When we heard that Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell were coming in for an Empire webchat we did what any self-respecting journalist would do and hid. Turns out there was really no need. They were totally lovely and, besides, the sharpest object in the office is a stuffed Yoda. The Aussie pair have moved away from body horror with their latest scarefest, Insidious, and stopped by for an entirely deathtrap-free 45 minutes to answer questions about that, as well as Saw, sandwiches and The Shining...
Big_Pants says: Hi James and Leigh. I'm going to the Insidious screening and Q&A tonight, should I wear waterproof undies? The TV spot I saw the other day required a trip to the toilet.
James Wan: It is pretty scary, but that's only Leigh. Wait till you see the film!!!
Leigh Whannell: Maybe wear them just in case. Even if you don't wet yourself during the film, it might rain later and they could help then.
Giger says: Will we see an "R/18"-rated cut on Blu-ray, or was it always intended as a "PG-13/15" film?
James Wan: This theatrical cut is my cut, which rarely happens.
Leigh Whannell: You don't really need gore for a haunted house film. It's scarier without blood.
James Wan: [It's] just the nature of the film, it doesn't warrant such a hard rating. But it's still creepy as hell!!
DavidB6937 says: James/Leigh - having witnessed you at the Momentum panel at KAPOW!, you both clearly have a great sense of humour. Would you ever be interested in doing a comedy-horror in the mould of Shaun Of The Dead or a crazy Aussie one like Peter Jackson's Bad Taste/Braindead, etc.?
Leigh Whannell: I actually just wrote a film in the vein of Braindead! A comedy horror I wrote with the creator of Glee.
James Wan: I hope he makes it. It's super funny - like Whannell is.
Leigh Whannell: James and I would like to one day make a romantic comedy.
James Wan: ...or a teen comedy.
steve mcclean says: I'm always amazed when new filmmakers arrive on the scene with a debut film that costs millions to make. How do you make that leap from non professional enthusiast and persuade a big film company to give you all that cash when you don't have a professional filmmaking track record? I guess an amazing script like Saw helps of course, but do you have to sell it as a whole package to ensure you are allowed to direct/star?
Leigh Whannell: We did sell it as a whole package - James had to be the director and I had to act in it.
James Wan: Well, Saw didn't cost millions to make. In fact, it was super low-budget, very indie. The script is key. What Leigh and I did was pick a scene from the Saw script and shot it as a short film. This short became our calling-card.
Leigh Whannell: Bollocks. Sorry, the Empire guys told me I could swear.
Charlene says: Hey guys, any thought on the big bad from Insidious (who is scary as HELL by the way) bearing such a resemblance on Darth Maul? Was this a purposeful allusion to Star Wars or did he just turn out that way. Loved Insidious by the way - saw it last night in Dublin.
James Wan: Leigh and I are big fans of Episode One, Two and Three. We think four to six are lame. JOKING!!!
Leigh Whannell: It was between Darth Maul and Jar Jar Binks. We couldn't decide which one our villain should look like. Demons have had red faces for a long time in films and literature.
James Wan: I wanted to create a demon that was based on the familiar iconic image of what a demon looks like - hooved feet, forked tongue, tail - but give it my own spin, with the lipstick painted face. Maybe if I didn't pick the colour red, and say, it was purple, people would ask me why I based the villain after Barney the Dinosaur.
Leigh Whannell: I know what you mean, though. I was outraged when the demon from that Tenacious D movie looked like the demon from Legend.
Leonard Fender says: If you guys had to be trapped in one Saw contraption, which would you choose? You have ten seconds to answer!!!!
James Wan: Omg, omg, omg. Ummm...
Leigh Whannell: The jawtrap 'cos I'd cut the person open real quick.
James Wan: Yes, agree with Leigh.
Leigh Whannell: Especially if it was James with the key in his gut.
James Wan: Especially if the body I had to cut up was Leigh's!
Leigh Whannell: I beat James to the punchline!
crimebusterofthesea says: What do you both think the legacy of the Saw films will be? Have they changed the horror movie landscape for the better?
