Annabelle: Creation – Exclusive Interview with Talitha Bateman

Fifteen-year-old Talitha Bateman has already had a long and varied career in film and television, but Annabelle: Creation (review) is her first foray into pure horror. In the film, she plays Janice, an orphaned girl who has polio… but after she meets Annabelle, those problems seem like picnics. We sat down with her to ask what is was to film such an intense thriller and to be directed by up-and-comer David F. Sandberg.

Dread Central: The sets you were on seemed so real – plus you were on location in the well scene – can you tell us what that feels like in terms of putting yourself into Janice’s mindset?

Talitha Bateman: Well, on most sets you usually see the director and different people in front of you, and in this one, when you were on the set, you were actually in the scene, so it felt like I was Janice, whenever I started filming and that definitely helped with my character because I didn’t have to take a minute to visualise everything around me, I could just see it and I was actually there. On the location, there were snakes. I didn’t actually see any, but apparently, we caught five rattlesnakes. And Lotta, David’s wife, actually saw a tarantula – a huge one, the size of my palm – so it was crazy! But I’m relieved I didn’t actually see any of those!

DC: Janice has polio, which means you had to wear leg-braces and eventually wind up in a wheelchair. Did you study, or practice, to know what that might feel like, in advance of filming?

TB: Yeah, actually it was very difficult to really try and portray that character because of her leg brace and I’ve never had to deal with anything like that – I’ve always had two legs. So when I found out that she actually had a leg brace, two weeks before we started shooting, I walked around the house limping and with a cane and I tried to figure out how I would do it. And I tried not to use my leg as much as I could, but sometimes I would slip up. But I walked around grocery stores, I had a cane and tried to limp, and just not to use that leg. And it was really difficult, sometimes I would catch myself using it because it was just so hard and it would be hard to really do anything, to walk upstairs, that’s like almost impossible to do with a leg brace. So it was pretty crazy, but I appreciate those people now. Now when I meet people in wheelchairs and stuff, because I didn’t really go through that obviously but I feel like I have a little bit of experience now, so I just have a lot of empathy towards them.

DC: One of the wheelchairs that you use in the film is actually connected to the wall so Janice can go up and down the stairs. Did you get to work that yourself?

TB: No. Someone actually controlled it, I didn’t do that – it would have been cool – but they actually built it for the set, for the movie actually. I didn’t know that. At first I thought they probably bought one off line from a specific store, but the props people, they actually built them. That was crazy. I think they had two of them actually, in different places and they built both of them.

DC: What’s it like, working with David?

TB: David’s actually a pretty hands-off director. He will just let me just have my moment, because I feel like I want to be Janice, I don’t want to feel like someone’s telling me what to do and how to play her because I really want to feel that emotion going into the project, otherwise it won’t seem real, it’ll seem fake. Like I’m putting on a façade and I wanted to really feel like I’m Janice which is why I walked around limping with an actual leg brace because I wanted actually to feel like Janice. So whenever I had to do a scared scene, I always take a beat beforehand, I ask if I can have a moment and I just picture whatever she’s going through in this moment because I want to be fully in character.

DC: Had you seen Lights Out, prior to making this?

TB: I did, actually. My brother’s really into that stuff so he actually showed me some of his short films and I watched some of the behind the scenes things that he did. I think he’s just so talented, he’s really brilliant. I was nervous to work with him because I feel like he’s a genius. And I watched him just go behind the scenes, and he’s just so creative with everything he does. Every scene he took so seriously, even if it’s just like a small take they won’t even use, honestly, but he’s just very professional and you wouldn’t expect it because he’s just started in this industry but, he’s a brilliant director.

DC: You and Lulu Wilson play best friends in this film. Did you know her before?

TB: No, but we pretty much clicked immediately actually. She’s just such an easy person to get along with. She is so kind and it was just easy to hang out with her in between scenes because we wanted to get to know each other and because we wanted the chemistry to seem real. So, we just hung out at lunchtime and we became best friends during the shooting.

DC: On the other hand, Anthony LaPaglia’s character, Mr. Mullins, is a bit intimidating. But it must have been a treat to work with such a veteran actor.

