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Annabelle: Creation is anything but child’s play

Actor Anthony LaPaglia on scaring his young cast mates in the new horror film in the Conjuring universe

Being a parent changes your perspective on everything. And yes, it’s sometimes scarier than any movie.

Three years ago the horror film Annabelle scared up nearly $257 million at the worldwide box office during its theatre run. Now David F. Sandberg directs the sequel, Annabelle: Creation, which tells the story of a doll maker and his wife who welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home several years after the tragic death of their little girl. But the visitors soon become the target of the doll maker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

Anthony LaPaglia stars as the doll maker, Samuel Mullins. He opens up about the project, which opens internationally in August.

Being a parent changes your perspective on everything. And yes, it’s sometimes scarier than any movie.

What resonates with you about this story?

I’d never done a horror film, and I had to use a new skill set for Annabelle: Creation. I also appreciated the fact that it has a grand Hitchcockian feel to it, where much of the terror is psychological. And it’s still terrifying. From watching our director David Sandberg’s previous film, Lights Out, I knew he had the right sensibility to tell this story.

Also, my 14-year-old loves horror movies. Usually, she’s not that interested in whatever film I’m doing at the time. But when I was making Annabelle: Creation, she happened to ask what I was working on. When I told her about the film, she was really excited about it. Finally, I was doing something she likes [laughs].

Tell us about your character, Samuel Mullins. Who is he when we meet him and who is he later in the story?

Samuel is a working-class guy who works with his hands – a dollmaker. I identify with that kind of background because my father was a mechanic from Italy. When we meet Samuel, he’s living an idyllic life. Then, in an instant, it’s taken away from him. Years later, he and his wife have settled into a kind of purgatory. She’s disfigured, and they have no joy in their lives. They decide to let a group of orphans, who have no place else to go, live with them. Samuel hopes that the sound of children playing in the yard may help his wife.

The house represents what’s happened to the Mullinses. It’s a time capsule – from the time of the tragedy, nothing has changed. It has that feel of decay, which is in Samuel, as well. When the kids from the orphanage move into his home, instead of bringing him joy, it reminds him of the tragedy and the fear he continues to hold onto. He’s hiding a horrible secret, which Samuel hopes doesn’t reveal itself. He’s a crushed human being and even if he wanted to relate to the girls, I don’t think he’d know how.

As a father, what was it like for you to act among the danger and threats that these young characters are experiencing?

Being a parent changes your perspective on everything. And yes, it’s sometimes scarier than any movie. You must be so forward thinking and consider all possibilities. My daughter and her friends move so quickly. They’ll go to a party and before you know it, they’ve taken an Uber to somewhere else. And I didn’t even think a 14-year-old would have an Uber account.

What was it like being in a situation where you’re performing this role with the intent to scare your castmates, who are quite young?

When anyone would ask me how things were going on the set, I’d reply, “It was great. I just walked around all day scaring kids.” Now, I don’t really like to scare kids, but in this instance, I made a choice not to get too friendly with the young actors, because I wanted to maintain that kind of creepy distance. It just made it easier to play the scenes.

Did anything unusual or unexpected happen on set?

During the filming of a scene where some horrible things are happening to Samuel, I really went for it and ended up falling on the floor – and then my pants split. I got up and said to the crew, “This is really no way for a grown man to make a living.”

What was it like to work with Miranda Otto, who portrays your wife?

I worked with Miranda’s father years ago and first met Miranda when she was a child, and through the years we’d see each other and chat, so there was already a familiarity there, which was great.

Miranda said she didn’t like acting with Annabelle in the room, because she felt it was watching her. What was it like for you?

It didn’t bother me, but I was impressed with its design. In certain light, it can look almost clown-like. In other light, it looks malevolent.

Have you had any close encounters with the supernatural?

I once had an experience I can’t really explain. I was in my twenties, living in a 16th floor apartment. My girlfriend at the time was very close to the window, and I yelled, “Get away from there!” Somehow, my overreaction to that situation led me to ask the building’s doorman if anything unusual had ever happened in my apartment. It turns out that about ten years earlier, a woman living there had jumped out the window…

Annabelle: Creation opens in cinemas across the UAE on August 17. 

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