Aussie Frances O’Connor is a bona fide industry veteran. After a series of groundbreaking roles in Australian films in the mid to late 1990s (Love and Other Catastrophes, Thank God He Met Lizzie), Hollywood came calling in the form of Bedazzled, AI: Artificial Intelligence for Steven Spielberg and Windtalkers. She’s done lower key movies since then but again shows her dramatic chips as blue collar London mum Peggy in The Conjuring 2.
You’d think youngster Madison Wolfe – who plays haunted 11-year-old Janet in the film – is just starting out, but with movies like Keanu, Trumbo and The Campaign under her belt she’s becoming as experienced as her on-screen mother.
The pair spoke to Moviehole.net in Los Angeles.
Does pretending to be scared come from something you have to imagine or is the set a scary atmosphere?
Madison: It all goes back to digging deep and connecting with your character. We did so much research on each of our characters and there’s tons of stuff online. I think that really helped me. An actor’s job is to tell a story, and I really wanted to tell Janet’s story because she is a real person. This is based on a true story.
You got to meet the real-life sisters, Janet and Margaret, who were consultants on the film. Did you get some good stuff from them?
Madison: Janet and Margaret both remembered exactly what happened and hearing it from them really opened my eyes.
Anything you could learn from an industry veteran like Frances?
Frances: Madison’s fine. She doesn’t need any help. She knows what she’s doing.
Madison: Thank you. There’s always stuff you can learn. Being in this industry there’s so many different people you can meet and so many different jobs and ways you could be connected, that’s a really cool aspect of it.
The real Peggy isn’t with us anymore, did that make approaching the character difficult?
Frances: As Maddie was saying, there’s so much online, there’s hours and hours of audio recordings of her being interviewed, so just listening to those gives you an idea of her psychology and her makeup, so that was very helpful.
And then just talking to James [Wan, director] about specifically how he wanted me to play the character. He really knew how he wanted me to play her and there’s so much detail in the script, so all of that really helped.
Anything particular about working for an Aussie director, being an Aussie yourself?
Frances: James really likes to have fun on set. I don’t know if that’s a specific Aussie quality but he’s so creative and great at what he does. It’s very infectious. He’s so kind to his crew and it just makes a great creative experience. You feel very valued.
What are your positions on ghosts, demons and the supernatural?
Frances: Demons I don’t know. I do believe there’s so much evidence about supernatural things and ghosts being seen there must be something.
Madison: Yeah, I think spirits and maybe an afterlife exists to some point but after hearing their story from Janet and Margaret I think it really influenced what I thought.
Anything about the film change your views on the supernatural?
Frances: It made me feel less scared actually. When you see how they put these films together you see the technique of it. It’s a very technical exercise, and then doing the research on this kind of thing in a weird way kind of exorcised it for me.