'The Nun' director Corin Hardy reveals real-life ghostly encounter and the film's biggest influences

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene in New Line Cinema’s horror film The Nun, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

Corin Hardy, the director of The Nun, has revealed he had a real-life supernatural experience of his own while making his spin-off of horror hit The Conjuring.

The 43-year-old English director says he “can’t really explain” the spooky encounter he had with while shooting the horror film in Romania last year.

“I had my first supernatural experience whilst making The Nun,” Hardy tells Yahoo Movies UK.

“We were filming that ‘corridor with crosses’ sequence in the movie and it was [filmed in a real] 200ft long corridor underground in a Romanian fortress.”

Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene in New Line Cinema’s horror film The Nun a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

The sequence Hardy is referring to sees Sister Irene, a trainee nun played by American Horror Story scream queen Taissa Farmiga, investigating the catacombs beneath an ancient Romanian convent. Irene, on official Vatican business, is stalking along the passageway festooned with hundreds of crucifixes hanging from the ceiling, approaching her destination: a locked door inscribed with the latin message: ‘Finit hic deo’ – ‘God ends here’.

“You get crew members on location having to duck out of shot and hide around corners, and so I had to be in this dark cell room, adjacent to this 200ft long underground corridor, that I went in, into the pitch blackness,” Hardy goes on.

“I saw a couple of figures in the room, sitting, watching, and I thought they were Romanian crew members. I turned my back and I went to my monitors, I was watching the takes of Taissa, with this quite complex camera movement: it’s rotating and tracking in.

“So after I got the take, I turned around to see the reaction of these crew members. I turned over my shoulder and there was no-one there.”

“And it freaked me out, because it was a room with no other exits, and the only door was right in front of me into the corridor. I assume that they were maybe Romanian ghosts of soldiers that once were in this fortress.”

Read more: The most haunted film sets

Yahoo spoke with Hardy on the eve of the launch of The Nun  (in cinemas Thursday, 6 September) to talk about his second feature, which is the fifth film to take place in James Wan’s The Conjuring universe.

Hardy landed the gig while developing his remake of The Crow with Jason Momoa, which eventually got cancelled, so we asked him about working as a ‘gun for hire’, the influences he looked to for The Nun, and whether he’d want to follow in the footsteps of other Conjuring alumni into the world of the DC comic book movies.

Yahoo Movies UK: When you sign up to make a film in The Conjuring universe, is there a guideline, or set of rules you have to stick to?

(L-R) Director Corin Hardy and Taissa Farmiga on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film The Nun, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

Corin Hardy: We’re not given an instruction manual. I guess the guideline was that: I’m a fan of horror, and a fan of James Wan’s movies, and I’ve seen all the Conjuring movies, and the Annabelle movies, so I knew the world that I was becoming a part of. So it was really more instinctual.

And when I met James and also Gary [Dauberman] (screenwriter of The Nun, It, Annabelle, and Annabelle: Creation), they were both passionate horror fans as well, so it was sort of like an unspoken connection. We could discuss anything, for sure, and when we had the script in pre-production, anything we could solidify and improve, we did.

I guess I knew what The Conjuring world was, and I also knew that this movie takes it in a slightly different direction, it has a slightly different flavour. It’s period, 1952, in Romania, and it had a real sense of a classic horror movie about it, and that excited me.

(L-R) Jonas Bloquet as Frenchie, Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene and Demian Bichir as Father Burke in New Line Cinema’s horror film The Nun, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

Was there any advice you took that really helped to nail the tone of the film?

It was really just that it was clear – and I got some reaffirmation from James Wan – that yes, I should run with it and do my thing, but also we knew that it had a real sense of being a classic gothic horror movie, you know like Hammer-inspired, and Dracula, a little bit of Name of the Rose, a little bit [Indiana Jones and TheTemple of Doom, a little bit of Exorcist to mix into the pot, and I was encouraged to go with that.

Were there any other specific films that you looked to for inspiration for this film?

When I got the job, and when I make a movie, I always prepare a bible of imagery and reference. Mainly visually but also to create a tone and atmosphere. I’ve mentioned a few already. Certainly there was a little bit more of an opportunity for a slightly richer colour pallette that I wanted to create in this. So we had a lot of organic light, gas light, candle light, moonlight, as well as fog and cemeteries and also stained glass and things.

Corin Hardy’s The Nun is a rollercoaster thrill ride (Warner Bros)

I collaborated with Jennifer Spence, the production designer, as well as Maxime Alexandre, the DOP (director of photography, also known as a cinematographer), and we discussed the environment. We looked at Dario Argento movies, Mario Bava movies, the Powell and Pressburger movies, they’re just absolutely gorgeous with colours and compositions, and we were just trying to be bold.

Corin Hardy cites 1986’s The Name of the Rose, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as influences on The Nun.

We looked at Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, the Hammer Dracula, a pinch of Temple of Doom, and a little bit of Evil Dead 2, Name of the Rose, Exorcist, Exorcist III as well, which is a kind of underrated movie, that kind of thing.

So you were in pre-production on The Crow when this came along?

Yeah. Around February last year, and it was pretty quick because I got the script and got the job pretty quickly, and flew to Romania to start scouting, and went into prep, and then we had to get on into shooting.

And did you have any reservations about coming on to it like this, as a “gun for hire” as it were, rather than having developed the script yourself?

(L-R) Director Corin Hardy and Demian Bichir on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film The Nun a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

Not really, because I see it as part of the challenge of being a director. I’ve got a number of my own projects and some of them I’ve developed for many years. I’ve developed the script and the whole design of the movie, but also I’m excited about… sometimes it’s just great to get a great script. Obviously it’s great to be able to just go and make the movie.

It’s just a different part of the job.

There’s a lot striking religious iconography, and there’s some references to the Vatican keeping secrets. Is that meant as a reference to the current state of the Catholic church, or is that reading too much into it?

I wouldn’t want to go into that too much, other than to say it’s exploring this world with religious iconography, and its rules, and subverting things. It’s all part of the story and a way of being able to construct more terror and tension in a mysterious world of contrasts and beliefs.

Both James Wan (The ConjuringThe Conjuring 2) and David F Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) have gone on from directing films in this universe to directing DC films (Aquaman and Shazam), is that a path you’d be interested in taking too?

I would certainly consider it! I’m a fan of horror movies, I like dark genre movies, slasher movies, crime movies, superhero movies, so it would be nice to find a fitting superhero.

The Nun is in cinemas Thursday, 6 September.

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