Annabelle: Creation premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, and Gonzo had a front row seat to the movie and the Q&A with the cast afterwards. Director David F. Sandberg was joined by Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson on stage.
This film tells the story of how the doll from The Conjuring was made. LaPaglia plays a toy maker who adopts with his wife (Otto) a group of orphans. Wilson and Bateman are two sisters and Sigman plays the nun watching over the girls. Go see Annabelle: Creation this weekend and get scared!
Q: Did anyone here have a doll they were afraid of?
LW: I had a really scary Cabbage Patch Doll. All of my family thought I loved it.
DS: My He-Mans were all awesome.
Q: What are the challenges of working on a big set on the studio lot?
DS: No challenges. Just awesomeness. I thought that’s how movies are made, on the Warner Brothers lot. Not all movies are. To be able to design everything and get exactly what you want, we had a great production designer, Jennifer Spence. Things in this movie came to be because of her. Like the whole dumbwaiter sequence wasn’t originally in the script but she was like, “Hey, we can put a dumbwaiter between the bedrooms.” I was like, “Can you put a child in there?” It became a whole sequence from that. It was just a great experience with everyone collaborating and making really cool things.
Q: Lulu, how old are you?
LW: I’m 11.
Q: Do you like scary movies?
LW: I like scary movies. I did my first scary movie when I was six so that kind of desensitized me to the whole genre. After that, I started watching more and then I just got really into them and I started watching every night. I remember the first scary movie I watched, I was like two. It was cool but it was the one with the people who had no faces.
Q: The Descent?
LW: Yes. I don’t remember that but that’s probably why I like them.
Q: Tabitha, how old are you?
TB: I’m 15.
Q: How do you feel about scary movies?
TB: I love them too. I don’t really get scared easily is the thing. There has to be a really good scary movie to make me scared.
Q: What did you like more, playing good Janice or evil Janice?
TB: Actually, it was really fun being evil Janice but I did like being raw, emotional sensitive Janice too. She’s a lot of fun because she’s very different than me because I’m more tough. I don’t cry in front of people very often so she’s very different because she’s always crying and emotional and scared. So that was fun, but evil Janice I got to be pretty creepy.
Q: Stephanie, you’ve done horror before.
SS: You’re not going to ask me my age, correct? [Laughs]
Q: How was this different than other characters?
SS: First of all, I never thought I’d be playing a nun. I told Peter [Safran], the producer of the movie, “Peter, thank you for seeing me as a nun. Especially after the characters I’ve been playing before” which was pretty refreshing. It was a challenge and it was beautiful. I loved it. I love these girls and my whole storyline is just taking care of these girls and being worried about them.
Q: Were your relationships on set similar to the characters in the movie?
LW: We played these really long and intense games of Uno for like three hours at a time on set. I feel like that really solidified the relationship.
TB: And most of the time during the first few days of filming, we were alone shooting mostly because we got called early and we had a lot of scenes together. So that really helped bond us I think.
LW: We also rehearsed a lot before the scene. I feel like that also helped us have a great bond.
SS: Well, they were protecting me in a way because they’re pretty tough. They’re not scared of anything and I’m scared of everything. I think that happens when you’re grown up, right? You’re more scared of everything. When you’re young, you’re brave. You’re not scared of anything in the world. Everything’s new. I admire that so much. I feel like you guys are pretty cool. They were teaching me how to pronounce my name right in English. They were making fun of me because I was scared, so it was fun. We had a lot of fun.
LW: It was Charlotte but she kept on saying Char-Loat.
Q: How did you prepare for these characters who have to be mysterious?
AL: I have a 14-year-old daughter. I just practiced scaring her. I just walked around being creepy all day. I just creeped out kids all day. I didn’t really get to know them on purpose just so I could be extra creepy. It’s one of those roles where it’s a fine line where you want the audience to think that maybe you’re involved in this somehow without tipping off whether you are or not. It’s a line of restraint and there’s a line of creepiness.
MO: I loved being behind the veil. I want to be behind veils all the time so it was fun to play a character that was really mysterious, that the kids kind of endow with all these qualities because they didn’t know her. So in some ways it was best to stay as mysterious as possible. I was always saying keep the veil on longer. It was a lot of fun. I had fun being the kind of crazy lady everyone’s scared of.
Q: What’s your approach to crafting scares in normal environments?
DS: Everything can be creepy. That’s what we tried to do here as well. We have the thing happening with the barn in the daylight and all that to show that nowhere is safe and no time is safe either. The pop gun scene, when she’s shooting the pop gun out into the dark, that was actually a dream I had. That was also not in the script. I guess I dreamed that I was watching the movie almost and I saw that scene play out of the little girl shooting the ball into the dark. I woke up and had to right it down right away before I forgot it. I sent it over to [screenwriter] Gary [Daubrman] and said, “Should we put this in the movie?” He was like, “I have dreams like this.” Sometimes I’m not really sure myself where it comes from.
Q: Does the set inspire you once you’re there?
DS: Yeah, it was a very inspiring set because it looks creepy. Jennifer wanted, or I told her to put in all these little nooks and crannies and weird angles because I knew that a lot of the scares we’d come up with on the day because you can’t really predict everything. It was a very inspiring set.
Q: Talitha, what was your most harrowing day on set?
TB: Probably when I was in the chair lift. That day was painful to shoot because it was just consistent crying and screaming all day. There was the one point where I pull off the acorn thing. That actually wasn’t on purpose. I was reaching for it trying to grab it and it fell off and broke on the floor. We ended up using that which was hilarious to me when I saw the film.
Q: Are you actually being lifted out of the chair?
TB: We did two takes with me and a couple with the stunt person. It was really fun.
DS: We only used you.
DS: That was all you.
TB: That’s so cool.
Q: How did you cast?
DS: For the kids, we had extensive auditions. Talitha is the sister of Gabriel from Lights Out. You might think it’s like, “Oh yeah, I know you. Let’s put you in the movie.” She actually had to go through the same sort of audition as everyone else to come back and really show how great she was. We did a lot of improv to make sure that the kids could look scared. Casting is just so important, not just because it makes your job easier on the set if the actors can nail it. But it is what sells the movie. I’m very happy that we got this amazing cast. I met with you and that was before Lights Out had come out and I was talking about this movie. You wanted to see Lights Out. New Line set up a private screening just for Miranda to show her the movie. I was freaking out, “She’s going to come out of there and say, ‘I’m not going to be in that guy’s movie.’” So I was e-mailing New Line saying, “Please don’t let her see it alone” because it plays best when there’s other people. I was like, “Get some assistants or PAs, whatever you can get.”
MO: I watched it in a room and then at the end of it, there were no lights on in the room and I couldn’t find the light switch. I thought, “Oh, they put a camera in here for sure watching me.”
DS: You still came out of there and wanted to do this.
MO: I did. I did.