Over the course of his long career, Ron Livingston has taken on incredible variety of roles, such as Peter Gibbons in OFFICE SPACE, or Capt. Lewis Nixon in BAND OF BROTHERS. Next summer, he's taking the concerned father route in James Wan’s new horror film, THE CONJURING. Last week at New York Comic Con, I got to sit down with Livingston after Warner Bros’ press conference for the film to talk to him about what's in store for us with this approach to horror, his acting roots, and the haircut he subjected himself to to act in this period piece.
In the hustle and bustle that is NYCC, my time with Ron Livingston ended up being cut a bit short, but I did have a few minutes with him just before we were presented with the trailer and extended first look of THE CONJURING. Enjoy.
Mascott - You’ve been in a whole lot of different kinds of movies. You’ve been in BAND OF BROTHERS, OFFICE SPACE, TEN YEARS just recently. So this is one of your first horror movies that you’ve done. Was there any particular reason that you hadn’t gone to the genre or why THE CONJURING was the one that really got you?
Ron Livingston - Actually, there were a couple. I did one called CAMPFIRE TALES... It’s out on video from a bunch of years back... That was kind of before... In the Pre-SCREAM days, you know what I mean? It was kind of a campy anthology. It was right after SWINGERS. And then I did a Stuart Gordon movie called KING OF THE ANTS that was really, really dark. But this is the first of the just kinda straight, old-school haunted house.... You know, an exorcism. It’s an exorcism movie. Well, I don’t know. I think you just kind of come up... Most of it depends on what’s... When you’re 25, what kind of stuff are they making? And when I got to Hollywood, they were making night-time soap operas, which I wasn’t good looking enough for, and they were making sitcoms. So, I was like, “well, I better try to be funny and do that.” And then I think once you do the comedy stuff, it feels weird to have you in a horror film unless it’s like a SCREAM thing where it’s trying to be a little campy. So, I think, honestly, the straight answer is that enough time has gone by where I can be in this world and people don’t just start laughing right away as soon as I come out on screen.Although, once they see the haircut I have because it’s set in the early 70s, late 60s... It’s... It might be kind of laughable.
Mascott - Like you said, you’ve mostly done comedies...
Ron Livingston - Yeah, I started out in comedy, you know, and then I kinda, with BAND OF BROTHERS I transitioned a little bit... But I’ve always... I don’t know, I’ve got a checklist of stuff that I’ve wanted to do, and I think just a good, classic, old suspense horror film was on there. It was something I hadn't cracked yet. I saw INSIDIOUS and I was really surprised actually, because when you think of James Wan you think of SAW, which is a really hyper-modern... Like a puzzle...
Mascott - Jigsaw.
Ron Livingston - Yeah. A jigsaw movie... So when I saw INSIDIOUS, it was weird because it was like a real throwback. But it still had a lot of his.... He’s got his visual style... He’s one of those guys that... He still likes to work with practical effects. When I loved about INSIDIOUS, when you get to the big scary guy, the boss at the end of the thing, it’s basically a guy with red paint on his face, and it’s terrifying. And it was kind of blown away at how he was not only able to do that, but had the balls to say, “That’s what I’m gonna do. It’s not going to be a lot of creature effects or vis effects, it’s just going to be a guy with red paint on his face, and we’re going to make that terrifying.” I thought that was badass.
Mascott - So THE CONJURING is more of a character piece, like you said, a classic horror movie.
Ron Livingston - The thing with Hitchcock is... The reason PSYCHO is so scary to the audience of its day was that they... It hadn’t happened yet. That kind of movie didn’t happy yet, where you just kill somebody off in the first two or three scenes.
Mascott - The main character dies halfway through!
Ron Livingston - Yeah, that you think is the main character! So, it breaks the rules. I feel like something about this movie... One of the things that’s really scary about it is that it plays with the rules in a way... By putting a family in the middle of it, and five daughters... We’re used to seeing grizzly murders, like, “Let’s go find a sorority, and we’re going to cut them up.” Or, “We’ll get some horny teenagers and send ‘em out in the woods, and one by one...” We’ll do a little morality play of, “Well this one broke this rule, so we’ll kill them off.” When you do that with a 7 year old and an 11 year old and a 9-year-old girl, it really puts the audience on edge because you don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. And then when you start playing with the idea that it might be the mother herself that’s going to hurt them, it’s... It just messes with your moviegoing value system. And then, the fact that, because we’re used to seeing things happen fast in horror movies, when James kinda does a little judo throw and says no, we’re going to an old school, creepy...
Mascott - A slow burn...
Ron Livingston - Slow, suspense pace, it has the effect of just really putting you on the edge of your seat because you’re just waiting for it, you know what I mean? And it works really well.
Mascott - Well thank you very much.
Ron Livingston - I appreciate it.
THE CONJURING now opens in theatres on July 19, 2013.