I began by asking “super” producer Jason Blum, who has had experience creating other popular horror franchises like Paranormal Activity and The Purge, to discuss the art of building a successful film into a successful franchise. “I think the most important thing, which I learned on Paranormal and tried to do and didn't pull off, is getting the people who originated the movie to keep doing it,” Blum said candidly. “So in this case, it’s James and Leigh. With Sinister it’s Scott Derrickson, and with The Purge it’s James DeMonaco, who wrote and directed both.”
“I think there is arrogance sometimes on the part of financiers to just hire a bunch of people and make another one cheaply,” Blum confessed. “I am definitely a big believer in giving up more of the movie to share with the people who created it, because they definitely always make the best sequels. So I was begging James and Leigh, and tried to make it comfortable for them to return. In this case with Leigh, making it as comfortable for him to get to do what he wanted to do. That's by far the most important thing for me. I think that is unusual, but not for big franchises like Transformers. Big franchises and companies think like that, and they get Michael Bay to keep doing it. But for horror movies, it's less common.”
Blum also talked about how he got screenwriter Leigh Whannell to direct the new movie, since James Wan was unable to return because of his commitment to Furious 7. “What happened with this movie is we were begging Leigh to direct. He was being super-coy, and in a truthful way I think he really was on the fence about it. He said he was just going to write the script, and then he wrote the script. He thought it was pretty good and said he’s direct it."
Insidious: Chapter 3 is a prequel to the original series, and Leigh Whannell was asked why he decided to go in that specific direction with this new installment. “My impetus to do a fucking prequel was a few different things, he answered. “By the time it had gotten to that point where I was fully committed and writing it, I was thinking about the best direction this particular story could take. I didn't think there was much more story to tell with that Lambert family. So if we take them out of the picture and start thinking of a new family, I thought about what the connective tissue would be. If it's a new family, then who will be familiar? Of course, Lin, Angus, and my characters came up. But James and I wrote us into a corner in the first film because Lin’s character died. I don't think that's a spoiler at this point. So when I was thinking about it, I was like, I really want Lin back but I don't want to deal with ghost Lin again. I wanted Lin alive! Then I started thinking about an origin story for her, a prequel set before the first film. That just became really interesting to me, the idea of seeing Lin years before the first film, how she got to that point, and what happened to her in her life. “
“I realized that it could fit well because when you meet Tucker and Specs in the first film, they'd obviously been working together,” Whannell explained. “They've probably worked on some other things together. Just telling that origin story cemented the idea of a prequel. Then thinking of ways to tie it into the first film, without giving it away, was exciting. I always love origin stories. I love that that Batman Begins approach. I like going back and seeing how we got to this point. So, we're doing that a little bit with Lin in this film, within the context of this new family. But having said that, I also like the idea that people could walk in having seen neither of the last two Insidious films, and have a great time and understand it. There might be some things that connect to the first two films that maybe new audiences are not keeping track of, but I don't think it would be to the point where their understanding and enjoyment of the film would be affected. So I liked that slate-wiping aspect of it. Basically it's like let's just do the first film over again.”
A reporter followed up by asking Whannell if the prequel aspect of the film will allow them to make future Insidious films that take place between Chapter 3 and the original two movies. “I think so,” he replied. “You meet Lin, Specs and Tucker, so I think there is room. It's set a few years before the first film, so I think you could go in any direction. Maybe if there was another Insidious film, you could go forward again if you wanted to get crazy. But I definitely think there's room between this film and the first movie to look at. But I want Lin Shaye alive! I don't want morbid ghost Lin Shaye again. I want full on, turbocharged Lin Shaye.”
Speaking of legendary character actress Lin Shaye, she talked about her admiration for Whannell and the world he has created. “One thing that for me has been great is, since Leigh has written all these films and has created basically my character and this world, some of the directorial elements that he's been able to provide me with are so rich,” she explained. “These are things that I've thought about, but never thought about with the coloration that Leigh describes them to me. I think that comes also from being an actor and a performer. I tease him. I say, not only is he going to be a triple threat, he's going to be an octagonal threat. It helped me so much to not just ground myself in the present and in this movie, but it literally felt like it helped me blossom. I hope I fulfill that for you guys, and certainly for Leigh and myself. He's an awesome director.”