TB: He is incredible. I actually, I was kind of scared of him while filming so that helped because, he didn’t talk that much. Whenever we talked he was fully in character and I was trying to be in character too, so that helped me because I could just fully be Janice, without having to feel like I had to talk to someone in between the scenes. And so that was cool. I never really met him honestly, until after we stopped filming. Until the wrap party which is when I actually felt like I met Anthony LaPaglia. It was interesting because I didn’t even know he had an Australian accent (laughs). The whole time he was talking – he was in character the whole entire time. It’s really professional too and I actually really respected that because I didn’t know the type of person he was until after we stopped filming. And that’s when I figured out he’s this really nice guy.

DC: There’s some harrowing scenes involving you. Scary ones! Was that really you?

TB: They actually had a stunt woman on set, but I did do all of my own stunts. They had her there just in case, and she did do some of them too but they ended up using mine which is pretty cool. The hardest scene probably was the stair lift scene which you alluded to earlier because I didn’t have any other actors with me. It was just me and I didn’t have anyone to feed of, of, or I just didn’t have anyone else in that scene, so I really had to connect with Janice and I just had to go really dark because throughout that whole scene I’m just screaming and crying. So it was really hard because the whole day I was just like bawling. But it was worth it because I feel that’s where I really found Janice. We started filming that scene at the beginning, in the first few weeks, so I feel like throughout that scene I really found out who Janice was. I don’t know why just going into that emotion, I felt like just screaming and letting out all this emotion from Janice really helped me figure out who she was as a person. And then that helped with the rest of the film.

DC: Were there stunt-dolls?

TB: I think there were three Annabelles altogether. So one of them was the stand in I think just for lighting (laughs), and one was for stunts, and then there was the doll that we actually used in all of the scenes and we used the stunt doll I think when Lulu Wilson’s character throws her into the wall, we used the stunt for that one and just for a couple of other scenes. She was like sponge, you could like smoosh her. The stunt doll was really cool. I think David actually kept that one.

DC: Did anyone play pranks on the set?

TB: I did a couple of times. I just changed Annabelle’s eye line because you could actually move her eyeballs. Which is definitely freaky because I moved it towards David and just lifted up her hand so she was like waving at him when he came in. And that was funny. But we were pretty professional on set most of the time.

DC: This film is suspenseful and all, but there’s an emotional core to it.

TB: I think so too. I feel that with most horror movies I see I get scared, but there’s not much else to it. Like I don’t really care if the characters die, to be honest because I think that makes for a better movie sometimes. But with this one I feel like you really care about the characters, there’s a lot of character development. You really love Lulu Wilson’s character, and you love Stephanie Sigman’s character, the nun, you care about all of them so much because there’s all of this emotion towards them. They’re these orphans who don’t have anyone else. Their a family really and you just don’t want to see anything bad happen to them.

DC: What draws you to acting?

TB: So many different reasons. My main one honestly is because I don’t have to be Talitha Bateman every day – it’s really cool that I can actually be other people. If I want to be a barista I can just film a movie where I’m a barista (laughs). So I think it’s really cool that as an actor you can portray so many different emotions on the screen you can make people feel like they understand where you’re coming from when you’ve never really dealt with that. Like, I’ve never really not had polio, you know what I mean. But I felt like I had, for a least a month I felt like I had polio and so I thinks that’s really cool that you can actually understand where other people are coming from by going into this character and trying to – going to this whole other world.

David F. Sandberg directs from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle. The film stars Stephanie Sigman (Spectre), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Lulu Wilson (Ouija 2, Deliver Us from Evil), Philippa Coulthard (After the Dark), Grace Fulton (Badland), Lou Lou Safran (The Choice), Samara Lee (Foxcatcher, The Last Witch Hunter), and Tayler Buck in her feature film debut, with Anthony LaPaglia (“Without a Trace”) and Miranda Otto (“Homeland”, the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

Annabelle: Creation has been rated R by the MPAA for horror violence and terror. Slated for release August 11, 2017, the film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Synopsis:
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a doll maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home. They soon become the target of the doll maker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

Annabelle: Creation

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