INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2
Bringing Back the Lamberts: About the Casting
Insidious: Chapter 2 features a multi-generational family dealing with ghosts -- from grandmother and parents all the way down to young children and a baby. Even the film's ghost hunters span older and younger generations.
The father of the family is Josh Lambert, played once again by Patrick Wilson, who marks his third collaboration with Wan. In addition to Insidious, Wilson also starred in Wan's recently released The Conjuring, which is based on a true story of a family that encounters spirits in their New England farmhouse.
The Josh Lambert of Chapter 2 is hardly the same person he was in Insidious, however, according to Wilson. "He's literally vacant because he's possessed. We know that he's possessed, but will Renai find out? It's structured like a murder mystery with this husband and wife not getting along and her trying to figure out why that is. She wants to believe her husband, but he's acting bizarrely."
In fact, Wilson's character is so different that it's essentially a new role for the actor, says Whannell. "Patrick had such a good role and a good time because he's actually not playing Josh Lambert from the first film, and he really took to that. He ate it up. He couldn't get enough of it and he really contributed so much to making the film work with his character."
Indeed, Wilson says he relished playing the Lambert father under the control of a sinister spirit. "For me, those moments when I'm 'possessed Josh' and mowing through doors and walls are the most fun," he recalls. "It's a great release."
Wilson says he was never a big fan of horror films that reveled in gore, but has always responded to those that focus on more human elements. "It was those films that didn't rely on a lot of tricks that terrified me as a kid," he remembers. "They were human stories. And that's what interested me with this film. It feels like an adult drama played out as a horror movie, and it also has humorous elements. For me, whether it's a horror movie, an action movie, a comedy, whatever, you have to care about the people. And specifically in a horror movie you have to be rooting for people, especially when they're a family in peril."
The actor praises Wan for his ability to move beyond genre tropes and create a character-driven horror film.
"He can construct these scares and knows this genre better than anyone," Wilson says. "He's just one of the most creative filmmakers we have. I wouldn't work with him so much if I didn't feel that, and I'm lucky that he wants to work with me. Most of all, he understands that in order for people to get invested in these characters you have to let them breathe; you have to hear their story."
Australian native Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class, Bridesmaids, 28 Weeks Later) reprises her role as Josh's wife, Renai. At the start of Chapter 2, her character is still shaken by the events that transpired in the first film and is spiraling into depression.
"It's literally a day later and she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown," Byrne explains. "She's thrown into action and, because of the events around her, that takes all her energy -- she's just trying to keep it together."
In the first film, Byrne notes, Renai and Josh are united in their fight against the demons that are haunting their family. But that's not the case in Insidious: Chapter 2.
"Josh is the one who is possessed in this film, but in the first few scenes it's sort of played down," the actress says. "He's kind of acting strange and dismissing Renai's neuroses and her nervous breakdown, and then he slowly starts to unravel during the second half of the film. This time I'm really by myself."
Byrne says she was initially attracted to the project by the complexity of the story and the characters. "I saw it as a family drama that turns into a thriller and, for me as an actor, that is definitely the way you can empathize with the situation and make a reality of it. It's definitely more sophisticated than just a simple horror film."
Byrne also knew how skilled Wan is at delivering onscreen scares. "The first time I saw Insidious, I was just terrified," she recalls. "I couldn't even watch it at night; I had to watch it in the middle of the day, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still terrified."
The filmmakers brought back Academy Award-nominee Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, The Portrait of a Lady) to portray Josh's mother and the Lambert family matriarch, Lorraine Lambert. The actress notes it's the first time in her distinguished career that she has been cast in a sequel to one of her own films (the same is also true for Wilson and Byrne).
"Coming back is definitely easy because we all know each other and are relaxed with each other now," says Hershey, who also played a woman tormented by a demon in the 1982 classic The Entity. "I really think having good actors and a good script allows audience members to get more involved with and identify with the characters."
"I've always thought that if you care about people and you care about what happens to them, then you get really frightened for them," she says. "I just think it heightens everything. And the fact that James was doing a character-oriented film made it seem like a great project to do."
In Chapter 2, Hershey notes, the action gets off to a running start, with things already on edge and her character taking an active role in solving the mystery.
"Lorraine is now part of the gang, especially as she joins Specs and Tucker on their explorations into the supernatural," she says, referring to the film's two untested ghost hunters. "In this film, the death of Elise is like the elephant in the room; it informs the whole film and permeates every scene. They all loved Elise. Lorraine was her friend. And Carl, the psychic, who's from my past, also has a connection to her."
The return of character actress Lin Shaye (There's Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber) in the role of hypnotist and supernatural expert Elise Rainier may come as a surprise to Insidious fans, given that her character was mysteriously killed at the end of the original.
"During the first movie, James was going back and forth about having me killed at the end because he wanted me back if there was a sequel," Shaye recalls. "And then he remembered that we were making a ghost movie, of course there was a place for me to come back in The Further."
Shaye says she wasn't surprised by the success of the first film and is pleased to be back for the second installment.
"James was paying homage to the genre -- to Hitchcock and some of the early horror thrillers like Poltergeist -- in terms of building characters and the feeling of the film," she says. "And the first film looked so beautiful. It drew you right in."
The actress says the appeal of the film stemmed in large measure from Wan's awareness of the power of exploiting basic childhood fears.
"He talked about using really human elements of comfort that we all have -- our family, our bedroom, our children, our front door, our piano; things that give you joy -- and then kind of turning them on their heads," Shaye says. "So it was clear from the start; we knew he was going to lure people in. You kind of fall in love with the family a little bit and worry about them. So he achieved what he set out to do, and I think that's one of the reasons it appealed to everybody."
