James Wan rose to fame after directing "Saw" in 2004, but never shepherded another "Saw" film to the big screen. (There have been six other films in the horror franchise.) Wan is diplomatic about what happened to the series after his departure, noting only that the sequels missed the point of his original film. That's something Wan's perhaps more mindful of than ever as he was recently hired to take over the "Fast & Furious" franchise from Justin Lin, the man who successful helmed the last four "Fast" features.
Wan's current project, however, is "The Conjuring." The movie, with no gore and very little violence, infamously netted itself an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for being "too scary." Too scary! Based on true events, "The Conjuring" follows the Perron family (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor play husband and wife) who seek the help of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) after some very bizarre events happen in their newly purchased farmhouse.
Here, Wan discusses his intensely scary movie and the events that inspired them, and, yes, looks ahead to what we might expect to see in "Fast & Furious 7."
I'm not the biggest fan of horror movies because I scare very easily. This movie is very scary, but I think even non-horror fans will like this movie.
Definitely. I think that was really the plan, you know? We basically set out to make a drama -- that's basically what it is. The movie really is a drama about a family that is moving to a house and dealing with a situation that they have. And it's also about another family and what they're going through as well. And it just so happens that what they're both going through is that of the supernatural. But it could have been any kind of situation, really.
It kind of has a "Poltergeist" vibe to it.
Here's the thing: The really interesting fact is that I think, in a lot of ways, "Poltergeist" -- especially when the paranormal people and the psychic came to help out the family -- I think [Zelda Rubinstein's character] was, in a lot of ways, based on Lorraine Warren. So, even back then, they were pretty well known already.
Also because there are some non-believers of this sort of stuff camped out at the house, too.
And, yeah, from a faith standpoint, it happens to a family that's not really "of faith," so to speak. Yet, the Warrens, it didn't really matter to them and ended up helping them anyway.
The faith aspect is interesting. This is based on a true story, and as a viewer I want to take the Perron family at their word, but I would have to accept so much else on top of that ...
I know what you mean. You kind of have to accept all the baggage that comes with going along with who they say they are, right?
I feel that if I choose to believe the Perron family's story as fact, I also feel that I have to accept the entire Catholic faith as fact, too.
Well, let me ask you: A lot of people just go along with "The Exorcist," right? And that is an extremely faith-based movie. But even non-believers just kind of go along with it, just because they love the film. I guess what I say with this particular movie is, well, I'm not here to ask you to believe in what they believe, so to speak. But this is who the characters are and this is what makes them tick. And this is the journey they've gone on.
For sure. It doesn't affect my enjoyment of the film, but it's impossible not to ask myself "Did this stuff actually happen?"
[Laughs] Yeah, I know exactly what you mean, yes.
You got yourself an R rating for just "being too scary," even though there's nothing too gory or anything like that in the film. Was that almost a point of pride?
I'm not quite sure how to feel about that. When that first happened, I really set out to make a movie that, yes, from a content level, it really ticked all of the boxes that the MPAA would have wanted for a PG-13. I was very cautious and very mindful of how much to show, because the movie is actually not very violent in any way at all.
So you were trying to shoot a PG-13 movie?
In some ways, I was keeping that in the back of my mind. Only because I did not want to make a very violent movie at all. So, when you're setting out to do that, you go, "OK, maybe because this is a PG-13 film?" But, now having said that, I wasn't quite sure what rating I was going to get, per se. Because I was kind of straddling that fine line and, at the end of the day, I really feel like I've made a grown up movie. And, so, the R rating, to me, isn't really a factor, so to speak.
Correct me if I'm wrong: I feel from reading some quotes that you've given that you aren't 100 percent pleased where the "Saw" franchise went after you left.
Well, OK, let me clarify that. I'm extremely grateful for what the "Saw" franchise has given me. And I think it's really hard and I think they did an amazing job with all of the sequels, knowing how tricky it is. Because the movie is such a pretzel puzzle box of a film. And to try and continue that formula, it's very tricky. And the fact that they made, basically, six sequels from that is quite impressive. And the fact that the fans love it adamantly is an even more amazing thing. Here's my only thing: I guess I feel like the sequel ultimately ended up focusing on the wrong things. I felt that people kind of missed the point of the first movie. That it wasn't just about the blood and the guts and the gory stuff, right? It had a cool twist. It had a cool storyline. It found kind of a new angle to a serial killer story. And, so, that was the only thing that I felt it could have stayed more closer to the first film.
As far as taking over established franchises, are you mindful of what you just said about "Saw" as you're now taking over Justin Lin's "Fast and Furious" movies? I say that knowing Rob Cohen directed the first one, but they feel like Justin Lin's movies now.
I know, yeah no one kind of credits Rob Cohen or even John Singleton for the second one.
They definitely became something else under Justin Lin's direction.
And I should say this, I feel like the first bunch of films were really fun for what they are. And I think what Justin did was he actually took it in a different direction. It's the only franchise I know of that kind of got better as the series went along. At least the last two were.
But you're going to have to want to put your own spin on "Fast 7," right? I swear I didn't mean that as a pun.
[Laughs] Oh, wait, you don't want me to take the franchise in a left turn? No?
That's a good one. You win.
Yes, I do. My thing is I do want to honor the world that the filmmakers and the cast have kind of created, right? The world that has gone along so far and made it so enjoyable for all of the fans. But, of course, at the same time, I want to put my own spin on it. If I don't put my own stamp on it, I won't have any interest in pursuing this movie at all. And I think what what i would love to bring to it is, my spin, would be more tension and suspense -- that's what I want to bring to the action of this movie and the drama of this film.
And technically "Tokyo Drift" takes place between "Fast and Furious 6" and your movie.
Yeah, it's pretty fun, the timeline that they've played with. In a lot of ways, it's kind of like the timeline that we play with in the "Saw" films, actually.
Exactly. And you're now involved in two franchises that did that.
And here's the irony: I actually have no involvement in those timelines -- [laughs] in either of those two timelines.
I feel that's an interesting combination with a "Fast and Furious" movie and your horror background.
Hopefully. You know, the thing is, I don't think Justin had made any action movies before he took on the "Fast" franchise either. So, I've kind of take for what that is as well. My third movie was a little action-revenge film that not that many people saw, but I did dabble a little bit in that world. And that's a world that I love and I want to get back into. So, I finally have the chance to graduate and move on from the horror genre -- which I love, but I think as a filmmaker and artist it's time to grow and do something different.
This is kind of a stupid question because these movies are so successful, but as far as "graduating," why did you pick this particular franchise?
Well, you know, for many different reasons. I'm a fan of the franchise and I'm a fan of those films.
There seems like there would be some pressure, too. These movies have been making a lot of money.
There is. But it's one of those things, you know. You're right: Big shoes to fill with coming in with number seven and coming off of number five and number six that everyone really loved. So, I really do feel the pressure. But, you know, if you have to go into a particular franchise, there could not be a better one to come into. Do you know what i mean? Coming on something that's actually on the upswing [laughs] as opposed to something on the downswing. And I get to basically work with these actors that I really admire as well and I get to work with the producer, Neal Moritz, who I always wanted to make a movie with. And, you know, just do something really big. I've always wanted to make basically the big, giant, summer blockbuster action films and I feel like this could be a cool one to get my feet wet.
"Fast & Furious 7" does qualify for those descriptions.
It totally qualifies, for sure.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.