Liv­ing DOLL

Hor­ror fans couldn’t get enough of creepy doll Annabelle in Now the fiendish fig­urine is back to scare the day­lights out of ris­ing Bri­tish star Annabelle Wal­lis

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - MOVIES - Words fiona pur­don Annabelle Peaky Blin­ders,

ANNABELLE WAL­LIS swaps his­tory for hor­ror in The Con­jur­ing spinoff Annabelle. She may be one of Bri­tain’s ris­ing stars, but Wal­lis is rarely recog­nised on the street. Her best-known roles are in pe­riod dra­mas, which re­quire lay­ers of his­tor­i­cal cos­tum­ing and era-spe­cific hairstyling.

Wal­lis rose to fame as the bodicewear­ing Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s beau­ti­ful and del­i­cate third wife, in hit tele­vi­sion drama, The Tu­dors, in 2009.

Since then, she has starred as dou­bleagent Grace Burgess in post-World War I English gang­ster TV drama Peaky Blin­ders and as one of Ian Flem­ing’s women, Muriel Wright, in re­cent biopic Flem­ing.

“I’m lucky I do a lot of pe­riod stuff, so I’m never recog­nised in the street,” she says. “I don’t dress like any of my char­ac­ters nor­mally, so I can shapeshift into what­ever I want for my per­sonal life.”

Things might change for Wal­lis with her new role as young mother Mia Form in Annabelle, a spinoff of last year’s hit hor­ror flick, The Con­jur­ing, which made $318 mil­lion at the box of­fice world­wide.

The Con­jur­ing de­picted “real” cases looked into by para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors Les­ley and Ed War­ren, in­clud­ing one of the most terrifying jobs they have un­der­taken – a Rhode Is­land house said to be haunted.

The open­ing sub­plot in The Con­jur­ing con­cerns a creepy-look­ing doll, said to have a de­mon spirit, called Annabelle, which is locked up in a glass cab­i­net in the War­ren’s oc­cult mu­seum.

“I was aware of The Con­jur­ing. It was a re­fresh­ing piece of genre. I like the style of that era of clas­sic hor­ror of the 1970s and around that time zone,” Wal­lis says.

Annabelle cov­ers the ori­gin story of the doll and fea­tures young cou­ple Mia and John Form (Wal­lis and Ward Hor­ton), who buys the doll as a gift for his wife.

Wal­lis says the ac­tors had ac­cess to the War­rens’ orig­i­nal notes to help them re­search their roles.

“The character of Mia was pitched to me as a homage to iconic hero­ines such as Mia Far­row’s character in film clas­sic Rose­mary’s Baby (1968),” Wal­lis says.

“Even though I had this ref­er­ence, the di­rec­tor made it clear he wanted me to play the role with an orig­i­nal take.

“The thing about the genre is that you have to have your au­di­ence care about you. You have to be lov­able and be­liev­able so they be­lieve in you through­out the movie.

“Mia is a very lay­ered character, she’s no card­board cut-out.

“I didn’t want to be a hys­ter­i­cal fe­male that you of­ten see in a hor­ror movie. I was happy with the tra­jec­tory of my character.’’

Annabelle is di­rected by John R. Leonetti, cin­e­matog­ra­pher on The Con­jur­ing, which was helmed by Aus­tralian James Wan, a co-pro­ducer on Annabelle.

Wan di­rected and wrote 2004’s hor­ror film Saw and 2010’s In­sid­i­ous, about a fam­ily haunted by an evil spirit. Be­fore Annabelle he was at the helm of Fast & Fu­ri­ous 7.

“James was very hands-on. He came from di­rect­ing Fast & Fu­ri­ous 7 and he would come after work and stay all night,’’ Wal­lis says.

“He has such a pas­sion and love for film­mak­ing. He is a real con­nois­seur of the genre. He knows a lot about what au­di­ences want, he has the skill to give the movie the right tone.

”He is in­cred­i­bly giv­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tive. He very much jumps around on set and has more en­ergy than all of us to­gether and sim­ply blazes the way.

“He has had a very colour­ful ca­reer, so it’s great to be part of one of his films.’’

It was Wan who de­signed the hu­man-like fea­tures of the doll Annabelle rather than use the orig­i­nal Raggedy Ann-style doll.

Wal­lis says ev­ery scene in which the doll ap­pears is scary.

“I could have gone to see the real doll, but it’s some­thing you don’t want to in­dulge in… you can in­dulge too far in the spirit world. I’d rather keep far away. I be­lieve in the spirit world and I don’t want to con­jure any­thing up,’’ she says.

“To­wards the end of the film there are some re­ally scary scenes, but it’s im­por­tant you keep your per­for­mance gen­uine.’’

Ox­ford-born Wal­lis is the ma­ter­nal niece of act­ing legend Richard Har­ris, the orig­i­nal wizard head­mas­ter Dum­ble­dore in the Harry Pot­ter films. Wal­lis, who speaks sev­eral lan­guages, grew up in Por­tu­gal, so rarely saw her Bri­tish rel­a­tives.

“I lived in Por­tu­gal, so I didn’t grow up around Richard Har­ris and my Bri­tish fam­ily,’’ she says. “I al­ways knew act­ing was a ge­netic thing in my fam­ily. You can’t be in act­ing for the wrong rea­sons. You have to en­joy per­form­ing. It’s been nice to know a few of my cousins are ac­tors and to have that fam­ily el­e­ment in my back­ground.’’

Wal­lis has fin­ished the film shoot for a sec­ond sea­son of Peaky Blin­ders, which will air on Fox­tel’s BBC First in Aus­tralia.

She is now work­ing on the movie, Grimsby, star­ring along­side Aus­tralians Rebel Wilson and Isla Fisher, along with Sacha Baron Co­hen, who co-wrote the script. Co­hen plays a foot­ball hooli­gan who teams up with his brother (Mark Strong), a top spy, on a new as­sign­ment, while Wal­lis plays Co­hen’s girl­friend.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to be work­ing on the new Sacha Baron Co­hen movie,’’ Wal­lis says. “I like to shake things up and to know any­thing is pos­si­ble, which is why I like act­ing.’’

Annabelle Wal­lis as Grace Burgess in TV se­ries Peaky Blin­ders

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