Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto Dish About Annabelle: Creation

Anthony LaPaglia in Annabelle: Creation

Anthony LaPaglia in Annabelle: Creation

Among the cast and crew of Annabelle: Creation, there was one sentiment that remained common on set: Nobody ever wanted to touch the doll. The horror film, which is a prequel to the 2014 Annabelle and a spin-off from The Conjuring, thus making it the rare prequel to a prequel, features Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto as grieving parents who open up their rural farmhouse to group of orphan girls during the 1950s, but the girls are soon terrorized by the presence of a creepy doll with supernatural powers that threatens them once released.

Otto, the actress best known for her role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, first had to work with the Annabelle doll during a scene with Stephanie Sigman, who plays the nun who supervises the girls.

“We had to do a scene where Stephanie brings the doll in and asks me what is going on. We tried to rehearse it, but the doll was sitting on the chair, and I could not rehearse with the doll. It kept distracting me, and I couldn’t turn away from it.”

“For me,” LaPaglia explains, “it depended on the light. At a certain light, the doll looked pretty benign to me, but then I’d walk in, and it would be in shadow, and it would frighten me. It’s something about the contours of the face and how it changes with the light.”

During the entire filming of Annabelle: Creation LaPaglia remained in character throughout the process, which required him to maintain complete distance from the young actresses who played the orphans and keep an American accent. LaPaglia did this in order to maintain the mysterious quality that his character has to the young girls, who are unsure whether he is actually a menace to them.

“Sometimes when you work on a movie, you get very familiar and friendly with your co-stars, and in this particular case, I felt it would be easier to remain at a distance. I liked the girls, but I didn’t really want anything else to play in psychologically. It was easier for me to just walk around, freaking them out all day. It was a conscious choice to remove myself so that it would play that way on film.”

Miranda Otto

Miranda Otto

The one challenge of this is that as the movie progresses, LaPaglia’s character gradually warms to the girls in the house, and yet the film was shot out of order and thus he had to modulate his behavior on set to the filming.

“That was the biggest challenge,” LaPaglia claims. “It’s always hard because you have an arc of the character, and we shot the backstory last, so it was completely out of order. You have to take it apart and remember where all the pieces belong.”

The one aspect of remaining in character that required no effort for the native Australian, however, was speaking entirely in an American accent.

“I’ve been doing that for 30 years.”

The challenges for Otto were of a different type. Her character, the sickly and injured wife of LaPaglia’s dollmaker, remains in bed throughout nearly the entire movie and has less of a direct presence on the girls and the nuns in the farmhouse. Otto had the challenge of having to perform without much of the ability to move.

“When it came to the expositional side of the story, to not be able to move that much was tricky. You’re telling characters they have to get out, and you can’t actually get out yourself. In the beginning it was fun because it was so shuttered in and so cloistered, but as the story comes out, I felt very trapped in the bed by the end.”

An additional challenge was performing with much of her face covered in a mask that hides a horrific facial injury, essentially hiding half of what is an actor’s greatest tool.

“I didn’t want to be expressive, and was more interested in the idea of how little I could give away and how others would endow it with their own ideas. The worst thing about the mask was that it was just really sweaty.”

Even after 30 years in the business, this was the first horror movie in which LaPaglia has appeared. The actor, despite frequent forays into mainstream films and television, such as his Golden Globe-winning role in the CBS procedural “Without a Trace,” prefers documentaries to most of what Hollywood actually does produce.

“I’ve seen everything because my daughter is 14, so I get to see the movies they make for adults that are actually aimed at 14-year-olds. Everything has a place, but the majority of what I watch is documentaries because I find them truthful, and find that the human condition there is more real. It’s interesting to see how people behave in front of the camera when they forget that it’s there.”

LaPaglia doesn’t cite a horror movie like Annabelle: Creation as the most frightening movie he has ever seen, but instead the HBO series “The Jinx” about suspected murderer Robert Durst.

“That’s the creepiest movie you’ll ever see. That guy has black eyes and scared the hell out of me.”

Annabelle: Creation is in theaters Aug. 11.

Jeremy Ross is a Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering entertainment.

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