It is without a doubt–Annabelle is one creepy doll to venture on to the big screen.
Originally based on the real demon possessed doll alleged by Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle: Creation will be the prequel that tells the fictional origin story from 2014’s Annabelle movies.
Warner Brothers recruited Lights Out director David F. Sandberg to the helm after his very successful and scary feature film debut. The origin story looks at a dollmaker and his wife, who created a large doll to be a vessel for a spirit after the tragic death of their daughter. To make amends, they invited a nun and several orphans to live in their home years later. Unbeknownst to everyone, Annabelle soon targeted the invited guests in the terrifying movie Annabelle: Creation.
The film stars Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings), Stephanie Sigman (Spectre), Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave) and Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace).
LRM was present with a few reporters for a roundtable interview with director David F. Sandberg, and actress Stephanie Sigman. We discussed a few topics, including the backdrop of the film, the cast, the production and the scares. As a bonus, Sandberg reflected a little on his upcoming project for Shazam.
Annabelle: Creation will be playing in theaters nationwide next Friday, August 11.
Read the round table interview transcript below.
One thing I like to know–the movie starts like in 1920 or something–with these old rickety cars…
David F. Sandberg: 1945.
All of the sudden, it said it’s twelve years later, we’re in the 50s with the television set. I was thinking it might be 42?
David F. Sandberg: 1945, and then 1957.
How did you decide on the years? And where was it taking place? We have two Australians taking the lead in this deserted landscape. It could be Australia.
David F. Sandberg: No, it’s California. The time period was counting backwards from the first Annabelle. It took place in 1970, so we calculated and went back to 1957 and then twelve years earlier with 1945.
Stephanie Sigman: I always thought it was 1956. [Laughs] I just got it wrong the whole time.
David F. Sandberg: [Laughs] You would’ve looked completely different since it’s a year later. [Laughs]
Yeah. I always think it’s 2016, but it’s really 2017 right now. [Laughs]
When you got this job and Lights Out had its success, when did you say, “I’ll sign on” and come up with an Annabelle prequel?
David F. Sandberg: Well, it was actually during the post-production of Lights Out. Lights Out wasn’t even out yet. The studio was hot on it. They really liked on how it turned out. Then they asked me if I wanted to do Annabelle 2.
At first, I was like, “Where are you going to take that?” Is this going to be the same movie one more time? Then I read the script, it turned out to be a prequel. It’s a very different story with different characters. Alright, this is something that I could make it more of my own. It’s different enough.
Did you think of classic horror stories? It’s such a beautiful movie how you shot with the closeup with the girls…
David F. Sandberg: Yeah, that was the inspiration. Already like The Conjuring, it had that classic horror feel to it. That movie inspired me to shoot it in a more classic way. It is more fun to me than to do a standard coverage with a hundred setups. It’s more fun to do these shots with longer takes, staging it and more interesting ways.
And casting you as a nun?
Stephanie Sigman: [Laughs] I said at the beginning, “Are you really casting me as a nun?” I love the challenge.
How did you see that? So often, people get typecast. She is a beautiful, sexy actor.
Stephanie Sigman: Thank you. [Laughs]
David F. Sandberg: She auditioned.
Did you reached out towards your inner nun?
Stephanie Sigman: I wasn’t really thinking that I was going to play a nun. I feel that if your mindset was playing a religious person, the cliché on what we think she is, it would be really rigid. I was just trying to make my priority with the girls. It should all be about them. I should worry about them. I should guide them. It’s about trying to get them to trust me. The quality is to be like the mother or a mom figure.
Stephanie Sigman: Yeah, a guardian. That’s what I tried to do at the audition. I think that’s on what they liked. I was also told by Peter [Safran] that I was just human. I wasn’t just playing the idea of it. I was just playing the human or the woman of it. I wasn’t trying to be sexy though. [Laughs]
David F. Sandberg: That was the thing. We did several auditions. I saw a lot on what other people do is that they turned all holy in their eyes…to become a nun. [Turns to Stephanie Sigman] And you didn’t do that.
Stephanie Sigman: A bit creepy, right? [Laughs]
David F. Sandberg: Yeah. You weren’t a creepy nun.
Stephanie Sigman: I was trying to be warm.
David F. Sandberg: That definitely worked.
You had the one character in the film that went toe-to-toe with the demon and be able to survive. What do you think is about this character that she was able to do that?
