Australian actress Miranda Otto is perhaps best-known for playing Eowyn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but she’s done a ton of great work in TV and film for years. Though she was in I, Frankenstein, Otto told us she considers Annabelle: Creation (review) her first full-on horror movie. In it, she plays Mrs. Mullins, wife to the dollmaker who created Annabelle. We got a chance to sit down with her and ask about the film.
Dread Central: We heard that the set was blessed prior to filming. What do you think of that?
Miranda Otto: I wasn’t there for that, but I heard that on some of the other movies [in The Conjuring series], things have happened. So there is a superstitious element, for the production to seek out that kind of thing because things have happened in the past. Things that are unexplained. When I’m making films, so far as being frightened or any of those things, I don’t get that way because there’s so many people around you all the time, so you’re never alone. But there’s certainly an element to the doll that is… there something about that doll that’s disturbing, in real life! It’s a very disturbing doll (laughs). If you look at some of the dolls from the past that were made – I used to collect dolls, like antique dolls a long time ago – and there are some that are, really, and you think “Why would someone make a doll that looks like this” but it’s that time maybe. Somebody thought that was a sweet doll. But not to us.
DC: What drew you to collecting dolls?
MO: I just loved playing dolls when I was a kid and then when I was a little older I liked collecting them. I think I just had a fascination with the past. Actually, what actually happened is next door to me, was an old house and it was demolished, and I found this doll, this antique doll, on the site and that’s where is started, collecting dolls. It was quite a thing at a stage there.
DC: You must get offered a lot of roles. What was your selection process when it came to Annabelle: Creation?
MO: One of the first things is, I thought, I’ve never done a horror film and I thought it would be really, really fun to do. And then I watched the original Annabelle and I liked the fact that not only was it was frightening and all those things, but I liked that it was so stylistically interesting. I like that it’s set in the 60s. I like the homage to Rosemary’s Baby in it. I thought it was cleverly done and I admire the fact that the production value was very high on the film I thought, for a horror film. And then when I met David, I just really wanted to work with him. I thought he was a really terrific person and I was really fascinated by his story – that he had made this short film, and it had gone viral and then invited him – not self-effacing, I don’t want to say that – he was such a lovely unaffected person. Yeah, but he really knows what he wants and he has a very strong vision for what he wants to do but he’s just a very gentle and easy person to work with and I thought he would be a good person to do a horror film with. And, I just so appreciated the model that they make these movies on, that they don’t throw money away on things that aren’t important. But they really spend money on the visuals of the film – I thought Maxine, the DP, did an amazing job, the Production Designer did an amazing job, I appreciate that they built this amazing set and put so much into that. I think when you’re telling a story, that is in some ways is frightening and kind of ghastly on some level, I think it’s important that it looks beautiful as well. I think that contrast is really important and I like that they prioritised that – that they spent the money on building a great set that gave them the ability to do great shots – I really appreciated the model they were working under.
DC: Mrs. Mullins is kind of a shell, a fragile woman. How do you imbue her with life?
MO: Well what I thought would be fun is that we got to play two parts of this character. So you get to play who she was before and then who she is in the present day. You get the important thing in the past is to see what a warm family it was, was a natural family and then how some horrific event can completely change people’s lives. And then the present day of it, I just – one always fears the things that you can’t see. That’s the same when I was talking about being around people, when I’m around people I’m not frightened, when I’m by myself I get more frightened (laughs). So I was fascinated by the idea of playing a character that you really didn’t know much about. She was very mysterious, that she was behind the curtain and then she’s behind the mask and that people are endowing her with certain things and they’re making up stories about her and their imagining things you know. That as an actor is really fun thing to play, but at it’s core, the character to me is basically about never being able to let go of a child, that once you’re a mother you will never be able to let go of a child whatever happens. And that she and her husband enter into a different realm because they cannot let go of their daughter and they are so devastated, that they accidentally invite something into the house that is catastrophic.
DC: You and Anthony are both Australian actors, so – had you worked with him before?
MO: No. I’ve known him and I know his brother well and we’ve run into each other over the years and I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with him – so when I heard he was doing it, I was thrilled they had got someone of Anthony’s calibre to play the role. That was fabulous. It’s always nice working with someone that you already know and I’m Australian and he’s also Australian, so there’s similarities and – we didn’t get to rehearse a heck of a lot, but there was time on set to rehearse – there wasn’t like a big pre-rehearsal on this film. I was actually in Australia shooting something else, just previous to coming on to this. But it was pretty seamless, you know Anthony’s a dab hand, he knows what he’s doing, we both knew what we wanted to do. So it was actually nice to get to spend some time with him. I love how he is so involved in this and particular actors come in and play these roles within this world. That there’s a kind of a family nature to these productions – a lot of the crew and makeup artists and thins had worked on the other one, that I like that he’s built this kind of group this family of people who work on the movies with him.
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.