Shaye predicts audiences will find Insidious: Chapter 2 even more chilling than its predecessor, in part because of the deterioration of Wilson's Josh into a possessed person capable of murder.
"It's scary on a whole different kind of level, and it's completely realized by an actor of his caliber," she says. "But what's also a factor is that these are already beloved characters that the audience has embraced, so they're going to come to the movie already rooting for them."
Shaye says her character posed some interesting challenges for Wan, given that she has dwelled primarily in The Further when we meet her in Chapter 2. Shaye and the director had several discussions about how Elise would have changed in the interim.
"You still want to keep the elements that attracted people to Elise, which are her humanity and love of what she does," Shaye notes. "She's a nurturer and she's there to help and to solve the problems the Lamberts are having. Because she's in The Further, I wanted to include a bit of sadness, but also a delight in being there. The bottom line is that we're all going to end up dead someday anyway and we're all going to end up passing through this place. And we hope some energy continues."
Whannell, an actor as well as a screenwriter, reprises his Insidious role as Specs -- one half of the ghost-hunting duo that frequently assists Elise. The other half is Tucker, played by Angus Sampson. Sampson met the filmmakers when they were in college in Melbourne. They ended up casting him in a promotional spot for a short film they were making and the trio have remained friends ever since.
"I guess you could say we're the comic relief, but it's a fine line to walk," Whannell says of Specs and Tucker, who take over Elise's paranormal-activity business after she dies at the end of the first film.
Sampson agrees: "James did not want our characters to be comical. If they're both coming in and being scared in the same way, it can be kind of ho-hum. They both need to be scared -- to share that same destination -- but they must get there in different ways."
To research the role, Whannell and Sampson spent time with a team of actual ghost hunters whose outings included a visit to Linda Vista Community Hospital in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The building, which serves as one of the film's most spine-tingling locations, has earned a degree of notoriety in the paranormal community as a real-life haunted hospital.
For the role of the Lambert's eldest son, Dalton -- who was the main subject of Insidious -- the filmmakers brought back Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3). As often happens with young actors, there was some concern about how much Simpkins and the actor playing his younger brother, Andrew Astor (The Hangover), would have grown since completing Insidious.
"The fact that the story picks up directly from the first one was difficult," Wan confesses. "Luckily, at their young ages, they still hadn't changed too much."
Wilson concurs, joking, "We added a couple of inches to their pajamas and they were good to go!"
Interestingly, it's the third time Simpkins has played Wilson's son in a film (the first time was in director Todd Field's critically acclaimed 2006 drama, Little Children). For Simpkins, returning to the role after three years was made easier by the genuine emotions evoked on set.
"I basically play myself, but with a little twist," says Simpkins. "Even when we're not filming and the ghosts are around, I start getting scared. But when they say 'action,' that's when I get really scared. So it's kind of easy for me to get into character."
One of a handful of new characters introduced in Insidious: Chapter 2 is Carl Stanaway, a soft-spoken psychic and former friend and colleague of Elise. For that part, the filmmakers cast Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games), an Atlanta-based actor and writer who also co-stars in The Conjuring.
"Carl is a reluctant semi-hero," Coulter says of his character. "He has a gift for communicating with spirits, but I don't think he's really happy about that. He doesn't want to do any of this. Even the first time he's communing with the spirits, it doesn't work very well. So he's not very confident. His skills are kind of like a curse to him."
Carl uses his psychic skills to communicate with Elise in The Further and to help Josh, who is in the midst of battling the demon attempting to possess him. His main means of connecting with the spirit world is a set of lettered ivory dice that he carries in a leather pouch.
"Basically, he asks questions and he gets answers through the dice," Coulter says. "It's his only skill. It's the only thing he's good at."
The filmmakers had the challenge of casting younger versions of several of the film's characters -- a requirement stemming from the decision to have portions of the film take place in 1986 in order to reveal the origins of the entity that is haunting Josh.
For the young Josh Lambert, the filmmakers cast a relative newcomer, 13-year-old Garrett Ryan (Trust). For the role of Young Lorraine Lambert, a single mother and nurse, they cast Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil); for the part of Young Elise Rainier, they cast Lindsay Seim (NBC's "The Event"); and for the young version of Carl Stanaway, they cast Hank Harris (Pumpkin).
Although Donahue doesn't act in any scenes with Hershey, she says she met with the acclaimed actress and studied her various film performances in order to portray the younger version of her character.
"Hopefully I captured some of her mannerisms," says Donahue, who won the 2009 Screamfest Award for Best Actress for her part in Ti West's 2009 cult horror film, The House of the Devil. "But she is one of a kind."
Two other notable character additions in Insidious: Chapter 2 are Parker Crane, a coma-ward patient with a troubled past, and his mother, Michelle, a flamboyant and evil woman guilty of horrendously abusing her son. Veteran character actor Tom Fitzpatrick (The Salton Sea) plays Parker, while Tyler James Griffin (Golden Winter) plays him as a boy. Danielle Bisutti (upcoming Curse of Chucky, Nickelodeon's True Jackson, VP) plays Michelle.
Although the mysterious red-faced demon from the first film (portrayed by Insidious composer Joseph Bishara) is not featured in Insidious: Chapter 2, there is a visit by the character known as the Long Haired Fiend -- the demon who stalks Baby Cali -- once again played by actor J. LaRose.
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