British actress Annabelle Wallis talks about acting alongside a creepy doll in Annabelle.
The first thing that hits you about the film Annabelle – OK, probably the second thing because the first is obviously the doll’s pretty creepy visage – is that it stars an actress named Annabelle Wallis.
Is that awesome or creepy? In a phone interview with Wallis, we asked the British actress exactly that.
“I think it’s pretty awesome. I am going to stay on the positive side,” she answered with a laugh, before gamely continuing, “I thought they were doing a film about my life. It was not. It was about a demonic doll; slightly upsetting once I realised that, but I like it. It’s never going to happen again, I might as well enjoy it.”
The 30-year-old beauty is the niece of the late British actor Richard Harris (Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets) and cousin to actor Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones).
Acting is in her DNA. Since she started out almost a decade ago, Wallis has added big film titles to her resume, including Body Of Lies, X-Men: First Class and Snow White & The Huntsman, despite them being small parts.
After her leading role in Annabelle, she will be seen in Grimbsy opposite Isla Fisher, Penélope Cruz and Sacha Baron Cohen. On television, she has appeared in The Tudors, Pan Am, Fleming and Peaky Blinders.
Annabelle director John Leonetti knew Wallis was the right actress to play Mia in the horror flick after just watching her audition tape.
In the film’s production notes, Leonetti recalled: “Annabelle was half-lit with natural light through a window, which was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it was a little hard to see her eyes because the light wasn’t directly on them, but it was very dramatic.
“She had fortitude as well as vulnerability in her reading, and both are important for Mia’s journey. There was one point where she just leaned in slightly and I saw her eyes, and that was it. ”
Wallis’ own interest in participating in the project began when the film was pitched to her as an homage to 1960s and 1970s horror films directed by filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.
She said: “You had all these incredible movies like Don’t Look Now, Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion and the genre was up for awards and taken very seriously. Every actress has that romantic idea of being the Hitchcock blonde, so it was a bit of that (that made me say yes) I gather. And, I was also very intrigued with the movie.”
The film tells a fictional origin story of the scary vintage doll we first met in last year’s smash hit The Conjuring, which was housed in a glass case at Ed and Lorraine Warrens’ home, behind a sign that read “Warning: Positively Do Not Open.” (The doll is currently placed in an occult museum in Connecticut, the United States, visited only by a priest who blesses it twice a month)
For the film, writer Gary Dauberman thought up of a plot to explain how an otherwise sweet doll could become so evil that it needs to be locked up.
The film begins with a very pregnant Mia receiving a beautiful, rare vintage doll named Annabelle, as a present from her husband, John (Ward Horton). One night, their home is invaded by members of a cult who not only attack the couple, but conjured a malevolent entity that decided to make the doll its host.
Things turn from bad to worse with Mia suffering from Annabelle’s wrath, only to be dismissed by her husband as post-traumatic stress.
To get into her character’s shaken mental state, Wallis would separate herself from the crew to seek quiet time and listen to music before shooting certain scenes.
“There’s also adrenaline that comes when the camera is on you and the director yells action. You need to use all of that and push it,” explained Wallis on her method to make sure her performance is believable.
“When I am working, I believe in the environment I am in and it’s easier to do it that way, but I do take a moment to get there and then I use the adrenaline and just go for it.”
Seeing that her cousin Jared was in last year’s supernatural film The Quiet Ones and is starring in the upcoming remake of The Poltergeist, Wallis did look to him for advice.
“It was good to ask someone who was familiar with the genre. He definitely will be coming to the movie premiere too,” shared Wallis.
Still, working with a doll that could be a small child at the corner of the eye could throw a person off momentarily. Athough Wallis wasn’t too nervous working with it, she admitted that the doll was frightening because it’s what a person least expect.
“It’s so eerily disarming; you look at her and she is so symbolic of all that is good and innocent, yet there’s something about her, she is this menace.
“Luckily, I am a tough little cookie.”
While Wallis believes in the supernatural, it’s not something she wants in her life. “But what I like about films like this is that these stories come from things that happened to real people. And these are people who went mad because of it.
“That’s when it becomes scary for the audience because it’s real. And it asks questions. I think any form of art that make people come away from it and go ‘Oh my God, what if, what if?’ is interesting.”
Annabelle opens in cinemas nationwide today.