James Wan: For the better? Hmmm. Did Nightmare or Halloween do it?? Not sure.
Leigh Whannell: I think Jigsaw will be remembered as the Freddy Krueger type figure for the kids of the new millennium.
James Wan: But hopefully we've given a new generation their Freddy or their Michael Myers, like we grew up with.
DavidB6937 says: Leigh, how is it to be both a writer and actor on the same film? Does it help to do both or do you get pulled in different directions? And James, have you ever been tempted to branch out in that direction?
Leigh Whannell: It's interesting to act and write in the same film. When you act lines that you've written, you quickly find out whether they work or not. It's a great writers' bootcamp. It's weird though, for sure.
James Wan: As Mel Gibson said during his acceptance speech for Braveheart, "As a director, all I want to do is: act".
Leigh Whannell: James has a great singing voice.
James Wan: But seriously, no, I have no desire to act. However, I do write, but I feel there are better writers out there than me. And that I shouldn't play screenwriter.
ChrisM says: James & Leigh - As a horror director/writer and fan of horror, it must be pretty tough for you to be scared by any movies. Are there any that still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If so, which movies?!
Leigh Whannell: The Shining!
James Wan: I think the last scary movie to have an effect was Paranormal Activity.
Leigh Whannell: Plus Lost Highway, and any Lynch stuff.
Bevboys says: Have you seen A Serbian Film and do you think it pushed the envelope too far?
Leigh Whannell: I haven't seen it yet.
James Wan: I haven't seen it. Leigh and I don't hunt down movies that are controversial for the sake of being controversial, but if it's a good movie, we'll catch it.
brick says: What are the upsides/downsides of working with such a low budget in Insidious? Is it perhaps more creatively liberating as opposed to the pressure of more expensive films like Dead Silence?
Leigh Whannell: The upside with writing is that you don't have hordes of people looking over your shoulder giving you "notes". What you write actually ends up onscreen.
James Wan: It is creatively more liberating. Leigh and I are allowed to let our imagination go and not be forced to make something we're not into. But the downside is that you don't get the filmmaking toys to play that all directors love: like crane shots, cool equipment, building the sets, etc. But it's all a trade-off.
Leigh Whannell: The downside is that you can't really let your imagination run wild because they're are very tight restrictions on what the production can afford.
James Wan: The good thing with Insidious is that its a pretty straight forward movie from a production standpoint
Leigh Whannell: Personally, I LOVE the indie way of doing things.
James Wan: I want to make Michael Bay-esque movies, but Leigh is holding me back.
Leigh Whannell: Damn right I am!
James Wan: He's always going on about the importance of the script, blah blah blah.
biffy88 says: Are you guys here to stay in the horror genre or can we expect something more like Death Sentence next?
Leigh Whannell: Well, James and I are talking about a sci-fi project. Really excited about it. I think it would be a good move for us to make something out of the horror genre.
James Wan: Action film is my fave genre.
steve mcclean says: Poltergeist being possibly my favourite horror film, I'm excited to hear that film being cited by critics as an influence on Insidious. Was it a conscious influence for you or is it just the critics making it up!?
Leigh Whannell: I think the reason Poltergeist gets cited by critics is because it's the most popular haunted house film of modern times. It's like comparing a shark film to Jaws or a possession movie to The Exorcist. I think it's kind of lazy. Haunted house films all have mediums and paranormal investigators, not just ours and Poltergeist. But we do love Poltergeist.
ChrisM: James & Leigh - Do either of you actually believe in the supernatural?
James Wan: YES. Whole-heartedly.
Leigh Whannell: Hmmm... good question. I WANT to believe. I'll say this - I believe that there are many many, many things in this world and this universe that science cannot explain. There are many mysteries out there and it would be foolish, I think, to say that there is nothing supernatural out there because no-one can really say for sure...
James Wan: Leigh is quoting the tag for X-Files.
AgentMcQueen says: Why do you think the horror genre doesn't get much respect in awards ceremonies?
|It's sad to say it but the quality of most horror films is not good enough for awards shows|
James Wan: I second what Leigh said.
