As a lifelong horror fan, what scares you? Did you incorporate any of that into how terrifying Vallack is in this one?
Corin Hardy: I can’t really say that can I? Real life scares me and to me, I find it really fun to escape into a horror movie, that’s what it’s all about, that’s what I get a kick out of and enjoy and that’s what I was obsessed with as a kid is going to the cinema and shutting out the world, but the real world is far more terrifying than The Nun. I shouldn’t say that The Nun’s obviously (scary).
What for you the most challenging scene in the film?
Corin Hardy: The water’s a challenge, everyone was like you sure you want to do the water wasn’t in the script, there was a different ending in the script and it was effectively a gateway to hell. But I sort of like a gut feeling that when you have things like gateways to hell, you have to go through some kind of transformation or something, kind of like a portal. It can’t just be literally a gate. And I always had an infinity with water, you know if you go in the ocean and you look on the surface, it’s one thing. Once you’re underneath, it’s completely different and everything changes so, I kind of said I wanted to build this idea of this kind of like catacombs, all the evil is just like welling up down there. It enables a gateway to sort of happen without being able to see it too clearly.
So that was a challenge. We had wires and we had Tyeesa getting dragged through the water in full makeup, getting dragged through the water and Damien in there and all sorts, that was a challenge. I was just thinking of the perpetual adoration as well, just sort of like trying to pull off dynamic camera moves under a sort of tight schedule. We were with Maxine Alexandra, he’s I think the best genre DP in the world anyway. He advised in Maniac and he’s got a lot of experience but he’s also got that Italian cinematic high quality. We said let’s try and make a kind of classic movie and we’ll use a lot of tracks and dollies and long takes, and try to keep the scares happening in the frame when you can rather than sort of lots of cuts. So that challenge is trying to do that when you’re under a really tight schedule.
What was the last thing that made you jump?
Corin Hardy: Well, we were doing an interview about an hour ago and it was the last one, just in there, and the guy said something like, he asked, well my answer was to do The Exorcist and I said the word “the exorcist” and it went (explosion sound), it was that big thunderclap a couple of hours ago and we were sort of like “Whoa! We shouldn’t be talking about this!” and it started raining straight after. I’ve got two daughters and sometimes they make me jump in the middle of the night. They’re suddenly standing there in your room. And in a movie… I don’t know, I watched Heredity, there are some good things in there that made me jump.
Is there space for improvisation for a horror film or it’s really already scripted?
Corin Hardy: There definitely is. It depends, I think, on there’s a lot of technical mechanisms that you have sort of instrument to kind of get a scare to work or build the tension, but then you want the actors to feel alive and so I think when you’re working with the actors you kind of build up a trust that you can stick to the script and then you can also go okay cool, either during the leadoff you find out, how Damien will say “I don’t know if I’d say it like this”, so I think it’s just the instinct of the director to decide whether that’s what you want to go with or definitely try and give them freedom around. But there are just somethings you just got to end up here, you’ve got to stand like one inch from that and if you don’t, it’s not going to work or you got to angle your head a certain way. So I think you build up a trust and they trust you to know that you aren’t like placing them everywhere and they feel like objects.
In the #MeToo movement going on, would you consider The Nun a women empowerment movie?
Corin Hardy: I’d love to say that. It did occur to me that even, assuming that you agree that she is a woman, or he is a woman. I mean, yeah, what a great thing in 2018 to have this really iconic terrifying female villain and I think, iconic female heroine, battling out good and evil, black and white. I quite like heavy contrasts and I quite like a horror movie that can address things like that in quite a sort of black and white way as well sometimes.
And on those heavy contrasts and synergies, there’s a scene where there’s a snake jumping out of the mouth and popping into an eye but then there’s a very classic cinematic scene where there’s a shadow going around the chapel like meeting to the mirror. It kind of makes me think about old cinematic horror elements with like more humor like CGI effects, is that a tension that you’re trying to work with in this movie?
Corin Hardy: I mean, I think the big challenge in a good horror movie is, I actually think that it’s much much harder to make a really good horror movie than any other kind of movie because ultimately you have to suspend people’s belief for a long time of an hour and a half or two hours. To do that, you’ve got to keep, they’ve got to trust the movie and so it’s constantly a sort of stress when you’re making a film is like you can’t let something let it down and if you suddenly fall out of the movie, the tension dissipates. So, for me, I try and do things as real as possible whenever you can with the actors, with the sets, with the practical effects. I grew up with the seventies and eighties horror movies that only had practical and optical effects. Still, love the way they look.
I’m also not naïve enough to know that you can create incredible visual effects but there’s a sort of, for me, there’s a limitation with practical effects where you have to stop before it gets beyond it. And there’s a limitlessness with CGI that you can never stop but you have to know your limits to bring it in. I always want to keep things grounded and as humans, we as humans only find things really moving or scary when you really can see the light in the eyes of the person or the fear of the experience they’re going through. I try and, I use CGI, absolutely, and I use visual effects but trying to mix em up so you don’t really get accustomed to the exact ingredients that are happening.
In looking at that, I know James and Peter worked on this film as producers and they were on The Conjuring, did they give you credit for full autonomy over this or did they give you insight?
Corin Hardy: Um, it was certainly collaborative, but they were supportive of it and let me go for it. James was like we wanted to take this in a different direction do your thing, it was quite organic and collaborative and if there was any discussion we would have them, it was a very comfortable process. Again, because I think James comes from a true place of loving horror, gets really excited about it, you just know certain people, anyone around this table, if you like a certain band and you like the same band and (snapping fingers) you’re on the same level straight away and or a type of music or a type of film, so with Gary and James and I, even though I never met Gary or James until I did this was sort of straight away talking about cool stuff that we like in movies and I was like “well you know what I loved about Nightmare On Elm Street 3, there was this practical way the floorboards did this”, and it was like “yeah yeah, maybe be could be like Satan’s Lot“, you sort of just having a dialog about stuff you love.
How is it to have Bonnie as your villain? Did you just let her go nuts?
Corin Hardy: Didn’t need to let her go nuts. No, she’s great. Bonnie’s lovely, it was sort of straight away I guess once I got the movie. We were thinking about casting and who’s going to play Father Burke and I was like hang on a minute, we have got the demon, we have the actress who played her in Conjuring 2 right? And suddenly we had a panic; what if she’s not available, doesn’t want to do it, or they don’t want to, I don’t know. Because she just immediately kind of captured this iconic kind of character, like you’ve got Michael Myers, you’ve got Freddie Kruger, you’ve got Christopher Lee’s Dracula, and then I think you’ve got the demon nun. Then we got Bonnie and she’s an eccentric character, and she loves scaring people.
Unlike Demián and Taissa, who aren’t massive horror fan but are great actors. Bonnie just was just like desperate, to do it, she loves being that nun and you couldn’t keep her away. She’d be standing at the side of the set and we’re like “get away!”, and we end up putting her in the water. She’s like a real trooper. We put Bonnie on wires in the water, getting pulled underwater on multiple takes and contact lenses, and we were like “please can you do it again?” She’d say “yeah, hang on a minute,” (makes noise) teeth falling out but she’s also got this very kind of classical Hollywood sort of film star fifties face if you see her without makeup, she’s really got a very stylish look.