If Patrick Wilson has been looking a little haunted lately,
it is not just a coincidence. In the last few years, Wilson and
horror director James Wan (Saw, Death Sentence) have teamed
up on three films in which Wilson has played a family man who must
deal with ghosts, demons and spirits in the night. The last two of
these films have come out in just the past few months.
It all started three years ago with the surprise hit
Insidious. In that film, Wilson and Rose Byrne played a young
couple who moved their family into a new house, only to find that
their son had attracted a strange demon. This evil spirit started
wreaking havoc on the family at night, kidnapping the son and taking
him to a very evil dark zone in a separate reality.
This summer, Wilson made the transition from the haunted to
the ghost hunter in the surprising smash hit The Conjuring.
This film was based on a case from real life paranormal investigator
Ed Warren, who was famous for looking into The Amityville Horror
as well as many other hauntings. Together with his psychic wife
Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), he tried to rid an old country house of the
malevolent spirit which is antagonizing the family of Ron Livingston
and Lili Taylor.
Now the Insidious story continues – literally,
Insidious: Chapter 2 starts right as the first film was ending.
The family has literally just saved the son from the darkness, but
it turns out that the horror was not over yet. Wilson's character
becomes more complex in the sequel as the dark forces take over his
body in a continuing attempt to get to the child.
All of this horror was kind of new for Wilson, but then
again, the actor has always had an adventurous streak when it comes
to taking roles. Over the years, Wilson has shown his proficiency
in a mind-boggling array of films, everything from action/adventure
(The A-Team, Watchmen, Promethius) to comedy (Young Adult,
The Switch) to period drama (The Alamo, Evening) to very
dark looks at life (Hard Candy, Running with Scissors). He
even did a musical (the film version of Phantom of the Opera).
A few weeks
before Insidious: Chapter 2 opened (on Friday the 13,
naturally...), we sat down with Wilson at the Waldorf-Astoria in New
York to discuss his career and things that go bump in the night.
You've done three
ghost films in the last couple of years.
Do you believe in
ghosts and spirits?
They're not making me see them, if that's what you mean.
(laughs) I think, yeah, no. This is such a different beast
than The Conjuring. It's a whole different kind of ghost, I
guess, for lack of a better term. But yeah, I'm still ghost free.
But did the
making of the movies cause you to ponder their existence?
Sure. No, no, no, no. I gave it thought. I've given it a
lot of thought, trust me. (laughs) I'm certainly open to
it. I think because Conjuring was sort of rooted [in the
real world]... you know this is much more of a fantasy film. So
it's a much different bit of astral projection and these crazy
demons. It's a much different beast. On Conjuring, because
it was rooted in their reality, in their case stories, through that
I learned a lot about ghosts and demons. I think there is
definitely another world at play, but I think that even if
technically the same ghost was in this room, we would all see it
differently. I think that's the way I feel about it, if that makes
talked a little bit about her unexplained paranormal experiences
In the Insidious movies or The Conjuring were there
any eerie or spooky things that happened to you? It was two
different movies by the same director. What was the atmosphere
It's also based on shooting schedule. I mean, the
Insidious movies, the first one was what, 22, 23 days? This was
26 days. This is a much more aggressive, brutal schedule. Whereas
Conjuring was a studio film, it had five times this budget.
You had three months to shoot. It was based on a real story. It's
a whole different beast. That being said, [there was] almost the
exact same crew, so we've all now been together quite a bit, with
those guys. In three movies, going back I guess three years. It
was a much different vibe. Again, I think because you're dealing
with this – in The Conjuring this tag line of "Based on a
true story" – and things were real, at least from somebody's
perspective. That and you're dealing with The Bible and
religion and demons, that carries much more significant weight than
like... nothing really weird happens on this set. I think when
people shot in Linda Vista, the hospital, I think that was creepy
for a lot of people. But, yeah, nothing really strange happened.
When you do
something that is emotional or intense, what do you do off-camera or
on a day off to decompress?
