Interview: Leigh Whannell | INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2

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After exploding onto the scene with Saw, Leigh Whannell has made quite the name for himself in the horror community. Effortlessly switching between writing and acting, the 37-year old Australian has been involved in a plethora of choice chillers, such as the first three Saw movies, Dead Silence and the Insidious series. With Insidious: Chapter 2 hitting DVD/Blu-ray this week, we caught up with Leigh Whannell to talk about the sequel and more. Read on for a preview of our interview, which will be available in full in Issue 397, on sale January 17th... 

Starburst: With the sequel, did you and James consider any other routes to take it or was what we saw in Insidious: Chapter 2 always the plan?

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, we did. When we first sat down to talk about it, we had many different ways we could go; we thought about making a prequel at one stage; we thought about the film being the story of Josh Lambert back when he was a kid, and that idea, I guess, ended up being the opening scene of Insidious: Chapter 2… but at one stage it was going to be the whole film. Then we talked about other different angles; maybe we could have a different family and what they’re going through. Then finally we decided we wanted to finish off the Lamberts’ story. We obviously ended the first film – I don’t think I’m ruining anything by saying – with an open ending; Josh was possessed and you didn’t know what was going to happen. So, once we decided to go in that direction, it really set the film on a really straight course… all the pieces were there, we knew the questions that we had to ask.

So where do you get the ideas for these films from and what movies inspired yourself; what particular horrors and thrillers stood out to you?

To answer the first question, I mean, you say where do we get our ideas from? That is the eternal question – I wish someone would write a book called ‘Where You Get Your Ideas From,’ which would outline where they come from. But, to me, ideas are the most mysterious things in the world; they are like little nuggets of gold that just float around in your subconscious. And if you think of your subconscious as this big swamp that just absorbs everything you’ve ever seen or heard… I feel like ideas float around in there and every now and again one of them will float to the surface and pop into your conscious mind and you’ll have an idea. But I really obsess on this subject, it’s actually really interesting, now you mention this, because I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently; about where ideas come from. I don’t know where they come from. It’s such a mysterious, ethereal thing to talk about, and I wish that I could make ideas appear in my brain on command. Sometimes I’ll sit out in my backyard with a notepad, and I’ll sit down and I’ll go, “Right, idea time!” Then I’ll just stare out at the horizon for 3 hours and nothing will happen. It’s really frustrating! I’ll put the pad and pen down, and I’ll go and do something else… maybe I’ll go driving off somewhere, and whilst I’m on the way to go and get lunch, all of a sudden, from nowhere, when I’m not thinking about it, an idea will hit me. So it’s a really mysterious process. As far as what films have influenced me, and there’s been so many, it depends on which part of my life you’re talking about. When I was really young, it was your standard Spielberg/Lucas film – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Star Wars – that was really the crucible for me. And then, when I was in high school, a teacher I had introduced me to more grown-up cult films, like Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver… I started really getting into those. Then when I went to film school, that’s when it got really artsy. I was watching films about Yoko Ono having salad applied to her face, and two hour Andy Warhol films that were just a shot of a building… and you had to sit there, stroking your chin, pretending that you’re getting the meaning of it all. So it’s been sort of an up and down period, but I remember in my teens I was obsessed with anything horror; I was obsessed with the Freddy films. One of the things that I like about the Saw films is that kids will come up to me today and say that Jigsaw, to them, is what Freddy Krueger was to me… and he really is. I think I can say, without any embarrassment, that Jigsaw sits alongside Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers now.

There’s been an eighth Saw film rumoured. It’s a little hazy whether it’s a continuation or a reboot. Do you have any involvement in that at all?

No. Over the years, a lot of people have asked James and I would we be interested in going back and making another Saw film, maybe a reboot or a continuation. And it’s something that I have a lot of affection for – but I think, what excites me the most about filmmaking and storytelling, is introducing the world to a new set of characters, to something they haven’t seen before. And I do feel like Saw has run its course within me creatively. That’s not to say that someone else with a fresh set of eyes couldn’t give it a completely different spin, but I feel like there’s so many other stories that I want to tell. I feel like people would be excited about it for the 5 minutes in which that announcement dominated the small corner of the Internet where people care about horror news. I could just imagine if I said, “Yep, I’m going to write the next Saw film,” there’d be a few headlines and people such as yourself might write about it and say, “The original one has returned.” Then once that initial surprise was finished, it would just be me in a room with a computer and no one would be forgiving… it would just be like, “Well now you’ve gotta produce the goods.” I feel like no one would really care once that announcement had been made. I feel like I just have too many other stories that I would want to write. Look out for Cooties - that’s a horror comedy that I wrote with a friend of mine, coming out this year sometime.

James has come out himself and said, in terms of directing, he’s seemingly done with horror. Is there any chance that you could see yourself directing the third Insidious?

I’ve thought a lot about that actually. I haven’t even made up my mind. What I want to do is write a third film and then, sort of, almost take off my writing hat and give myself amnesia somehow; read the script as though someone else has presented it to me as somebody else’s script and see if I really like it. If I really like it, I think there’s a chance that I could direct it. It really depends on how the script turns out for me and whether I’d be the guy for the job. But even somebody else directing it, if it wasn’t me, I’d want to be closely involved just to make sure that they really got the world of Insidious right.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is out now on DVD/Blu-ray. To read our full length interview with Leigh Whannell, check out STARBURST Issue 397, on sale January 17th.

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