LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Corin Hardy, director of The Nun
By James Whittington, Sunday 20th January 2019
The Conjuring universe expanded recently with the box-office chill-filled thriller, The Nun. It's just been released onto Blu-ray and DVD so we had a quick chat with the very talented director of this gothic entry, Corin Hardy.
HC: How did you become attached to the project?
CH: I had made The Hallow and that had caught the attention of James (Wan) through his company Atomic Monster and he sent me The Nun script, I am obviously a die-hard horror fan, and I knew all of James' films and was particularly a fan of The Conjuring movies so I was quite intrigued as to what this story would be as I am always on the lookout. I have my own films I want to develop and make and I'm always on the lookout for something I can get my teeth into something that has a rich world within in it. When I read The Nun script which was a very fast read written by Gary Dauberman and James, it really surprised me it was almost an adventure/mystery story which took place in the 1950s and it had this great environment of graphic, gothic horror to it with castles in remote hills and cemeteries and really reminded me of the horror movies I grew up watching loved with that embodied that era of horror and it wasn't cynical it wasn't spoofing anything.
HC: Yeah, I think the way it captured a sort of "classic Hammer" vibe and the feeling of those much-loved movies is why it grabbed the audience.
CH: That's really cool. I'm glad you've said that. Secretly that's my most proud feeling is people saying, and not in a nostalgic way, as we tried to make something that was a blend of old school and gothic horror with a contemporary feel and wasn't cynical it was respectable to those, so it was a bit of a ride it was a bit of fun.
HC: I think the way in which the film is shot, its framing, the well-timed and executed jump-scares without over-doing it, it feels fresh without losing its "classic vibe".
CH: That's great and that was really the intention when I got Maxime Alexandre, the DOP we sort of sat down and talked about classic movies, I put together a kind of mood book like a visual guide of all the movies I felt we could take inspiration from and the kind of lighting that we could go with so just to try and make it no too hand held and kind of go with solid camera set ups that we on dolly tracks and cranes almost like relatively sort of slow paced in some ways and equally bouncing in the scares and what becomes quite a relentless set of sequences.
HC: Were you nervous when you said "Yes" to directing The Nun and if you could keep up the quality of The Conjuring series?
CH: Not nervous because I suppose, I felt quite at home straight away with it, I felt like I knew where James was coming from and where those movies were coming from and when I flew over to LA and met with James and New Line and Gary, and its an over-used phrase but it was like being part of a family as New Line has made some of the greatest horror movies over the last 30 years. Its done movies with James, James is a real horror fan, Gary is a real horror fan, so I guess it would have been fearsome if I had met a bunch of executives who didn't give a sh*t about horror! We were able to chat about cool stuff, talk through what we wanted the movie to be and James was like the advocate of pushing it to be a very different Conjuring movie, he wanted it to be a hark back to classic, gothic horror which was nice to hear because that's what I thought we were doing. It was more when leading up to the movie's release that you suddenly go, "Sh*t" and remembered something and "Will this one sink the franchise!"
HC: It's got a great cast. Were you involved or were they attached when you came on board?
CH: I was involved. Again, what I love and what James has set a famous bar for, especially with The Conjuring with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, which again feels like what someone like William Friedkin did in the 70s, was casting these amazing actors in a horror movie and played it straight and respectfully and we wanted to continue that. Demian Bichir is someone who I'd seen play Che in the Castro movies and Tarantino's The Hateful 8, loved the idea of playing this slightly older character, playing a sort of grizzled, "Dirty Harry" and we really wanted an actor for Sister Irene who was fresh faced, and naive in a certain way and originally The Studio wanted a European or British actress and I saw hundreds of them, some brilliant English actresses as well and every one I was almost reluctant to even contemplate Taissa Farmiga being Vera's sister and would seem like I hadn't even bothered to do any homework or even bothered to try but when I saw Taissa's audition she was just so unique, it was what you look for as a director when you're casting. When you see someone in an audition and you go, "Right, no way can anyone else do this role, she's 100% perfect." And then Jonas Bloquet came in and he is a Belgian actor who lives in Paris and he has an authentic French accent, we all just had a really good time shooting it and everyone genuinely got along very well. You see all these press junkets where everyone is saying they loved everyone, but these really were close friends and kept in touch.
HC: I have to agree on the casting, especially Taissa who has this innocent face that's perfect for the role.
CH: She's got this, well, what it was when she did this audition she was performing against this grey person where she had to convince me she was seeing something terrifying and when I watched it the hairs went up on arms and I felt I could see what she was seeing by looking at her eyes. If someone can do that in an audition with nothing there you know you're going to go fine in the movie. It was pretty gruelling, we did a lot of night shoots, she was running around graveyards in bare feet and having to dig graves and go in the water and she was quite terrified in real life of the demon nun played by Bonnie Aarons (laughs). They were perfect.
HC: That leads nicely to my next question, what was the hardest scene or sequence to shoot?
CH: Its hard when you go in the water tank, I wanted to push for that as I wanted the environment to expand as you got deeper into the story to push this water element in and its tricky when you've an actor like Bonnie in full contact lenses and Nun habit and she has to be raised up and down in the water. That was hard and the geography as we shot in a real castle in different parts of Romania and Transylvania and they had to link up with sets in the studio. We had a beautiful castle in Transylvania, but the rooms didn't connect in the way you want them to do in the script and you have to work around tourist visits. The combination of Jennifer Spence, the production designer did some smart and beautiful set designs in the studio and by the nature of it we had to shoot at night in a castle by candle light in cemeteries required a lot of Taissa walking around in a nightdress holding a candle. And then obviously the scares themselves, the way we articulated them in story arcs and the movie itself needs an arc with rhythm then break the rhythm for the audience. I like the environment for the movie automatically gives this foundation for fear then you have to build off that and build on the suspension of belief throughout the whole movie with different types of scares.
HC: Would you go back to The Conjuring universe
CH: Of course!
HC: What are you working on at the moment?
CH: I'm working on a number of movies that I continue to develop in the back ground whilst whatever I'm making. I'm also in the thick of pre-production of my first TV show which is called Gangs of London, a drama I'm shooting three episodes so we're gearing up to shoot and there's no monsters!
HC: Corin Hardy, thank you very much.
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