Interview with Insidious: Chapter 2's Patrick Wilson

A talk on low-budget horror, Tomatometers, and how to dream in America.

by | September 12, 2013 | Comments

Insidious: Chapter 2 opens this Friday, continuing the horrific journey of the cursed Lambert clan as last seen in the surprise commercial and critical hit Insidious. Patrick Wilson returns as papa Lambert, who has begun to exhibit erratic and violent behavior around his wife (played by Rose Byrne) and their two young sons.

Wilson spent the majority of his early acting career in theater, where he was nominated for a Tony in 2002 for his role in Oklahoma!. His film career began in earnest during the mid-2000s, portraying sleazeballs in Hard Candy and Little Children, working up to his most high-profile role as Nite Owl in 2009’s Watchmen. Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Wilson about Insidious and low-budget horror, Tomatometers, and how to dream in America.

Rotten Tomatoes: Congrats on the movie. It’s really scary. I saw a work print, though, so I could see all the boom mics and dolly tracks.

Patrick Wilson: [laughs] Oh, my god.

RT: Yeah, and there was still some missing CGI in scenes, but it still worked to the movie’s credit. In this age of CGI-saturated filmmaking, does your theater background help you train for that?

PW: You know, I gotta be honest. I have not done a lot of CGI work. I just haven’t. I mean, there were hundreds of effects in Watchmen, and I probably dealt with almost none of them, because all my stuff was very practical.

RT: That was kind of the point with Nite Owl.

PW: Kind of the point of the movie. Obviously Billy Crudup and Dr. Manhattan had a different experience. But I’ve been real fortunate, that I haven’t had to fake that kind of stuff, you know? It’s a testament to (Insidious
director) James (Wan). We like the old cowboy switch, we like all that stuff. I get a great feeling when I see a scene that works where all they’ve done is take out a string, take out a wire. That’s great.

RT: I think audiences have been wanting that. You’ve been on this crime spree of low-budget horror movies that are critically and commercially successful. This weekend The Conjuring is up to $120 million. Does that change your
expectations with Insidious: Chapter 2?

PW: It’s such a different beast. I think if anything, it shows how different James can be in the genre. The Conjuring hit something very different — and this is no disrespect to Insidious: Chapter 2.
Insidious is a much smaller movie, and it’s a much more surreal movie, and we’re swinging a bigger stick here. We’re not based in reality, and we don’t really bring up God and we don’t get into the real realism of these demons.
The Conjuring really hit a very wide audience. Unusual for a horror movie. I mean, please, even the Rotten Tomatoes score is insane.

RT: Yeah, it’s at 87%.

PW: Right?

RT: As a horror fan, I’m happy.

PW: And what do most horror movies do? Like, what do you think this will be on there, realistically?

RT: The first one is 66%. I would say it’s going to hit around the same. It deepens the story, but you can follow it if you haven’t seen the first one. So I’d keep expectations around the same.

PW: Right. I’m proud of this, but it’s a whole different beast than The Conjuring, so it’s not like if this doesn’t do $100 million I’m gonna go, “Oh, it’s a failure.” The movie was still made in 26 days for $15 million, for
nothing. I think we’ll do fine.

RT: So this is the first sequel you’ve done, the first time you’ve returned to a role. Is that any sort of achievement for you?

PW: [laughs] I’ve signed on for a few — it is kind of funny — they just never worked out. Yeah, I mean, it was kind of funny, you know? I thought it was fun to go back to the lantern and the flannel again. I mean, I’m also a guy from
the theater, so I’m used to coming back, and people kept saying, “Is this weird to you?” Are you kidding me? I’d do the same lines every night, five hundred times. This is nothing; I’m not doing anything the same. I’m wearing the same
clothes, but that’s it. [laughs] Maybe, should I hold the lantern in my right or left hand?

RT: Maybe in this scene it goes on his head.

PW: [laughs] Yeah, other than that, who cares, you know? Plus, the fact that, without giving too much away, because of the dual nature of my character here in this movie. That’s the fun. That’s why you do it.

RT: Yeah, that was a captivating turn of events in the sequel.

PW: Thanks.

RT: I’ve been following James’ career the whole time, and it’s been fun to see him go from Saw, then to Dead Silence and Death Sentence, which weren’t as well-received. Now he’s roaring back, and he’s got
Fast & Furious next. Would you be up for a role in that?

PW: We talk about it half-jokingly. Half “is there really anything in there for me.”

RT: You could be Sung Kang’s half-brother.

PW: [laughs] Yeah, I’m not sure there’s anything really in there, but it’s not for lack of trying. We always keep trying, but that’s a much bigger… It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s all good.

RT: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about achieving dreams and accomplishing goals. You’re quoted on IMDB as saying you’ve sort of achieved your dream on the theater stage, whether you should dream higher from there on. It is kind of
funny that, as you accomplish your goals, for me, I say, “What’s next?” For yourself, is there a constant reinterpretation of your own ambitions?

PW: Yeah, there is. There absolutely is. Well, I think also, don’t your goals sort of shift on the track that you’re on? You know, it’s like, you don’t know the whole career you’re going to take. Did you think you’d be working at
Rotten Tomatoes? Probably not, right? Did you?

RT: I expected interesting things out of me as a kid. So I worked hard, got the job at 22, and I was like, “Okay, what now?”

PW: And then the more you’re there, you’re gonna be like, “Okay, now where do I go from here?” I mean, I just had that pow-wow with my team. Like, “Okay, I’m 40. I’m happy, I just wrapped five movies or whatever it was this year.
Alright, so, let’s think about the next five years and what we want to do, and what kind of roles we want to find, what I don’t want to do again.” It’s very exciting, it’s always exciting. Yeah, I think it’s important to reinvest in
everything, because, like anything, my business changes all the time, like yours does. The journalism business is insane. It’s always changing, so you have to stay on top of it. You have to stay present in your own career. You can’t be

RT: I agree. I’m approaching 30, so I guess I’m thinking about these things. It used to put me in a state of anxiety, trying to figure out what to do. I’m starting to relax a little bit more, like, this is kind of nice. It’s nice to
have the room and space to explore the things you want from your life.

PW: That’s exactly right.

RT: Last question. You’re doing Stretch with Joe Carnahan. I think The Grey is a masterpiece, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next with him.

PW: Yeah, that movie’s awesome.

RT: What can you tell us about Stretch and your character?

PW: I play Stretch. I play a limo driver who, when you meet him, he’s coked out, drunk, smoking, a limo driver all at the same time. [laughs] He gets in a car accident with the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on, and for some
reason, she takes a liking to him. Then you find out that she, of course, broke his heart, so he’s back in a hole, a shell of a person, driving a limo, being miserable, wanting to be an actor in L.A., and he’s in debt for a lot of money
and has to come up with six grand by the end of the night. He falls into a client that Chris Pine plays, this incredible, crazy, eccentric billionaire, who sends him on this crazy night of escapades. It’s completely insane in a sort of
excessive, R adult comedy, that fits in with After Hours and Bachelor Party and every other sort of ’80s excessive movie. Brooklyn Decker and Jessica Alba and Ed Helms. It’s insane!