Stephanie Sigman: I feel that she is a warrior. She is fighting evil in her own way. In a spiritual way. She isn’t doing those Wonder Woman fights, but she’s really tough in that spiritual level. Yeah, that’s really awesome. To me, I believe in God. I believe in evil and good. To me, it’s very important to have a spiritual side to it.
I feel like she is a badass. She’s a badass nun.
The children cast are awesome. They could hold their own with anyone it seems. In filming a horror film, what kind of restraints do you have? How does this work? Are they there through all the horrific scenes? Are there any restrictions?
David F. Sandberg: They were so into it. Even the youngest, Samara [Lee], who plays Bee. She is the biggest horror fan ever. She’s only eight-years-old. She seen all of these horror movies. She was named after the character from The Ring.
She was so into it. She wanted to do all these freaky things. She was asking me…we were thinking about not having her to do the vomiting thing at one point. She was begging me, “Please let me do the vomiting.” [Laughs] I said, “Alright.”
Stephanie Sigman: She also wanted people to see the dead body.
David F. Sandberg: Oh, yeah. She got hit by a car. She was very disappointed that we didn’t show that. [Chuckles]
How did her parents react to that?
Stephanie Sigman: I think they were used to that. [Laughs]
David F. Sandberg: They were the ones who named her Samara. I think they are horror fans. [Laughs]
Stephanie Sigman: They’re really smart. They’re into it. They’re more brave than me. I was kind of scared on set sometimes.
When this ended, the inevitable question will be is, “Will you do another one?” [To David F. Sandberg] Will you do another Annabelle movie? [To Stephanie Sigman] Will you come back as this warrior nun?
David F. Sandberg: For me, it feels like I’ve done my entry into this universe. There will be other movies like Corin Hardy is doing The Nun. I’m pretty happy with that. You never know? For now, I’m pretty satisfied.
Stephanie Sigman: I can’t see how my character could come back. I think she is done on whatever she is supposed to be doing. You never know. I guess I would have to read a script on the idea with my character again.
She was in the picture with The Nun.
Stephanie Sigman: Yes, there is a connection there.
So there’s a possibility of it?
Stephanie Sigman: Yes.
What do you want from your career right now with Hollywood at your feet? [To David F. Sandberg]
David F. Sandberg: I want to keep making movies as long as they let me. [Chuckles]
Do you know on what your next project is?
David F. Sandberg: The next one is not a horror movie. It’s Shazam. It’s a DC Comics superhero.
Is that a remake of a movie called Shazam?
David F. Sanberg: There hasn’t been a movie about Shazam except in animation. There was a TV show in the 70s. There were serials in the 40s. He has been around for as long as Superman. That’s next. I still like horror though.
This will be primarily a family film then.
David F. Sanberg: Yeah, a total switch.
Is Dwayne Johnson still attached?
David F. Sanberg: No. The plan is to not have him in Shazam. He is Black Atom. The two are going to meet.
Could you talk a little bit about casting Anthony Lapaglia?
David F. Sanberg: There’s all these wonderful actors here like Miranda Otto and the girls. It’s such a dream to work with. They’re all such professionals. They get into their characters so easily. They are so easy to work with that all you have to deal with is the technical issues on set. You don’t have to pull a performance out of them.
They show up and they are so prepared. That’s the way I like to direct as well. It’s not to try to give them too much direction. I wanted to see what they can do. If it’s not right or it’s too far off–we’ll talk about why that is and to see on what we can come up with that works.
When you’re directing horror and thought you did so effectively was with the terror was built in our own minds and on what we don’t see. How do you make decisions on what you want to show people? Or to show more on what they build up in their minds? It’s with the doors or even with the noises down the hall.
David F. Sandberg: It is a balance. Oftentimes, the creak down a dark hallway can be scarier than what we see. It could be anything. It’s all made up in your mind.
At the same time, you have to show a little bit, but then it’s a balance. There’s a shot of the demon in the mirror. At first, I thought we see it too clearly on what it is. We added dirt to the mirror. We made it warped. We tried to make it a little bit more creepy.
You have to kind of keep it in the shadows. You want to give people a little glimpse.
Do you depend on sneak peeks to get a feeling on what the audience like and doesn’t like? And then do you go back and finish the film?
David F. Sandberg: You do test screenings, yeah. On Lights Out, it was very clear there was a problem with the ending. We ended the movie a little bit earlier than originally. She came back again and they didn’t like that.
On this one, we were fortunate enough that people liked it coming out of the gate. Instead of having them tell us, “Oh, we don’t like this and we need to change that.” The studio was more like, “They liked it. Was there anything you want to improve on?” That allowed me to go back and tweaked some things.
