Interview with Leigh Whannell and Lin Shaye for Insidious 3June 3, 2015
Recently we had a chance to be part of a media roundtable, interviewing both actor Lin Shaye and actor/writer/director Leigh Whannell about the upcoming horror film Insidious: Chapter 3. They talked about the job of tackling a third film in the Insidious franchise, relationships in the film and why they enjoy the horror genre so much.
The GCE: Did either of your feel nervous or even a bit anxious about doing a third film in the Insidious franchise?
Leigh: For sure there was nervousness for me because I was directing, I was nervous about the film living up to the first two movies. Stepping into James’s shoes was a nerve wracking thing because I think he is a real master of modern horror, he sort of learned on his feet to become a great horror director and I was essentially stepping into James’s shoes right after he’d done The Conjuring and Insidious 2 and he’s kind of reached his pinnacle so I was like ok, what do I do? I tried to block it out and focus on making the film super scary and everyone seems super happy with it. When you’ve actually directed a film at a certain point you become outside of it, you can no longer see the forest through the trees but a whole lot of other people have said they find the film really terrifying so I’m happy.
Lin: I was frightened, as the character and as Lin, I mean because it was a big responsibility for me to fulfill the beginnings of this franchise and sort of be made somewhat of, I mean when James said to me after the second one that if we go further I’d love to make Elise the face of the franchise which was kind of staggering because here I am an unlikely heroine and at this point in my life it’s not a character that you would ordinarily see as being a lead and an attractive element in a film which apparently is what happened, I mean people really liked her from the first film and they kind of wanted more so I was a little bit scared of the responsibility and hoped I would do a good job. Working with Leigh made it exciting but also a little bit nerve wracking because I know he was nervous but it was over like that, literally after the first couple of days our dialogue was easy and I knew he knew the character as well or better than I did and we became wonderful collaborators in cracking the spines of the scene and so I’m happy the way it turned out.
Media: I was curious how you ended up doing the prequel concept and was there any other ideas that you had tossed around before you decided on that?
Leigh: I really, really wanted to do a prequel. The first decision I made was not to focus on the Lambert family anymore after the first two films, I think they had taken enough of a beating. It would have been a bit ridiculous to see they are been haunted… again. At this point they’re experts in haunting, they don’t even get scared anymore, it’s like an ashtray flies against the wall, that’s the poltergeist, we call me Fred, so I decided to start on a new family but if I’m working with a new family the question becomes what connects it to the other Insidious films, is it the demon that is the connection to the other films, is this new family being haunted by the red faced guy, and then I decided the focus should be Lin’s character. Unfortunately we killed her off in the first movie, so if we want to find out more about her life we’d have to go back in time so yeah, everything I just described to you there was probably decided in the course of one day, you know by the end of the day I was like right, prequel, Lin and then I had to go off and figure out what the story would be but it was really Lin who drove the prequel.
Media: As a prequel, it gives you a great excuse to go back to the beginning of the relationship between Lin and Specs and Tucker, so how was it doing the script for those scenes?
Leigh: It was great yeah, I think that’s one of those things that fans of the first two films will get a kick out of seeing how they met and see what they give to each other, they’re kind of like a family. Lin’s character is in a fairly bad place in the beginning of this film and I think that the characters of Specs and Tucker are kind of like surrogate sons to her, she feels very maternal towards them, protective and they’re kind of like a makeshift family.
Lin: And also they can really help me, they’re skilled, as goofy as they are and there were a couple of moments during this film I really appreciated, there’s one moment between me and Angus, who plays Tucker, I don’t know if it’s still in the film I’d have to watch it again, but there’s a moment in the middle of a crisis, where the two characters give each other a look, a little smile, I loved the way the whole scene developed, I hope the audience does too.
Media: We learn more about the character of Elise as well. How was it getting into the character in her past and what she was going through?
Lin: Well Leigh wrote it, this really dense and sad story and I love how he’s threaded it together with the theme of loss which is what brings this family together and it’s the very thing that brings Elise out of herself and I mean in my mind and my sort of work as an actor she’s agoraphobic, she doesn’t get out of her bathrobe, she feeds her dog and that’s about her life right now and I also love the scene of eating the sandwich at the table, that real quiet scene and the way she lives her life, always sets the table still for her husband and I think there are people who live these lonely lives and here she is with this gift that is ignited by another sadness, it’s like these people find each other and I just thought that was just a powerful story so Leigh wrote it and I hope I filled it.
Media: Did it ever get a bit weird on set where you were telling them what to do as a director and then when you started filming she was bossing you around?
Leigh: Really, it was a strange feeling to be acting in a scene because my whole body changes when I’m playing Specs, I’m like all over, as a director you’re supposed to be projecting a sense of leadership and all this and I put the glasses on and it all changes.
Lin: I looked over and he’s got the glasses on it’s like, I didn’t even know it was him for a minute, seriously, he was in the corner, all bent over, with the glasses on and I said oh my god, that’s my director. It was great, the transformation into Specs.
The GCE: So what is the attraction for both of you to working in the horror genre?
Leigh: For me I just think it’s a genre that’s very fun to watch an audience watch. If you’ve been involved in a horror film as a writer or director, there’s no better feeling in the world than standing in the back of the theater or indeed in the front of the theater, I like to kind of hide behind that ramp that leads in from the door and kind of look back at the audience, so you’re not actually watching the movie, you’re seeing the light dance across these faces. I mean, in a horror film the reaction is so visceral its fun to watch, to feel in some way responsible for people jumping in their seats and to be honest, it’s a genre that people go to see. I mean as you guys know, were living in a really weird time for movies. We’re in a golden age of television, gaming is going through the roof, going to the movies and watching a film in a dark room is kind of an archaic concept, it’s a weird time to be a filmmaker, and horror movies for some reason seems to be one of the few genres left that drags people out of their houses and into a theater. If you’re making a drama these days and you don’t have a movie star in it, you’re pretty much looking at VOD.
Lin: But the experience of being in a theater, that’s why I think movies will never die, there’s something about it, especially the horror genre, going into a big dark space with strangers and being sort of pummeled in a way as a community, with all of these people that you don’t know with everybody screaming. I can’t remember what the horror movie was now but I kept jumping and throwing my arms out and pounding this poor guy in the chest and I thought where else would you have this kind of experience except in a theater and horror promotes that kind of energy, it’s giddy and it’s a safe place to be scared. Fear is such a primitive and universal feeling, to be able to have it in a safe place with a lot of strangers, to me that’s great.
Leigh: I feel like crying, that sort of emotional response is a private thing whereas laughing and screaming are more of a communal experience and they work better in a crowd.
Lin: And you scream together and it accelerates the whole thing , the whole experience becomes bigger and better and everybody walks out and the energy that is coming off them as they leave the theater after a horror film is also extraordinary, they don’t know whether to cry or to laugh or to hold on to one another, you start talking to people you never met before…
Leigh: We had to actually take that into account when we were editing the film, it was like making a comedy. We had to take into account the few seconds or so after a scare to let the audience breath. They say in comedy you have to give the jokes some space to let the laughter die down so that you hear the next line of dialogue, we had to do that with this after our big moments, kind of leave some room.
Lin: And if they missed it they’ll come back and see it again, which is what happened with Something About Mary, which was a film I did years ago, people laughed so hard that had to come back again because they couldn’t hear the movie, so that hopefully will happen with Insidious 3, people will be screaming so much they’ll have to come back to see what the missed.
Insidious: Chapter 3 hits theaters June 5th.