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Q&A: Dermot Mulroney talks “INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3”

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While Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne will be sitting out the next chapter of the INSIDIOUS franchise, Lin Shaye isn’t the only performer with a pedigree taking a trip into the Further this time around. Heading the Brenner family in Leigh Whannell’s directorial debut is seasoned actor Dermot Mulroney, who fright fans may recognize from his turns in ZODIAC, THE GREY, STOKER and THE RAMBLER. Offering a sensitive yet protective turn in the fright franchise, FANGORIA recently spoke to Mulroney about returning to the horror genre, real life claustrophobia and tripping over cables in the dark…

FANGORIA: It has been said that Leigh created a creepy atmosphere not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well. Can you elaborate on this?

DERMOT MULRONEY: Around the clock, the lights were at about 30 percent on set, which created a darkened atmosphere. They never turned them up; even the lights for the technicians were low. My biggest fear was that I was going to trip over a cable on this set, and at my age, you don’t want to make that kind of contact with the earth!

FANGORIA: Did this have an impact on your performance?

MULRONEY: My reaction was unexpected. I had physical symptoms of fear, like a chill on my arm, hair standing up on the back of my neck and my pulse rate going up. I found myself with only a flashlight with Angus [Sampson] and Leigh [Whannell] standing behind me, creeping down the hallway and breathing heavily. You can’t help it. It induces that physical reaction. I was never fearful because I was at work, but there was a definable visceral reaction. I was really surprised that my body did the work and responded to the stimulus that Leigh had created without the intellectual aspect of creating fear.

FANGORIA: Unlike the previous INSIDIOUS films that were set in suburban homes, this installment was set in an apartment, giving the film a feeling of intense claustrophobia. What are your thoughts on this?

MULRONEY: The set was created on a sound stage, but Leigh was so involved in the design of it and there are no accidents with this. It looks and feels so natural and so real but it’s all planned out. We had one day shooting in front of the building’s exterior that was a classic Hollywood building that looked gothic and looming. If you know Hollywood, you will have seen that building there on Ivar, and every bit of the rest of the movie takes place on a set that they built to create this feeling of walls closing in which is a classic horror genre trick. This particular set really becomes quite tight, which adds to the stressful vibe.

All of that was by way of design. Unlike INSIDIOUS 1 & 2, [Whannell] deliberately set it in an apartment, where you can get stuck with no way out. It really adds to the sensation of the movie. It was a unique and great choice to set it in an apartment. Some of the hallway scenes with the carpet and forced perspective felt like an homage to THE SHINING.

FANGORIA: Your son is a fan of horror; was that an influence on you choosing this project at all?

MULRONEY: That did help slightly, but I had been developing the idea [of doing more horror] for a while. I have been seeing great actors such as Patrick Wilson, Ethan Hawke and Kevin Bacon doing great work [in horror], and it started to look really appealing and fun in that world. I hadn’t done a big one yet, so I thought “why not?”

FANGORIA: You have worked extensively in many great dramas over the years. Did working in horror differ from your experiences in other genres?

MULRONEY: When you ask me that question, I immediately think of Lin Shaye playing Elise, this character that fans of the movie know, and she is an extremely intense actress. It’s not like she’s going through the motions, doing a one dimensional horror performance. She’s an Actors Studio-trained legitimate actor, and that’s how she approached this. Anyone who underestimates the impact of this movie should know this, and I really took my cue from her.

still-of-dermot-mulroney,-angus-sampson-and-leigh-whannell-in-insidious--chapter-3-(2015)

FANGORIA: Your character is very quick to believe his daughter that there is something more sinister and supernatural that is responsible for the disturbing events taking place, which is a refreshing trait. What did you think of that?

MULRONEY: I thought it was really cool. I love how layered it is. You get a sense of the supernatural but the father doesn’t see it, but the girl’s starting to sense something, and then this terrible accident happens that may have involved a distraction from the “other side”.  That’s a very real thing you see in our movie. The parent finds himself in desperate situations trying to help his daughter get better and recover from this accident, and at the same time, other horrible things start to happen. It’s a weird combination of very real frightening things and questionably real frightening things.

FANGORIA: You and Stephanie Scott had a wonderful chemistry and dynamic as father and daughter. Can you tell us a bit about you both formed that dynamic?

MULRONEY: She’s a wonderful talent that everyone is just discovering now. It’s going to be really fun to watch her career take off. I credit Stephanie the same way as I do Lin Shaye. She is a really accessible person, very mature as an actress, particularly for her young age. We had a very natural rapport; she’s very accessible and easy to be friends with. Not all jobs bring such disparate ages and types together the way that working on a film does. How else would that come up that I would be relying on someone so much younger than me than in a film set environment? I’ve experienced this with other kids in movies and with older people than myself that are 20 – 30 years older. It’s a wonderful thing you can get from making a movie.

FANGORIA: A lot of people may not know that you are a classically trained cellist. From that perspective, what are your thoughts on the INSIDIOUS score?

MULRONEY: I started when I was seven years old in school through college, and this score on INSIDIOUS is phenomenal. There is some ear-shattering string work scattered throughout that really adds to the film. I love what they did there with the sound design, too; it’s very creepy and very effective.

FANGORIA: One of the standout scenes in the film is a continual shot that takes place at a window. It is extremely effective and very terrifying. What was that like to shoot?

MULRONEY: That was all Leigh. We had a particular camera rig that gives you that falling feeling. But it was extremely difficult to get the choreography and the timing right, and we did it over and over. When I saw it played back on the monitor, I thought “Holy shit”.

It was one shot with no cuts and entirely practical. It was the practical aspect combined with the timing that nailed that shot. I predict that will be a really famous shot, and it was no accident. It was timed and planned down to the millisecond. It was amazing to watch Leigh not stop until he was entirely satisfied that they had achieved what he was envisioning; he’s is a great talent.

FANGORIA: Was there any room for extemporizing on the shoot?

MULRONEY: On a movie like this, I think it makes a lot more sense to have it planned in advance and really tight, so that you have complete control of how to extend the moments or tighten them up. Leigh is a master with that stuff! It’s amazing what he did making this movie. I was amazed at how exactly the film turned out like the script that he wrote. It’s really ingeniously exactly what he wrote.

FANGORIA: What are your thoughts on returning possibly for INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 4?

MULRONEY: I know that Blumhouse have a policy where they don’t discuss the sequel until that movie comes out. They don’t get ahead of themselves, which is probably a good thing, but I get the sense that they are chomping at the bit and I really hope so. It does not guarantee by any means that the Brenner family is in it. It could go any way. With Leigh’s imagination, you can expect anything.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 hits theaters everywhere this Friday from Gramercy Pictures.

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About the author
Camilla Jackson
Camilla is an actress, writer, film-maker, musician, and horror junkie. She is new to FANGORIA and has a healthy knowledge of all things horror, particularly 70's - 90's films where she interviews writers, directors and actors for Australian cinephile group CINEMANIACS. In her spare time, Camilla writes screenplays, walks dogs, and scours the internet for bargains. She also had a small part in the remake of Australian telekinetic chiller, PATRICK. Currently she is training at The Groundlings and moonlights playing ethereal guitar in a cape.
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