Yeah, this was pretty brutal and pretty exhausting. The
prosthetics as the movie went on, the days of that. My family was
there with me for... let's see, when were they there?... for a bit
of it, for about a week and a half of it. I've sort of got it down
to where as soon as the bell rings, I'm like Fred Flintstone – out
of there. I just leave it all there. I don't take anything home.
I just go home and rest. The fortunate thing about having little
children is they don't really let you think about your work, because
you're doing other things. That's the benefit of going home to your
I saw you in
Full Monty on stage. Could you envision yourself back then doing
stuff like this?
Doing what? Horror movies? No, I think I'm pretty tapped
out. (laughs) Yeah, yeah. No, I don't know where you go
after this movie. I know where the story goes. I've seen the
movie, just like you guys have seen the movie. It's pretty clear,
they are going on to another family. At least that is what I would
[guess]... I haven't had any great conversations. You can only be
surprised so many times. So that's my gut. It's a different beast
with Conjuring, because we're not the family being
[haunted]. I think if Ron Livingston and Lili [Taylor] were sitting
here, too, they would go, "Yeah, I don't think we're in Conjuring
2." It just makes sense that we would go on to a different
case. The fact that they are so close together, and with [director]
James [Wan], I know it seems like I have a penchant for horror
movies, but really, in the grand scheme of it, you're talking about
three out of nearly thirty films that I've done. So it happens to
be right now, these few months, but...
with lots of fascinating directors over the years. How does James
He's up there. He's great. What I love about James is,
even within the genre, you see the difference of Saw to
Conjuring to this movie, which is in a weird way sort of much
more fantasy or even camp, at times. That sort of '80s
[vibe]... there is a weird sense – maybe he would disagree with me
if he were here – but if I were to put Conjuring into the
group of 70s horror movies, I'd put this into the group of 80s
horror movies. You watch A Nightmare on Elm Street, and you
watch it as a cynical adult, and you're like: That's a burn victim
in a striped shirt with a fedora. Like what is happening? Like
what? You know what I mean? There's this almost ridiculous
element. And yet, you're scared. I like that even within the
genre, James pushes himself as far as he can go. I love that. I
can really admire that. That was the one thing after the first
Insidious that I thought: If you're going to go do it again and
move the story along, can you pick it up right where you left off?
And where do you go? I think they wanted to just swing a big stick,
you know? You're dealing with a linear storyline of what is
physically happening to me. And then you're dealing with a very
non-linear storyline, of this time travel, weirdly, and The Further,
and... you know, it's a lot. But I applaud that. I think it's
really... there are questions that were answered. You know, again,
well you can figure out whether you want to print it or not, but the
fact that Parker was a man, when we cast the woman in the first
movie, it was played by a man. That wasn't for any reason other
than [Wan] liked the sort of off-kilter look of the image of this
creepy old woman that looks kind of mannish. But it's a creepy old
woman in the first movie. There was never this conversation like:
"But she's really a guy." It's like, no, no, she's a creepy old
woman. The actor happened to be a man that he cast, because he
wanted a different look for the demons and for the spirits. So, in
thinking about how to bring him back for the second one, I'm sure he
was like, "Well, we already presented the idea that she's played by
a man, what if we get it even weirder and it actually is a dude?"
So there is that. I like those kind of things, that they are
answering questions that they didn't even know that they were
raising from the first one. (chuckles) Filling in those
gaps. Using footage from the first film. I don't know many movies
that do that. Certainly not in this genre.
It reminded me
Back to the
Future Part II, where people were actually witnessing things that
happened to them in the first movie.
Yeah. Listen, I think it's fun, you know? I think it's
fun. We couldn't do another haunted house movie. Rose can't be
surprised or sad that someone is possessed. I can't save anybody
else. It just would be... it's like when a comedy goes back for a
sequel, does it look like the same jokes? So I really applaud the
fact that they really stuck their neck out. I'm sure they'll...
look, especially after Conjuring, it's a completely different
beast, you can't help but put them in the same category and try to
compare them. But it's such a different style of movie, you
know? I don't know. At least that's my feeling.
out any spoilers, in the first film your character was pretty heroic
in saving his family. In this one you see a darker side to him.
