Lucky David F. Sandberg! Not that his talent, professionalism and creativity didn’t get the fledgling filmmaker to where he is today, but wow – he is so lucky that uber-producer James Wan just happened to see his buzz-worthy short film online. Plucked from obscurity, the Danish helmer has now directed two big Hollywood features – Lights Out, and Annabelle: Creation.
Annabelle: Creation takes place in the 1950s, several years after the tragic death of a little girl, the daughter of a doll maker and his wife. The scares pick up when the still-grieving couple welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home… the unsuspecting boarders soon becoming the target of Annabelle, a possessed doll.
We got the chance to talk with David, briefly, on the set between takes. Here’s what he had to say.
Dread Central: What’s Annabelle 2 been like for you, compared to your first movie, Lights Out?
David F. Sandberg: A lot calmer, I always look calm, at least that’s what people say. But it was [different with] Lights Out, oh, my first movie ever, [I was thinking] I don’t know what I’m doing. And now I know a little bit of what I’m doing.
DC: Do you feel like you’re being type cast as the horror guy?
DFS: No. There are worse things to be than a horror director. Of course, that’s what I want to do.
DC: Do you see James Wan a lot?
DFS: Not since we started shooting, but he’s been here and seen the set. He’s a busy guy, he’s dealing with MacGyver right now.
DC: Did you watch the first Annabelle movie?
DFS: Yes. I’d seen it before, but I didn’t watch it again. I wanted to stay fresh but I’ve had to go back and look at some things, so I’ve looked at parts of it again.
DC: How is Annabelle 2 different from Lights Out?
DFS: This one might have more of a scarier sort of mood or atmosphere type of thing, because Lights Out has its fun moments. I don’t think this will be without [those fun moments] either, but it will be more horror.
DC: And how’s it different from Annabelle 1?
DFS: It’s a very different film. I’m not really sure what to compare it to, because the first one was sort of like a Rosemary’s Baby type of story. This one, what can I compare it to… I want to say The Orphanage because it’s in an orphanage, but I don’t know what to compare it to. It’s a very different kind of story. We have all these characters, and it feels a lot bigger than having just a couple like the first one.
DC: Before coming to Hollywood it was pretty much just you and your wife making short films in your apartment… tell us how it feels working with big casts.
DFS: They’re all amazing. When we had them all on set, Anthony and all the kids and Stephanie, it’s like ‘Wow, it’s eight people in one scene.’
DC: How about working on a period-piece?
DFS: That’s what drew me to it, to make a period movie because it feels so appropriate for horror. Our production designer is great, she created this whole house. She likes all these little details which I love. It’s not just flat walls, it’s old wallpaper and all these little [touches]. It really looks lived in, not just a typical set. There’s so much detail, even the curtains in these rooms with little bees on them.
DC: Seems like your production designer should get a writing credit – today here on set we heard how much she brought to the story in terms of the sets, and that the script was rewritten in some places to accommodate the new set-pieces.
DFS: Yeah, she said we could put a dumbwaiter in between these two rooms and I was like, ‘Can you put a child in there/’ And now it’s become this huge thing with stunts and rigging and everything. It’s going to be awesome. She comes up with ideas of her own. Like in Mrs. Mullins room where you have these cross cut-outs, because the script said like the walls were filled with crosses. But they did that in The Conjuring, so what can we do differently? It was her idea to put in these cross cut-outs so we can have these shafts of light. So she’s amazing. That’s why I took her from Lights Out to do this. I surround myself with great people, and a wonderful crew, and then just take credit for it. Like, ‘Yeah I’m a genius.’ [laughs]
David Sandberg directs from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle. The film stars Stephanie Sigman (Spectre), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Lulu Wilson (Ouija 2, Deliver Us from Evil), Philippa Coulthard (After the Dark), Grace Fulton (Badland), Lou Lou Safran (The Choice), Samara Lee (The Last Witch Hunter), and Tayler Buck in her feature film debut, with Anthony LaPaglia (TV’s “Without a Trace”) and Miranda Otto (Showtime’s “Homeland”).
Serving as executive producers are Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Walter Hamada, Dave Neustadter, and Hans Ritter. Collaborating with Sandberg behind the scenes from his Lights Out team are production designer Jennifer Spence, editor Michel Aller, and composer Benjamin Wallfisch; they are joined by director of photography Maxime Alexandre (The Other Side of the Door) and costume designer Leah Butler (Paranormal Activity 3 & 4).
Currently scheduled for release on August 11, 2017, Annabelle: Creation is a New Line Cinema presentation, an Atomic Monster/Safran Company production. The film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.
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