James Wan Truly Terrified One Of His Stars While Shooting Insidious

With "Insidious," director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell changed the haunted house horror genre forever. They integrated demons into a plot surrounding astral projection and made a seriously terrifying movie, intricately exploring the idea that a house couldn't be haunted, but an evil entity binds itself to a host. Some moments would make any horror fan jump out of their seats. "Insidious" wasn't just the beginning of Patrick Wilson's journey to becoming a Scream King — it elevated mainstream horror in several ways.

It also had humble beginnings. The film started as a regular haunted house movie that told the story of a family experiencing paranormal disturbances after their young son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), falls into an inexplicable coma. Believing their home to be haunted, the family moves into another, but the disturbances only continue. It is later revealed that Dalton has the ability to astral project and had traveled to a realm known as The Further, a dangerous dimension between Heaven, Earth, and Hell, which tortured souls of the dead inhabit. Featuring out-of-body experiences and frightening demons, "Insidious" is a pretty scary movie to watch. It turns out it was also a difficult movie to film.

Simpkins was often left in tears

The primary antagonist in "Insidious" — the Lipstick-Face demon ("The Man with the Fire in his Face") who lives in The Further — is a sinister entity that holds Dalton captive. Played by Joseph Bishara, who also composed the score for the movie, the monstrous demon is a tall humanoid figure with a bloody face and yellow eyes. Let's just say that Bishara in costume for "Insidious" is not amusing to look at ... and for his 9-year-old costar, things got a bit too hard sometimes.

Ty Simpkins was often spooked while sharing screen space with Bishara when he was in costume as the film's resident villain. James Wan shared in an interview with ScreenRant that the child actor was "terrified" of him at times.

Wan, who is also the co-creator of the "Saw" franchise, preferred that the actors didn't meet Bishara until they filmed a scene together, because it was the most natural way for him to film their reaction. With Simpkins being so young on set, this technique often took a toll on him, since Bishara's makeup and appearance as the film's demon doesn't exactly make him a sight for sore eyes. As Wan told ScreenRant:

"The really sort of sad thing is the boy, Dalton, played by Ty Simpkins in the movie, he was so terrified — he was like 8 or 9 years old. Just about every single scene he has in the film, besides the start of the movie, was with a particular nasty, scary character, right? A demonic character. And he was terrified of him. Because, man, if you think that thing is scary on screen, imagine being an 8-year-old kid having to stand next to this thing all painted up in the darkness."

Wan reassured him as much as he could

As their director, James Wan did his best to reassure Ty Simpkins when he was too afraid of filming the scary contents of the movie. Wan had the young actor watch when Bishara was getting his demon makeup and prosthetics done so he could prove to him it was not real. The horror filmmaker switched between different approaches where he tried to show Simpkins that Bishara was just an actor, but he'd also find a way to extract a natural reaction from him — by, you know, having the demon chase after him. He continued:

"And you know, I would have to work with him and go, you know, 'This isn't real.' And sometimes, I would have to work with Ty and kind of go the opposite way, and go 'You know what, in this scene, I really need him to break out and cry here.' Then, I would try and find some way, without scaring the kid too much, to extract that out of him. Then, when I would yell cut, I'd go 'See Ty, that wasn't so bad, was it?' and he's like bawling his eyes out. ... I remember one moment he was starting to lighten up and starting to have fun, and I was like, 'Oh man, that's not the effect I want.' [Laughter] So I went up to Ty and said, 'You know Ty, after we shoot this scene, the next thing we're shooting is that monster character chasing after you.' His eyes just started tearing up and I said, 'Roll camera.'"

'Look, it's just an actor done up in makeup'

On some days, Ty Simpkins had the opportunity to go to the makeup trailer and help get The Man with the Fire in his Face get ready for filming.

"I would also take him on certain days to the makeup trailer and show him, 'Look, it's just an actor done up in makeup.' And he got to play with the makeup and get to apply some of the makeup to the actor playing the demon, who just happened to be the composer of the movie as well."

With a budget of $1.5 million, "Insidious" grossed over $99.8 million worldwide, becoming a box office hit and spawning an entire film franchise. James Wan continued to find success in the horror genre. He went on to direct "The Conjuring," with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson leading its universe of paranormal horror films. It is the highest-grossing horror franchise in the world.

The filmmaker is currently helming the sequel to "Aquaman," which he revealed is inspired by a 1965 sci-fi horror movie that also has vampires. Only Wan could find a connection between vampires and a member of the Justice League!