Now on DVD: ‘The Conjuring 2’s’ Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson find ‘the sweet spot of pain and performance’

In The Conjuring 2, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as the real-life paranormal investigation team, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens travel to England to assist the Hodgson family, who are experiencing poltergeist activity at their Enfield neighborhood home in 1977. James Wan is also back reprising his director’s role.

In 1971, the Warrens investigated the case of the Perron family in Rhode Island. This case was the basis of The Conjuring. The Conjuring 2 begins in 1976 with the Warrens investigating The Amityville Horror case. The Amityville haunting garnered worldwide attention, and the Warrens themselves became media sensations due to their involvement. Thus, when a poltergeist starts wreaking havoc in an Enfield neighborhood home in London, garnering widespread attention in 1977, the Church calls the Warrens in to investigate. The poltergeist is terrorizing the Hodgson family, consisting of mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor), her 13-year-old daughter Margaret, 10-year-old son Johnny and 9-year-old son Billy. Her 11-year-old daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe), however, seems to be the main target of the poltergeist.

Despite all the turmoil in the film, there’s a tender scene of Wilson playing the guitar. Since he’s not known for being a musician, we started off the interview by talking about that scene.

Wilson: “That was the first scene he wrote when he came back on board. He texted me one night and asked if I could play guitar. I said, ‘kind of. Why?’ I think James knew he wanted something different for [our characters]. The only thing I wanted was to do it live. There’s nothing worse when it’s amazing and canned and masterful. Let me practice and just do it. I’m a hack I admit, but let him do what he does. I kept waiting for, ‘the music department wants you to come in and re-record it,’ but they never did.”

Farmiga: “He had a huge challenge that day. His family dog died. To sing through grief like that is a remarkable feat.”

Though no strange occurrences happened on The Conjuring 2 set, they did share some stories from the set of the first film.

Wilson: “They blessed the [Conjuring 2] set. I know it’s a tradition in some other countries. A couple squirrely things happened on the first one. I remember one of the young girls got bruises all over her. I didn’t talk about this doing press for the first one, because it happened to a kid. I’m a parent and I’m not going to talk about it just to get a good article. When we were in the press line for the first film, I heard her talking about it so I’m like, ‘I guess we can talk about it.’ She showed up one day with these bruises and there’s no reason for that. Kids don’t do stunts. They just showed up one day and went away towards the end of shooting.”

Farmiga: “I was really petrified during the first Conjuring. The research into negative mysticism really terrified me. I couldn’t sleep and I’d always wake up at 3:53 or whatever. The first draft had a different time and that’s when I’d always wake up. I was paralyzed with fear. We had moved a mattress up to the master bedroom where the kids slept and I’d wake up terrified that they’d be levitating. When we visited Lorraine for the first film, I wouldn’t even go into the occult museum.”

Back in 2013, The Conjuring made $318 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. When a film becomes an unqualified box office hit, a sequel seems inevitable. Add in the fact that the Warrens worked dozens of cases, and there was plenty of fodder for the sequel. Farmiga and Wilson didn’t have any trepidation about revisiting the Warrens.

Farmiga: “We didn’t have a choice [laughs]. We were already signed up for three. They had us hook, line and sinker. Especially when James signed back on, it was a joy for us.”

Wilson: “When you have a big hit, if they couldn’t get James, you knew they’d get a big name director because who doesn’t want to be a part of this franchise. I’m not saying this with any arrogance. The movie did so well commercially and critically. That almost never happens. I knew we’d be taken care of. We had such a great relationship with Warner Bros. and New Line that I knew they’d take care of us.”

Farmiga: “We’re ultimately responsible for our own roles. It’s going to be as good as how much you apply yourself. You know it’s very difficult for lightning to strike again. You can’t think about people judging a sequel a certain way. You can’t think about things like that. You just have to stay true to your character. We didn’t get the script until we had already signed on to do it. We didn’t see a script for over a year after we said okay. It had gone through at least a few versions before we ended up seeing it.”

The Amityville case and the Enfield case both caused a lot of controversy. Both were highly publicized cases and highly publicized cases always bring out a lot of vocal supporters, as well as the vocal skeptics. When the Warrens became worldwide celebrities in the late 1970s, they too garnered their share of supporters and skeptics. Both actors welcome the skepticism, to a point.

Wilson: “Skepticism is important. Like if you’re going to talk about God, you have to have an atheist in the room.”

Farmiga: “We all have a definition of God that works for us. I honor what that is for [Lorraine]. It’s made her into a beautiful, compassionate, joyful person. That’s really powerful for me. Her grace is undeniable. I don’t like people crapping on her because I know her personally. She’s helped a lot of families come through very dark moments. Whether or not you believe in positive or negative mysticism, she does.”

A film shoot is always demanding. When a film like The Conjuring 2 is both physically AND emotionally demanding, there’s always that one scene that stands out for any actor as the most difficult to shoot. Both actors agree that the film’s climax was the most arduous.

Farmiga: “That final banishment was the most difficult scene. Physically, you’re hanging from a couple of hooks. Your clavicles are hooked up to the wall and yet, you’re supposed to try to move forward. And to be honest with you, who knows how to banish devilry? It’s tough because it’s operatic stuff. You want to be earnest or else it’s not going to work.”

Wilson: “The same sequence – being in that room for days on end, hanging out of the window with water and glass. Even though you’re strapped to a cable, you want it to be difficult enough so you get to the point of physical exhaustion so it looks right. You’re trying to find the sweet spot of pain and performance.”

The Conjuring 2 is now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

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