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Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
By James Whittington, Saturday 23rd November 2019

Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.

HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?

GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a real true horror moment in a movie that otherwise really wasn't horror but it has those kind of horror elements to it. I think that started it but then I became really obsessed with really writers first which is maybe why I went with writing and it was R.L. Stein's Fear Street, it was Christopher Pike, it was Lois Duncan, it was things like that. Then it became Stephen King and I gravitated towards that. I loved Edgar Allen Poe from a really early age, and I have dog now named Poe! I started to write at a very early age, and they were always pretty dark where my parents had the idea to seek help to see if this was healthy! And then comic books too, I've always been a reader of comic books like DC Vertical always seem to be the darker edgier stuff that I really loved. I was debating whether or not it was it something that was instilled in an early age, whether you are born with a love of the darker stuff. It wasn't until I had my son I was conscious we didn't want to push him into any direction and in our own taste he really seemed to gravitate towards... he is such a horror fan so I don't know if you're born with it or not.

HC: You mentioned Stephen King so it would be mad of me not to mention IT. How did that come your way?

GD: I have had a long relationship with New Line, and I was working on Annabelle, the first one, I think, and they were talking about how they were getting IT and the people involved just knew I was a fan. So, as a fan I said to them, "What you doing? How's it going?" because I love any bits of gossip (laughs) and eventually the opportunity came when they needed a writer. They'd brought Andy Muschietti on board and fortunately they got to me and got Andy and me in a room that's where we all hit it off creatively. They knew I was a fan, I had a working relationship with them and I hadn't met Andy before then but then once we'd gotten in a room together there was a vibe.

HC: Did you know it was going to be such a massive hit as there was such a buzz when the film was announced?

GD: There was a buzz, yeah, I just knew the book was so beloved. I knew it was going to be special as I knew what Andy was going to do with it. But at the same time when you're writing it, I knew there was going to be eyeballs for this. Tim Curry's Pennywise is always in the zeitgeist, I remember the mini-series when it came on, the book has sold millions and millions and millions of copies so I knew from a business stand point I guess I knew there was going to be eyeballs for it. But it wasn't really until I see it come together with the cast, I thought it was special. Everybody did such a great job.

HC: You made it feel like two separate films, it didn't seem watered down, it kept its pace. How difficult was that?

GD: Thanks very much and yeah, it was very challenging to do. Its just like everything else its like marble, you chip away and chip away you get the footage and all that and hopefully you come out with something to resemble whatever you're chipping away at. It was a goal to treat each movie like it was its own movie so you felt fulfilled and satisfied by the end of them so it didn't feel like you ended on a cliff hanger one was downer, you want to end with a sense of hope at the ending of both of them.

HC: Let's talk about The Conjuring universe of movies, how did you become a writer for those?

GD: Much like IT, it was just by raising my voice and I saw a very early cut of The Conjuring at a friends and family screening James (Wan) was doing and I was bowled over blown away by it and I've said this in the past. James was at the screening and I introduced myself and said I'd been a fan for a long time. I had worked with New Line on some stuff prior and when The Conjuring became a success they saw the reaction to Annabelle and said "Hey, there's a film here", James knew a movie was in the air and that was a phone call that was just made to me and I said again I was a fan, knew my work and asked if I would be involved and said yes without hesitation and that started my involvement in the universe.

HC: Annabelle Comes Home, like IT, had a great buzz about it and it holds the crucial creepy atmosphere the series is known for. How did you approach writing this movie?

GD: This goes back to what we were talking about earlier part of our conversation (Note: During our introductions before the interview began, we chatted about film moments we wanted to share with our kids, spending time with our families watching classic horror movies together) this is not a movie you can take your whole family too but I did want that kind of that Amblinesque element to it. I do think it's a kind of movie, its Rated R I don't have an issue with my son seeing it, or whatever. I knew the way I approached it was because that the centerpiece or one of the main character was Judy Warren who was the Warren's daughter so it was hard not to approach the material as a parent as I was looking at it through their lens as well. And I knew because it was Judy Warren, because it was set in the Warren's house you know there were certain parameters I had to fit certainly there wasn't to be a mass slaughter inside the Warren's house so it would look silly if something really devastating happened there. So, when I realised I could have fun with this haunted house romp.

HC: Are you very protective of the character of Annabelle now that you've been behind her for a number of films and how nervous were you as the director of Annabelle Comes Home?

GD: Yes, I am protective, but I think inherently because of the evil that's attached to her there's a limitless amount of stories so I am protective in terms of I never want her to be seen as benign. I'm protective that she's evil I think in terms as a first-time director I was very, very nervous but I was fortunate to have a great crew and an extraordinary cast that I could use as a safety net who were supper patient, super supportive, and really, really collaborative which is an environment I thrive in. I had a director friend tell me, you know and I was asking advice and they said "You are going to make a movie with your friends, and treat it like that and you'll have fun" and I took that to heart and that's what it felt like from day one till the end of it. So, the nerves, I was nervous every day but once I got into the rhythm each day and I saw who was around me I got through them in order to feel like I was useful.

HD: Gary Dauberman, thank you very much.


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