For example, there’s a scarecrow in the barn. It was a later addition.
You mean with the stuff coming out of him.
David F. Sandberg: Yeah. Originally, when [the girl] was stuck inside the barn–the evil Mrs. Mullins was in there. You could see a little bit about that in the trailer out there actually. This isn’t happening and you can see hands come out to grab her.
I felt like it needed something extra. The scene worked and people didn’t complain about it. I felt like I wanted more so we put the scarecrow into it.
What’s with the ending to it? Are we going to end up with the Manson Family with this?
David F. Sandberg: It ties straight into the first Annabelle. We even used the footage from the first Annabelle. It’s with the neighbors waking to everything. You could put this [Annabelle: Creation] first and end up with a really long movie.
They do tie in straight into each other, in which I thought it was a lot of fun. We need about that when we were shooting and the audience will be, “Oh, I see!”
The horror aficionados will know all of this, right?
David F. Sandberg: We were worried about people who hadn’t seen the first one would end up being too confused.
I hadn’t seen the first one. I felt like it was the Manson Family coming up. I thought they were coming up to slaughter a family. Who knew?
David F. Sandberg: I knew Annabelle was Manson Family inspired anyways.
Do you think this brings a new twist towards life after death? Or possibly a new perspective on life after death?
David F. Sandberg: I don’t know.
Stephanie Sigman: I would have to think about that.
Aren’t you Catholic? [To Stephanie Sigman]
Stephanie Sigman: No, I’m Christian.
The whole idea of saying confession to you to me made me think, “She’s not a priest. Why would she say that to you?”
David F. Sandberg: Well, we don’t have a priest around. They’re improvising.
Stephanie Sigman: It’s not that traditional, I think. She’s not that traditional nun.
I saw the film for the first time at San Diego Comic-Con International. People were freaking out. There was one scene that drew a lot of laughter. I don’t know if it was on purpose or a throwback to films in the 1980s. There was a scene in the house when the nun tells the girls…
David F. Sanberg: Go back to bed. [Laughs]
Stephanie Sigman: What scene?
David F. Sanberg: It was after Mullies died and you go back to the girls to say, “Go back to bed.” [Laughs] People are laughing, because there are terrible things happening and you should go tuck in.
That’s one of those things that the studio got a little scared at the test screening and people laughed at that. “We’re not sure if that was a good laugh.” Well, that’s the way on how I shot it. I couldn’t really cut around it. A laugh is a laugh.
Stephanie, you came from Mexico where you are born. How do you see your career? Do you see it based here in Los Angeles? Or with international films?
Stephanie Sigman: I’m going to answer [previous topic] and then I’ll go to yours.
I feel like I had a lot of questions like that when I was in the film. Why am I saying that? Why am I doing that? He was tell me, “You have nowhere else to go with six children.” [Laughs] That’ll be the answer. To be honest, that’s what you’ll do. You have to do on what you can. It’ll happen with kids in situations like that. Where are you going to run? Nowhere? To the wild? I love it that people are laughing.
As for my career, I’ve been here for four years now. I’ve been working here and I’ve been doing good. I’ll stay for a while and see on what happens. I do want to go back to Mexico and do an independent movie. I miss that too, but I haven’t found a script that I wanted to do.
What do you look for when you say ‘yes’ to a movie?
Stephanie Sigman: I don’t know if it’s something that I could easily explain to you. I must be something that I can connect to, but not in a very conscience level and more emotional. I connect with it or I don’t. It has to be with the story and the character.
Sometimes I don’t know on what I’m looking for next. I do like that, because it brings me projects like Annabelle. I didn’t really know back then that I was going to do a horror movie, or play a nun, and here I am.
Or even with a Bond movie, I wasn’t specifically looking for that. So I’m opened.
So how close are you casting Shazam?
David F. Sandberg: I can’t really talk about that. That’s something that I noticed about that whole world. As soon as you say anything, people will start speculating and there’ll be blog posts about it. [Laughs] I don’t dare to say anything.
Until something is signed, right? Can you say if the production will start by the end of year?
David F. Sandberg: Am I allowed to say anything on that? Well, it’s coming up. We’re moving ahead very quickly.
You’ll have to understand with us nerds–we don’t have any girlfriends or anything. We have to speculate everything. [Laughs]
Annabelle: Creation will be playing in theaters nationwide next Friday, August 11.