James Wan Explains How Aquaman Influenced the Making of Malignant

Filmmaker James Wan's latest film, Malignant, is now in theaters on HBO Max and it's a return to the horror genre for the filmmaker after 2016's The Conjuring 2. The genre-bending film is unlike anything Wan's made before, but it also comes at an interesting point in the filmmaker's career. Malignant is placed in between two superhero films, 2018's Aquaman and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom which is currently filming, and while the films are all very different on nearly every level, Wan says that things he learned making Aquaman influenced Malignant and that he'll be taking new tricks to Aquaman 2 as well.

"I tend to do this, which is whenever I make a big film, I'm just sick of that. The next movie I want to do is go back to my smaller, more intimate films. And that's kind of what I did when I spent years doing my smaller horror films. I wanted to make a big, sort of tentpole explosive action film because I want to show people that I'm capable of other genres as well," Wan explained during a recent press event attended by ComicBook.com. "And that was when I kind of went off and did Furious 7, which is still the strangest one in my filmography. But after that film, I wanted to go back and do another conjuring film, which I did with Conjuring 2. After Conjuring 2, I went and did Aquaman. So I kind of have this rollercoaster thing that I do. And after Aquaman, I'm like, no more CGI movie, no more big-budget, sort of crazy set pieces. And I wanted to just go back to a smaller, more intimate film. And I did."

Wan went on to explain that even with going back to a smaller and more intimate film, he brought with him things he learned from larger films like Furious 7. Specifically, he spoke about the technical filmmaking tools he used to bring Gabriel, the parasitic "twin" embedded in Madison's (Annabelle Wallis) brain that is the threat in Malignant, to life.

"But I did learn a lot as well from having made Malignant and to some degree, having made Furious 7, that I would carry into Malignant. I like to carry things that I've learned from my past movies onto my next films. And that's exactly what I did," he said. "I learned other sorts of technical filmmaking tools that I would apply to Malignant because bringing Gabriel to life was not an easy task. It literally is a combination. It took the whole village, the whole filmmaking village, to bring him to life, between the performances of Annabelle Wallis. And we had a contortionist slash body performer who would depict Gabriel whenever Madison's fully taken over. And she literally ... Marina [Mazepa] that's her name, the performer, she did such an amazing job playing the fully possessed version of Madison."

Wan further explained that it's things from bringing Gabriel to life that he will ultimately take with him to Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

"And what we would do is we would life cast Annabelle Wallis's face. Marina would wear it. And on the back of her head, she'd be wearing an animatronic head," Wan said. "So it's a combination of all this, that we would do to sort of bring him to life. And then from within that, yes, I have learnt other stuff that I will now be taking with me to Aquaman 2."

Malignant stars Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy), Maddie Hasson (Mr. Mercedes), George Young (Containment), Michole Briana White (Dead to Me), Jacqueline McKenzie (Palm Beach), Jake Abel (Supernatural), and Ingrid Bisu (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It).

Wan directed Malignant from a screenplay written by Akela Cooper (M3GAN). The story comes from Wan, Cooper, and Bisu. Wan produced alongside Michael Clear, with Eric McLeod, Judson Scott, Bisu, Peter Luo, Cheng Yang, Mandy Yu, and Lei Han serving as executive producers.

You can take a look at Malignant's official synopsis below.

"In the film, Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities."

Malignant is now playing theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 16, 2022.