of the past decade, including “Saw” and the “Insidious” films as well as the two “Conjuring” movies.
“I mostly get rattled or scared during the design stage of a film — when I’m putting together images in my head,” the Australian director admitted. “Those things do freak me out and sometimes give me nightmares.
“For example, it was much easier for me to sleep at night when I was merely making ‘Furious 7’ [in the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise]!”
On a lighter note, Wan smiled when asked about having Wilson sing in the film. “I came up with the idea of having him play his guitar and sing to the family he’s trying to help. That was one of the first ideas I came up with for the movie. So, one night I texted him, asking, ‘Dude, do you know how to play the guitar?’
“He came right back to me and wrote, ‘Yeah I do … but, uh, why???’ I told him, ‘You’ll find out when you read the script!’
“I thought the aspect of him singing Elvis to the family was important, because that one scene says a lot about how he truly cares about this family he’s trying to help.”
Playing the mom in that family is Frances O’Connor, an actress who does believe in ghosts, “not just from making this film, but also due to other experiences I’ve had in my own life.” While she admits, “I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, I do think scary films are a fun genre and great to watch.”
Co-star Madison Wolfe, who plays her daughter, agreed and also said she has a belief “both in an afterlife and the existence of spirits to a certain degree.”
It was particularly important for Wolfe to meet the real Janet Hodgson [who she portrays in the movie] as well as her sister, Margaret.
“They both came to the set to visit. Janet, in particular, would tell me a lot of specifics. She’d say, ‘This is where this happened,’ or ‘That’s where that happened.’ She remembered all the details so perfectly. She even said, ‘This table needs to go over a little bit to the left.’
“I must say that after meeting Janet and Margaret and hearing them talk about it, I really had my eyes opened. … I believe them and can see it definitely had a permanent impact on their lives,” said the young actress.
Wolfe admitted that playing Janet was “a big challenge, because she has such an arc as a character. She goes from just being this sweet little girl to being sad and grieving over her father leaving the family … Then these weird things start happening and she’s all bottled up and trapped, feeling like she has nowhere to go.”
As for casting Wolfe as Janet, Wan said it was a very easy decision. “I credit my casting director for finding her,” said the director. “But Madison is such a dedicated little actress — already at her young age. … She came in to meet with us about the role and she wore this wig, plus she spoke in an English accent during the entire meeting — and she’s this Southern girl!”