The Last Word With INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3’s Leigh Whannell

The writer and actor makes the jump to director with the third installment of the haunted house franchise.

What is your guilty pleasure movie?

If I’m hung over, I definitely love to bust out MacGruber. It makes me laugh until I can’t breathe. I can hear a chorus of people saying “why is MacGruber a guilty pleasure? It’s awesome!” -- which is the problem with saying something is a “guilty” pleasure; you’re implying it is bad. There are a whole lot of ‘80s films that have HUGE nostalgic value for me but probably won’t be making the AFI list anytime soon: such as Twins, Overboard and Short Circuit. What about Summer School? Come on!!

What was your most magical cinema experience?

I remember going to a drive-in movie theater when I was about six and seeing a double bill of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the first Superman film. That was pretty special. And I remember seeing Ghostbusters in a theater for the first time -- that had a pretty massive effect on me. And of course, I have to give the standard answer of most people around my age and mention Star Wars. All of these films are American, obviously, but I was on the other side of the world in Australia so they seemed very exotic to me. It made me become obsessed with the US as a country. All of my favourite stuff came from there -- so I would like to take this opportunity to say a sincere thank you, America, for giving me all these wonderful cultural gifts that changed my life. You’ve been very generous to me, and continue to be.

What is the movie you believe everyone should see?

Now that is a tough question, almost impossible to answer. If I was going to send one film out into space for aliens to watch, I’d probably send Apocalypse Now. It sums up so many different things about our world -- the madness of our planet, our inhumanity towards each other, but also the great things like music and art.

Only one of your movies can continue to exist after you're gone - which one is it?

Well, I’ve only directed one film thus far (Insidious 3), so I’d probably say that one at this point! I wrote, directed and acted in that film and I’m terrible at multi-tasking, so at least one example of me doing more than two things at once would survive me. The inscription on my gravestone would read ‘I told you I could multi-task.’

If you weren't born to direct, what else would you be doing?

A: The scary thing is that I have no idea. I’m not really good at anything else, and I’m not even great at this! The Sliding Doors aspect of it all terrifies me (sorry to reference a Gwyneth movie) because if none of my writing or directing jobs had ever happened, I don’t know what that alternate path would have been. I think I’d be in a teaching job or something. I really admire people who put everything on the line to take a shot at the ideal version of their life. Many get annoyed that Los Angeles is filled with so many quote-unquote “wannabe actors,” but I don’t. My heart is filled with so much empathy for them. Not to get all Tony Robbins on you, but they are chasing their dream, in a profession where they know the odds are stacked against them -- yet they do it anyway. That makes me smile. It’s so courageous.

Why do you make movies?

It is simply what I love. Movies are something I was enchanted by at a very young age, before you can define things the way adults can. As a teenager, I pretended to like a lot of stuff that I wasn’t really into, just to fit in -- but as a four-year-old, you’re coming from a much purer place. You love what you love. I used to wander through the local video store, just staring at the covers. The world of movies grabbed a hold of me back then and they still haven’t let go. I make movies now because I want to be a part of that world -- not just a viewer or a fan, but an active participant. For example, when I was nineteen years old, I got a job as the ‘movie’ guy on an MTV-type TV show. I got to interview Tim Burton, John Woo, Peter Jackson -- it was basically a movie fan’s dream job...but somehow I was never happy doing it. I didn’t want to interview Tim Burton, I wanted to BE Tim Burton! You know what I mean? And now I get to make films. Sheesh, I’m tearing up just writing this. Thanks for the free therapy, guys!

This was originally published in the May issue of Birth.Movies.Death. magazine. Insidious: Chapter 3 arrives in theatres June 5.