After battling a house full of demons in James Wan’s hit summer horror show “The Conjuring,” Patrick Wilson is back in theaters this Friday the 13th in Wan’s second offering of the year — only this time he’s playing the demon. In the sequel to 2010’s hit haunted house horror “Insidious,” “Insidious: Chapter 2,” Wilson reprises his role as husband and father Josh Lambert, who at the end of the first installment inherited the evil spirit that was plaguing his house. In the second entry, which picks up right where the first one left off, Lambert struggles to contain his inner demon before it overtakes him and kills his family.
Wilson called up Indiewire from Los Angeles to discuss reuniting with Wan for a third time, and whether he would agree to do a third film in the “Insidious” series.
This year you went from playing a demon killer in “The Conjuring” to playing a demon in “Insidious 2.” You’ve come full circle.
[Laughs] That’s right. I’ll now be investigating myself.
Did you shoot “Insidious: Chapter 2” following “The Conjuring”?
I did. We shot “The Conjuring” a year and a half ago and it was supposed to come out last winter, and it was testing so well that they said, “You know what, let’s hold onto it until summer.” So the fact that they’re both together is strange. I went and did a couple movies in between them, so other than James and the same DP and crew, there’s nothing similar. In a strange way, they’re sort of complete opposites. “The Conjuring” is a nod to 70’s horror, a more classic feel. “Insidious 2” is maybe more closer to the 80’s, a little broader, a little bolder, more shocking and ghoulish and melodramatic, which I love, that was part of the fun. We didn’t want to retread any of the same ground that we did on the first “Insidious,” the script was pretty bold and out there. Which is good, which is what you want to do, swim with the big stick.
What project was more fun for you as an actor? I imagine playing a villain in “Insidious 2” is more of a kick than playing the hero in “The Conjuring.”
Well it is, in a sense, but “The Conjuring” is a different beast because I’m playing a real guy, so I wanted to honor that real guy, see how he talks, see what he wore, what he read and what he believed in. It’s a whole different set of circumstances. “Insidious 2” is more sort of bold and, not giving too much away, wearing the prosthetics and the violence of it. Not the literal violence, I just mean the abusive power that Josh has. That’s exciting, that was sort of in a strange way the payoff for me for the first movie, where you really are the hero and you’re trying to save your son. This one’s a little darker. But neither one, “Insidious 2” or “The Conjuring,” to me they’re such different experiences that it’s not,”Oh, I enjoyed this more…”
You’re not an actor synonymous with the horror genre, so it’s a funny coincidence that this year you kind of are. Are you fan of the genre?
You know, I’m not a horror guy. Do I like a really good horror movie? Sure, just like I like a good action movie, a good comedy, a good drama. I’m not well-versed, I don’t see every horror movie that comes out. I don’t set them on this sort of pedestal where, “Oh, I’m in this genre, I have to act a certain way.” I always just go back to the script and the character. And I resisted the temptation. I gotta say, for awhile before I got “Insidious” I got a couple horror movies had gotten thrown my way, but they were just never good scripts, because it was a genre that had gotten, to me so… I mean, let me put it this way, when you think of movies like “The Exorcist” or “Poltergeist,” the 70’s or early 80’s horror movies, to me, were supremely actor-friendly, where these actors got to approach this with great language and material and supernatural elements. That’s fun stuff to chew on. I feel like the horror movies going my way were really gimmick-oriented or sex-oriented, like it didn’t matter which actor was in the role. That didn’t interest me, I wanted something that relied on the actors telling the story.
Both the “Insidious” films and “The Conjuring” work in large part thanks to the great ensemble of actors, but it sure helps you have James Wan calling the shots. How has it been witnessing his evolution over the course of your three films together?
I mean, look, I think with his career he took a big jump with “Insidious” to where he was able to challenge himself and redefine the genre where “Saw” sent movies into this grotesque violent nature, and that was never scary to me. With “Insidious” he wanted to push himself and push convention, and “The Conjuring” moved him right along, and this movie is bold in a different way. No matter how much you talk about actors in movies, it’s not an actors’ medium; this movie’s all James. James is one of the very few guys who not only can master a genre, but in all different spectrum of the genre. I mean you’re talking “Saw” and “The Conjuring” and “Insidious 2,” They’re just completely different films and sides of horror. So even within the genre he’s pushed his limits. So it’s no surprise to me that “Fast and the Furious 7” was thrown his way, and it’s no surprise that he can do comedy, he can do a ton of things. He knows how to work a film and work an audience, and that’s reflected in the choices that he makes.
How would you describe your relationship?
I don’t know, I mean it’s hard to say why you like your buddy. He knows exactly the kind of movie that he wants to make. And when you get there, he’s got that balance of being supremely proficient at the movie he wants to make. He knows the lines, he knows the tone, he knows it in his head. But if you’re bringing an idea to the table that will make the movie better, he’s game for it. To have that sense of focus but be collaborative is a real blessing. He’s amazingly ego-free, you just trust him because you know he’s gonna bust his tail to make the best movie possible.
I think, from my my side, there’s this great reverence for him where it’s not like we go and hang out all the time. I mean, I love the guy, we text a lot, we talk a lot, but we have this great working relationship where we bring out the best in each other where I push him and I know he’s gonna push me. There’s just this commitment to character and story where… Yeah, it’s hard to explain, I love the guy, and I would do anything with him, because he’s not gonna ask me to do anything, and that’s OK. I kept saying, “Listen, I’ll drive a smart car in ‘Fast and Furious,’ it’ll be funny,” and he’s like, “I do not want to bring you around this…” But you know, he’s always like, “If it’s not worth your time, I’m not gonna ask you.” He has a reverence for me that I enjoy and I’m honored by, and I have the same for him. So we’ll undoubtedly make many movies together, and they’re gonna be good. You know, he wants to push me, he doesn’t want to waste my time.
If he were to come to you with a script for “Insidious 3,” would you say yes?
Here’s the thing, I don’t know if he would. I don’t know where else you go with Josh Lambert. When you see the film, and see how it ends, it’s pretty clear without giving too much away. It took him so much to even want to do a sequel to “Insidious,” I felt like I could do a lot more with the character so he was my sort of touchstone, but I just… I don’t know where else it could go. I don’t know what he could come up with that would make it be interesting for both of us, for me, for Josh Lambert. Like, where else do you go with that guy? He’s been through the ringer, and I think the movie sets it up well at the end, to be honest with you. And that’s great, that’s how it should end.