Interview with Insidious: Chapter 2's Patrick Wilson
A talk on low-budget horror, Tomatometers, and how to dream in America.
Insidious: Chapter 2 opens this Friday, continuing the horrific journey of the cursed Lambert clan as last seen in the surprise commercial and critical hit Insidious. Patrick Wilson returns as papa Lambert, who has begun to exhibit erratic and violent behavior around his wife (played by Rose Byrne) and their two young sons.
Wilson spent the majority of his early acting career in theater, where he was nominated for a Tony in 2002 for his role in Oklahoma!. His film career began in earnest during the mid-2000s, portraying sleazeballs in Hard Candy and Little Children, working up to his most high-profile role as Nite Owl in 2009's Watchmen. Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Wilson about Insidious and low-budget horror, Tomatometers, and how to dream in America.
Rotten Tomatoes: Congrats on the movie. It's really scary. I saw a work print, though, so I could see all the boom mics and dolly tracks.
Patrick Wilson: [laughs] Oh, my god.
RT: Yeah, and there was still some missing CGI in scenes, but it still worked to the movie's credit. In this age of CGI-saturated filmmaking, does your theater background help you train for that?
PW: You know, I gotta be honest. I have not done a lot of CGI work. I just haven't. I mean, there were hundreds of effects in Watchmen, and I probably dealt with almost none of them, because all my stuff was very practical.
RT: That was kind of the point with Nite Owl.
PW: Kind of the point of the movie. Obviously Billy Crudup and Dr. Manhattan had a different experience. But I've been real fortunate, that I haven't had to fake that kind of stuff, you know? It's a testament to (Insidious director) James (Wan). We like the old cowboy switch, we like all that stuff. I get a great feeling when I see a scene that works where all they've done is take out a string, take out a wire. That's great.
RT: I think audiences have been wanting that. You've been on this crime spree of low-budget horror movies that are critically and commercially successful. This weekend The Conjuring is up to $120 million. Does that change your expectations with Insidious: Chapter 2?
PW: It's such a different beast. I think if anything, it shows how different James can be in the genre. The Conjuring hit something very different -- and this is no disrespect to Insidious: Chapter 2. Insidious is a much smaller movie, and it's a much more surreal movie, and we're swinging a bigger stick here. We're not based in reality, and we don't really bring up God and we don't get into the real realism of these demons. The Conjuring really hit a very wide audience. Unusual for a horror movie. I mean, please, even the Rotten Tomatoes score is insane.
RT: Yeah, it's at 87%.
RT: As a horror fan, I'm happy.
PW: And what do most horror movies do? Like, what do you think this will be on there, realistically?
RT: The first one is 66%. I would say it's going to hit around the same. It deepens the story, but you can follow it if you haven't seen the first one. So I'd keep expectations around the same.
PW: Right. I'm proud of this, but it's a whole different beast than The Conjuring, so it's not like if this doesn't do $100 million I'm gonna go, "Oh, it's a failure." The movie was still made in 26 days for $15 million, for nothing. I think we'll do fine.
RT: So this is the first sequel you've done, the first time you've returned to a role. Is that any sort of achievement for you?
PW: [laughs] I've signed on for a few -- it is kind of funny -- they just never worked out. Yeah, I mean, it was kind of funny, you know? I thought it was fun to go back to the lantern and the flannel again. I mean, I'm also a guy from the theater, so I'm used to coming back, and people kept saying, "Is this weird to you?" Are you kidding me? I'd do the same lines every night, five hundred times. This is nothing; I'm not doing anything the same. I'm wearing the same clothes, but that's it. [laughs] Maybe, should I hold the lantern in my right or left hand?
RT: Maybe in this scene it goes on his head.
PW: [laughs] Yeah, other than that, who cares, you know? Plus, the fact that, without giving too much away, because of the dual nature of my character here in this movie. That's the fun. That's why you do it.
RT: Yeah, that was a captivating turn of events in the sequel.
RT: I've been following James' career the whole time, and it's been fun to see him go from Saw, then to Dead Silence and Death Sentence, which weren't as well-received. Now he's roaring back, and he's got Fast & Furious next. Would you be up for a role in that?