Although he may not be a household name, director
His $20-million thriller
By almost any measure, that's success. But given where Wan's career was just a few years ago, his current status represents a particularly remarkable change of fortune after back-to-back flops.
Coming off his hit 2004 directorial debut
The two films combined took in less than "Saw" did all by itself, and both studio efforts were savaged by reviewers. Where other directors might have retreated to some deserted island, Wan instead returned to his independent film roots, giving up money for creative freedom. He restarted his career with
"I was very mindful of what I could do on a small budget," said the 36-year-old Wan, who has relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta, where much of "Fast & Furious 7" will be filmed. "And that was to have full creative control and make the movie I wanted to make."
Shot for just $980,000, "Insidious" was initially rejected by the
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions was the only Toronto buyer vaguely interested in the film, starring
Sony spent several hundred thousand dollars on reshoots, and when the film was released by its partner studio FilmDistrict in April 2011, it trounced many higher-profile competitors that month, outperforming
"I made 'Insidious' to remind people that I could make an old-school movie that hearkened back to suspenseful storytelling," said Wan, who co-wrote the film with his "Saw" screenwriter, Leigh Whannell.
Wan said he was more focused on putting distance between himself and the "Saw" franchise than making people forget about "Dead Silence" and "Death Sentence." Wan left the "Saw" series following the first film and didn't direct any of the subsequent movies, which have been criticized as gratuitously grisly. "Insidious" and "Insidious: Chapter 2" are both rated PG-13.
"I like to say I just directed the pilot," Wan said of the "Saw" movies, which, with the seventh installment, 2010's
"He told me when I was making 'Death Sentence' that there will be bumps along the way — ups and downs — but always remember what you are capable of," Wan recalled. "He said it in passing, but I really took it to heart."
In Wan, producer Blum said he saw not damaged goods but a director with great upside: Wan had a few movies behind him, so he wasn't green, yet he was as hungry as a newcomer to prove himself.
"Obviously, he's massively talented, but he was undervalued," said Blum, whose track record in low-budget horror includes
Before Wan and Blum could reteam on "Insidious: Chapter 2," the director went off to make "The Conjuring" for
"It was to me the best of both worlds," Wan said of his return to a big studio. "I got the creative freedom I wanted, but I had the resources to make the film properly."
Released against three far more expensive films —
"Insidious: Chapter 2," which picks up where the last movie ended and includes the first film's signature netherworld for souls of the dead called "The Further," could gross as much as $30 million in its debut weekend, easily trouncing
That's pocket change compared to Wan's next movie, Universal's "Fast & Furious 7."
The sixth episode in Universal's
Wan said that he's always wanted to direct a huge popcorn title like the "Fast & Furious" films. "At heart, I'm a huge action fan — a big junkie of spectacle films," he said. "It's very hard — a lot of hard work and very difficult. But it's what I've always wanted to do.
"I've been very calculating to some degree with the films that I do, because I know where I want to go."