Q&A: Patrick Wilson on “INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2”
The first INSIDIOUS meant many things to those involved in the production, and when it became a financial and critical success back in 2010, many of their hopes were validated. The film proved that James Wan was not a one-hit-wonder, following the underwhelming reception to DEAD SILENCE and DEATH SENTENCE, and demonstrated that Jason Blum could produce successful horror outside of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY found-footage wheelhouse. And INSIDIOUS made Patrick Wilson a bona fide leading man, following high-profile ensemble roles in THE A-TEAM and WATCHMEN and independent starring turns in LITTLE CHILDREN and HARD CANDY.
However, Wilson returns in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (opening this Friday) with a definitive change from his role in the first film and his previous Wan-helmed horror collaboration, THE CONJURING. Wilson offers a side we’ve rarely seen before, one that will cement his status amongst the horror audience as a versatile force who handles heroics and exudes eeriness with equal skill. Wilson opened up to FANGORIA about INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, his blue-collar characters and the factors that led him back into the world of the Further…
FANGORIA: In this film, you get to deviate from your role in the original, as your character possesses a duality following the events of INSIDIOUS. Did you find this liberating as a performer?
PATRICK WILSON: Absolutely. Otherwise, I would have been reluctant to jump in, if I was treading the same water, or the same ground, I guess. But that was part of the fun. Without giving too much away, we were sort of left where Josh specifically was, or wasn’t, at the end of the first INSIDIOUS, and in this one we could be in that world, of that world and out of that world, so to play those different types of one guy was exciting.
FANG: You also shared the character, or the vessel for the character, with two other actors, including one (Garrett Ryan) playing Josh as a child and one whom we saw at the end of the first film. Was there any synchronicity or discussions between you and them as to how to shape your performance to coincide with theirs?
WILSON: Oh! That’s interesting. Not really. I mean, Garrett was a sweet kid, but I didn’t. Mostly, when we see him, he’s in a trance or he’s pretty reserved. If anything, a lot of his reservations and shyness I took on a bit in the first half of the original. Then, when you find out Josh was an astral projector as a kid, I was able to let it go a little bit. But I didn’t do too much with either of them in terms of character work.
FANG: This film is a unique sequel because not only is it James Wan’s first as a director, but it’s also Jason Blum’s first traditionally shot narrative sequel. What would you say was the biggest difference between working on this film as opposed to the original, especially considering you had worked with James for a second time on THE CONJURING?
WILSON: Well, THE CONJURING was such a different beast from INSIDIOUS. Even though THE CONJURING was, in Hollywood terms, a low budget, it was still four or five times the cost of INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, so that was a different beast. INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 was very much like the first film—a small, 26-day shoot, although the original was 21-22 days, something like that. There wasn’t a ton of time, so it was sort of the same formula. That works for these types of movies. THE CONJURING would have been a different film if we’d had that type of schedule; we couldn’t have done it like that. It all just depends on the movie. [Leigh Whannell] wrote the [CHAPTER 2] script knowing those were the constraints.
FANG: In your past films, you’ve tended to play a lot of down-to-earth, blue collar characters, and even in your more high-profile projects like INSIDIOUS, WATCHMEN or THE A-TEAM, your roles are essentially normal people in extraordinary circumstances. What attracts you to those, as opposed to more grandiose leading-man parts?
WILSON: Well, it’s a number of things. I think, as with anything, you’re constantly juggling the roles that you want, the roles you can get and the roles that you’re offered. The studio things I’ve turned down have usually been parts that haven’t done anything for me. Nothing huge or blockbuster, for the most part. I really gravitate toward characters with an arc or a change or something in there that has some grit to it. If it’s a bad guy, I look for a fun side or a funny side, like in THE A-TEAM. Even in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, I was trying to find the little moments of humor or smiles or something that lets you off the hook a little bit.
I always sort of look for the varying degrees, but truthfully, from the beginning, my first couple of jobs were guys who seemed like they had it together, but maybe there was something going on underneath. Even in WATCHMEN, my character has his own impotence and problems, but he has this whole other alter ego. I guess I gravitate toward the most dynamic characters, and often, they’re in smaller films.
FANG: Wan is a very interesting horror director because he requires his actors to be more physical with their performances, frequently allowing them to speak through their expressions rather than dialogue, which itself is a very traditional horror technique. Is that aesthetic what attracts you to these kinds of horror films, as opposed to flash-cut-heavy modern genre projects?
WILSON: Prior to INSIDIOUS, I’d been offered a handful—nothing crazy, but a handful of horror movies. The problem is that if horror films aren’t good, it’s a thankless genre to the actors because it’s all about the gimmick. If you think about the classic scary movies, the ones that are beloved and at the top of everyone’s list, they’re usually centered on really great actors, if not always famous actors, playing strong characters you really care about.
What attracted me to INSIDIOUS, and the reason I got into the genre in the first place, was because it felt like a family drama with this supernatural event and this haunted-house event. I thought, “Wow, this is a very interesting way to tell a horror story. There’s no blood or violence or anything like that, and that’s really fascinating.” That’s why I gravitated toward INSIDIOUS, and CHAPTER 2 is an extension of that in terms of finishing the story. THE CONJURING was something different altogether, because it was based on a true story and on real people, so that brought out a whole different set of preparation. [Ed Warren] felt like a real character.
FANG: It’s funny that you mention closing out INSIDIOUS’ story, because even though the first film ended on an abrupt note, some fans feel that ending allowed audiences to draw their own conclusions. Were you at all hesitant to board the sequel for that reason?
WILSON: Not really, because the only reason you would do that would be out of ego, or if it didn’t work. What if everything doesn’t work? Had James not wanted to do INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, we’d have had a real issue. But knowing James was going to do it and Leigh was going to write it, and considering how the first film ended, I was like, “Wow, he’s possessed now? That’s the fun stuff to play! Let’s do that!”