Shaye continued by discussing the new film and how its horror elements will be different than the previous installments. “In terms of the horror, there is a familiarity to the demon in this film on some level that's a little bit different than what we've seen before. There's a humanity that's experienced in the deterioration of elements in this film that are quite a bit different, without giving anything away. So I think it will hit people in a very familiar place. There are elements of the story that will touch people in a very human way. There's dilemma and problems that this family faces in particular. It has a personal element to it that I think is really scary. But it scares me in a different way. I loved obviously the demons in the first and the second films, but there's something about this movie that chills me in a whole other personal way. It really hits me in a private way almost. So I think in that way, it's going to be scary in a whole new way that people aren't expecting.”
The new movie marks Stefanie Scott’s first horror film, and the actress expressed her joy to be involved in the project. “I've always wanted to do a horror film. For me, I wasn't really intimidated. I don't think I was scared about it or anything. I loved the previous films and I loved the story. I was just really excited to play Quinn and tell her story about her family. “
Actor Angus Sampson, who has played Tucker in the two previous films, talked about returning for a third movie. “It's been fantastic. There's such warmth on the set, in a place where I guess you don't expect to find warmth. I think a lot of that's down to Leigh and Jason's casting. There's such a rich congeniality on set that exudes from Lin. For them to cast Dermot and Stefanie, who both are almost like the glow out of that Pulp Fiction suitcase, is great. There's such warmth on set. That is the thing that I think is really rich for me to come back and feel.”
“It's such a privilege to see Leigh step into the valley that James and Jason have worked on, traversing that rocky path,” Sampson continued. “The support and encouragement they have for Leigh, for me to come in and just see how he's handling that, he's a true polymath, aside from being a very dear friend of mine. He has confidence in the material. It's actually a real treat to have the director in the scene with you, as well. It's actually quite liberating as a performer, and he's so cute and generous. He gives notes afterwards. There's no melodrama and you're really accessing a very truthful place. But it's actually quite frightening. I think this will rip the audience out of their seats.”
Veteran actor Dermot Mulroney is also new to the hardcore horror genre, so I asked him if this was a type of film that he has always wanted to make. “Yeah, I'd never actually been in one,” he admitted. “You know what, recently I've stumbled into a couple of projects that would fall into the horror genre like Stoker, which was a great movie. It was just a small part but it was great to be involved with something that had those elements to it, the sort of Gothic feel and the tension that a horror movie has. Also The Grey, which really was a horror movie in the way that Jaws was a horror movie. So in the last few years, this is really my third, if you want to count them. But it's the one that will be the most mainstream. Any time I get a lead in anything, I'm taking it. It looks like it's easy to get these parts, but it's actually not.”
“I was talking to Angus about this, the type of scenes that we’re doing in this movie had a different effect on me than I've ever had in another film,” Mulroney continued to explain. “It was that I was scared, which I've never had before. When you read a scene where you're having dinner at a dining room table with your family, you know what it’s going to feel like to have dinner. So when you're acting it out, it feels like the real thing. I didn't expect that with this. I thought there'd be that element of putting on that it's a scary thing. The environment Leigh created is actually as real as a scene where you'd be at a dining room table. The horror elements felt just as real, which I really didn't expect to have that get in under my skin as much as it has.”
Finally, I asked Mulroney what it’s like for him as an actor to join the third installment of an already extremely popular franchise. “I met Leigh, and it had great things going for it. Obviously there's the success of the other two movies. But I hit it off with Leigh right away. It shoots in Los Angeles. It was going to start in about two weeks. The schedule is more often than not the thing that keeps you from doing the movie that you want to do. So the fact that I had a slot and it was starting soon, was a good sign that I should do it. In this case, I could tell that there was a real intellect involved. I wasn't familiar with the Insidious franchise, but I subsequently saw them. I have a fifteen-year-old son who is a huge horror genre fan. So I've been dragged in to being a fan.”
Insidious: Chapter 3 opens in theaters on June 5th.