One cool thing was when we were seeing your massive dark side, your
eyes were really chilling.
Oh good. One of the most fun scenes to do was the scene
with me and Steve Coulter where he comes to the house and I'm in the
robe. That back and forth. Steve is a really good actor. Steve
was also in The Conjuring, which is a little tidbit of
knowledge that nobody really knows. He was the priest that
Vera and I go to see. That's how James met Steve. He is a very
good actor. He lived in LA for a long time. Now he lives in
Atlanta. So when they were thinking of guys for this, well that's
James, he just thinks of guys that you've worked with, that you know
that you trust. So I sort of knew, oh, this will be fun. We'll
have a good time together. But I think specifically when you get
into that stuff, you just want to go with the strength and
stillness. Whenever you make a move, it should mean something.
Even in that scene, if it's a really dramatic scene, I want to find
somewhere where there is some joke or whether I smile or something
to make it a little off kilter.
Where do you go
in your mind as an actor to get to that place? I loved the stillness
you had in your eyes, which was really...
Dead. (laughs) I don't know. I remember reading
some interview about someone saying... I won't quote him, because I
disagree with the comment, but it was something about all actors
have to be these tortured souls and this and that. I've found that
completely false. I feel like I get to exorcise whatever little...
if you've got one kernel of something that bothers you, I get to act
out all my evil instincts on film. I don't walk around like this.
(mimes mental anguish) I'm just pretty easy going. I get to
let it out through movies. That's for me part of the fun, going to
that dark place and acting like I want to kill you. (laughs
actor in the cast who doesn't get enough good roles anymore was
Barbara Hershey. What was she like to work with?
Awesome. Barbara is great. That's why it was so great to
see her role expanded in this one. We felt like we hit a gold mine
with getting her for the first movie. It was a sort of nod to...
she has done a ton of work and James is a big fan of her previous
horror work. So getting her on board, she's awesome. She is a
total pro. She's just very skillful. She's great. She's great.
She's Barbara Hershey. She shows up and you could take any take,
any rehearsal, they'd all be different, but they are all just
[amazing]. She's like Meryl [Streep] and Glenn Close and those
women that are like: Yeah! You guys are really, really, really
Are your kids old
enough to go see this movie?
No. God. Not yet.
How old are they?
Seven and four.
How long are you
going to make them wait?
Well, I mean, to see the whole movie? Probably a long
time. I'll show them pieces and stuff, because they get
fascinated. And they of course come to set, too, so it's
different. I would show them parts of the first one, because my
oldest would remember going to the set and seeing Joe [Bishara], the
red-faced demon, get into make-up. That doesn't scare me. My kid
is a cinephile. Don't know how that happened. He's a huge movie
guy. So he can look at it from that perspective, too. But
obviously, I'm not going to show him the whole thing. But I may
show him bits of this where I go crazy. Not really where I'm
choking anyone, but where I'm running around in the make-up. I
think that he'd find that fascinating.
What are you
Next? Oh man, what am I doing next?
76, North of Hell...
Yeah, there's about eight coming out. Those are all movies
[that are already made]... [are you talking] movies that I'm
shooting or coming up? Coming up, that's all on IMDb. But shooting
next, I think I'm going to do this movie... actually, I haven't
really announced this, but I think I'm going to do this movie called
Big Stone Gap, based on the novel by Adriana Trigiani. A
little independent movie, but coincidentally, Big Stone Gap
is a series of books that were very successful. It is also where my
father, grandfather, where they are all from. This tiny little
coal-mining town [in Virginia]. So it's a double whammy for me. I
get to go stay at my grandparents' house. They are no longer here,
but we still own the house. On Wilson Road. Going on the Wilson
Bridge to get there. So I'll shoot that.
Did you sing on
set at all?
No. I was too busy trying to hurt people.
planned for the rest of the summer that you want to do?
Just vacation. Honestly I've been in LA. I just finished
another movie with [Insidious and Conjuring producer]
Jason Blum, actually. It's called Stretch. We just wrapped
about two weeks ago.