A few weeks back, Daily Dead brought you the first part of our interview with James Wan for Malignant that was conducted during a special event held with select members of the press (you can read that interview HERE). Because of the surprising nature of Malignant’s story, and the twists and turns it takes in the film’s latter half, we thought it was best to hold off on some of the more spoilery tidbits that Wan shared with us.

With that in mind, the following dives into some pretty big spoilers regarding Malignant and its soon-to-be (or maybe he is already) iconic villain Gabriel, and what it took to bring him to life for Wan’s latest horror offering. If you haven’t seen Malignant and want to avoid spoilers, I’d suggest returning to this article once you’ve have a chance to see Wan’s cinematic madness for yourself. But if you’ve seen Malignant already, or you’re not spoiler-sensitive, go ahead and read on, friends!

So, everything in the second half of the film is a lot to take in, but in a good way. How was it working with Marina Mazepa, who does all the physical performances of Gabriel here? The physicality in this film is just unreal and she does a great job.

James Wan: It's a fricking outrageous film. I get it. But what I will say is designing and bringing Gabriel to life wasn't an easy task. It took the entire filmmaking village, as I describe it, and so it's a combination between the performances from Annabelle Wallis, the subtleties from Annabelle Wallis, and the more crazy part that she had to go into in the darkness. So, between her and the psychological aspects of herself building up into Gabriel coming out when she's fully possessed by Gabriel, and then Marina steps into it. And yeah, working with Marina was incredible fun. We could not believe it. I thought I had to shoot a lot of the movie in reverse and then playback in reverse, but what was amazing about Marina is just how quick of a study she is as a physical body performer/dancer, that she was able to learn the choreography and she literally did all the fighting backward, blindly.

She did it all backward, and it was insane to watch how that was all choreographed. That huge fight in the holding cell was all done by Marina. There was no trickery, if you will. We didn't cheat in any way. She did that all backward. And so it was a combination of what she did there and what prosthetic makeup did as well. We applied a prosthetic of Annabelle's face that she wore on her actual face, and then on her back, she was wearing the animatronic head of Gabriel. And so a combination of that with the amazing special effects animatronics team that I had on the film, and also ILM helping me to pull it all together to bring Gabriel to life, it was quite the experience. I really wanted to create a villain that we haven't quite seen before, and it took a lot of work to get it to this level.

I wanted to build off what you just talked about with Gabriel in terms of working with the special effects team. Was that Mike Elizalde's team that you guys worked with to develop Gabriel?

James Wan: Yeah, everything Gabriel-centric animatronic-wise was done at Spectral Motion, with Mike's team. And I've done a fair bit of animatronic in the past on my past projects, but never to this degree. It was quite an eye-opening experience. I loved it. Obviously, most of our generation grew up with horror films from the '80s and all of that, and I really wanted this movie to be my loving throwback to that time.

Because of the animatronics, did that change your cinematography style in terms of working a camera and how you and Michael [Burgess] approached the visuals for Malignant?

James Wan: It was a little bit of both. Like most practical effects, you often need to hide the puppeteer, right? And you need to hide the cables and stuff like that. But the great thing with having modern visual effects at our disposal compared to what they had in the ‘80s is that I could paint people out. I can have people who could be really close by, can have cables sticking out and stuff like that, that doesn't have to be in the final film. It made the process much better in that respect. I was fortunate enough to have ILM on the film as well, who helped me take the prosthetic effects to the next level. It was pretty cool to bring with me just all the experiences that I've gained from making my bigger movies to this film that was made with the spirit of a more down-and-dirty approach.


ICYMI, go HERE to catch up on all of our coverage of Malignant!

[Photo Credit: Above photo courtesy of Warner Bros. / Ron Batzdorff.]

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.