Long Pants Tramp: Of the three movies you've now made together as a writer/director team, which is the most accomplished or your personal favourite - or is it too difficult to decide?
James Wan: INSIDIOUS! Even though it's our cheapest film, I think it's our most accomplished work.
Leigh Whannell: Hmmm. I love the twists of Saw and the fact that it is our first film makes it my personal favourite for sentimental reasons. But I think Insidious is our most accomplished so far.
James Wan: I'm no longer a first time director, which meant I knew what I could or couldn't do on set with the budget. Also experience has made me more focused on my craft, and I know how to get what I want now.
Cheese Bored: If you could steal one thing from the Empire office, what would you pick?
James Wan: Spike Jonze's hair clippings.
Leigh Whannell: The helmet from Gladiator!
James Wan: Actually, I'm playing with myself under the table, whilst using the Darth Vader doll.
Leigh Whannell: Ummm... that's me signing off.
James Wan: Oh, I wasn't supposed to be honest during these chats??
Leigh Whannell: No.
Quentin_Cappucino says: Would you guys make an Alien Vs Predator movie if you were asked, and what would the plot be?
James Wan: Tom Rothman is that you??
Leigh Whannell: We were asked actually! I don't know why we turned it down. It was back when James had integrity. Now he'd sell his mother to Russian black market organ dealer to do second unit on Fast And Furious.
Leonard Fender: On the IMDb page for Insidious, it recommends you also watch Evil Dead 2, Gremlins and Elf. I get the first two, but why Elf?!?
Leigh Whannell: I don't know!!
James Wan: People mistake Leigh for an elf. So I get it.
Leigh Whannell: Someone at IMDb hates us.
Giger says: James, what is the status of Castlevania and Nightfall? Are they just "hanging around" on IMDb or will they get made?
James Wan: Nightfall is cooking away. I came up with a really awesome take for it. Just working on fine-tuning the story. As for Castlevania, let's just say it was a project I really love and have/had a super cool concept for it, but...
|Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson star in Insidious|
RamonaBarcelona says: What's your favourite sandwich?
James Wan: I don't like sandwiches.
Leigh Whannell: Okay - I have a gluten allergy so I can't eat sandwiches anymore.
James Wan: Only when I'm really hungry. But if someone held a gun to my head, I would say tuna sandwich or vege sandwich. Is panini or focaccia considered sandwiches? If they are, then I love those.
Leigh Whannell: I used to love tuna salad sandwiches. Now I would say a roasted chicken sandwich in gluten-free bread. Yay. Appetising, huh?
DavidB6937 says: Leigh, if you got offered a role in the big screen adaptation of Chocky, would you take it or run as far away as possible?
Leigh Whannell: Beggars can't be choosers. I would do it
James Wan: I think Leigh would be great as Chucky.
Leigh Whannell: I'm terrified of Chocky more though. BBC children's television scarred me for life. Worzel Gummidge anyone?
LP says: Not sure if this had been asked previously, but how do you respond to criticism that your work is considered as 'torture porn' ?
Leigh Whannell: IT HASN'T BEEN ASKED PREVIOUSLY (capitals for sarcasm). No, we think Insidious will change people's minds about us.
ChrisM: Will there be an Insidious 2?
Leigh Whannell: We don't know. Too early.
James Wan: We don't make movies thinking it will lead to a sequel.
Leigh Whannell: We hope people love this one though.
James Wan: We concentrate on the one we're making and that's where we put all our energy into. We don't think further ahead.
DavidB6937 says: If you were both locked in a room, and only one could survive. Truthfully, who would get out alive?
James Wan: Little do you know, before you even finished that question, I've already killed Leigh.
Leigh Whannell: I would bore James to death with my impressions of Michael Caine and Steve Buscemi. "I don't tip" - that was my Steve Buscemi. Uncanny, huh?
Leigh Whannell: Thanks guys! Love Empire and love their readers even more.
James Wan: We had a blast doing this. It's our first time. Hope you all get to see INSIDIOUS!!!!
Leigh Whannell: Twice!!
James Wan: Empire rocks!!!