Annabelle: Creation – Exclusive Interview with Anthony LaPaglia
Veteran Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia plays Mr. Mullins in the upcoming prequel to Annabelle, which is called Annabelle: Creation (review). As it turns out, he’s the whole reason for the creepy doll’s deadly agenda, and we got a chance to sit down with to ask how it all came about – and what it was like to be in his first-ever horror movie.
Dread Central: This is pretty much your first full-on horror film. Why do it now?
Anthony LaPaglia: They asked me!
DC: But surely, there is more to taking a role than that?
AP: I don’t take everything, but I hadn’t done a studio movie in quite a long time – 10 years maybe. So that was part of the decision. Also, to be honest with you, I have a 14-year-old daughter, and I was at home talking like maybe I would do this movie Annabelle. She jumped out of her skin! She was, like – you have to do this, you have to do it, it’s the best! She loves that whole Conjuring thing, so I went from being okay-dad to cool-dad.
DC: Have you been offered other horror films in the past?
AP: No, they don’t really think of me for it. I’ve never really been offered one and turned it down. I like this one because it was more psychological. They hate me saying this but I like that it didn’t have blood and guts everywhere. And I like that you had to think about it. And I like the role because it gave me that chance to walk that line between is he involved in this or not. I like that part of it as it was quite subtle but it was fun to play that.
DC: Does film align with what you thought it would be, when you read the script?
AP: Well, I did talk to the producer Peter Saffron and the director David Sandberg. I called them one day and said “You know I think we’re one scene shy between Miranda Otto’s character, my wife, and I” and they looked at it and said “You know, you’re right.” And so they wrote another small scene to give it more of a connect. I really enjoyed working with them, you know, they were very open. David’s really great to work with. It’s like he doesn’t second guess his actors. The way I get through the day, is when they yell cut and print, I go “great.” He trusts you to do what’s best. I got very few notes from him, mostly they would be technical, about where to be. In terms of how I played the character, what I wanted to do – he was fine with it. Within the confines of me, I’m talking about doing your own thing, as it pertains to the script. I’m not going to go in there with clown makeup ‘cause I wouldn’t do that. I just mean in terms of sometimes you can be in a situation where directors are unsure of what they want, and so they do a lot of tags, and they’re still not sure. They don’t really communicate with you, what it is they’re missing. And David was very direct, simple, clear – loved it.
DC: The set you got to work on was amazing. Dread Central was part of a set visit, and we got to tour the whole house. It looked so real inside.
AP: Oh yes. Listen, a big part of acting is your physical environment. That informs what you do. And that house had enough age and sadness in it already which is hard to construct, really. But when you walked in there, you kind felt the years. It had that patina of age in there. So that makes it easy. You’re not on the green screen fighting a tennis ball on a c-stand.
DC: Do you enjoy the genre, as a fan?
AP: Listen, as a kid and even as a young adult, even now, I love reading stories [of horror.] I read a lot so – I remember when I read Amityville Horror the first time, that was a scary book. I think the attraction is – it’s like a roller coaster ride – you know, when you get to the top of the thing just before you go over, that kind of adrenaline rush. I think that people are fascinated with dangerous situations from a safe perspective.
DC: Some of the actors found the dolls unsettling. Did you?
AP: Very interesting, those dolls. Depends on the light. Sometimes you see them in a certain light and they look fairly benign and at other times in a certain light they definitely had a creepy look to them. I think Stephanie [Sigman, who plays the nun] was very disturbed by all of them. (laughs)
DC: Didn’t she ask that the set blessed by a priest?
AP: She did. I hated to tell her, that since I was a lapsed Catholic, that stuff doesn’t work. I’m not big on the supernatural. I’m pretty much a science guy. I need scientific proof myself. Otherwise it’s totally open, it’s not objective at all, but I also respect that people do have those feelings, and I try not to add to the burden by scaring them on purpose.
DC: Right. But scary fun in the movies is good. I heard that you were actually “in character” on set the whole time, and didn’t make friends with the other actors.
AP: That was the point. I made the decision early on, I mean I have a 14-year-old daughter, they were easy for me to relate to them and I liked them – they were nice kids – but I just decided, if I was too nice it would change the flavor on screen. So I stayed exactly the way I was on set and would just drift off back to my room and read between takes. So I didn’t really interact much. But it was intentional. To maintain that relationship with them. They’re good enough actresses that they probably would have overcome it but I just thought “Ah, why make their job harder, make it easy.”
DC: As a dad, were able to tap into your character’s grief over losing a daughter, or is your process different?
AP: You can’t really play anything that you haven’t experienced to some degree. You don’t have to be a serial killer to play one. All you have to know is what it feels like to want to kill someone and extrapolate from there. I think everybody’s had that thought. The more experience I get, the easier acting gets.
DC: Is there any kind of role you have yet to try?
AP: I’ve come close a couple of times, but I’ve never done Shakespeare. I’m starting to feel like I might want to tackle that maybe one day. King Lear would be great. Macbeth would be great. He’s an older Macbeth. Stuff like that. But people ask me that question a lot, is there any particular thing, and the answer is … no, I don’t really have anything that I feel like I have to do. It really is about the script, it’s about the material, it’s about getting good material in front of you – that’s hard. That’s what I respond to. I’m not a producer, I’m not a director, I’m not a writer, I don’t have nine balls juggling in the air – it’s tough enough for me just getting the acting part right, so I’m much more reliant on the material and that’s what I respond to. And sometimes, to my own detriment, sometimes I respond to a role that could be a really great role and also a great movie, and I’ll want to tackle it. I’ve learnt not to really give into that impulse because the whole package counts. So yeah, it’s just based on material.
David F. 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 (Foxcatcher, The Last Witch Hunter), and Tayler Buck in her feature film debut, with Anthony LaPaglia (“Without a Trace”) and Miranda Otto (“Homeland”, the Lord of the Rings trilogy).
Annabelle: Creation has been rated R by the MPAA for horror violence and terror. Slated for release August 11, 2017, the film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a doll maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home. They soon become the target of the doll maker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.