Speaking With The Nun’s Taissa Farming and Demián BichirPosted by Sidnee Michelle
September 4, 2018
Coming out this week is the horror film The Nun, the fifth installment in The Conjuring franchise and a prequel.
When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of the same demonic nun that first terrorized audiences in The Conjuring 2, as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned.
Directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow), the film stars Oscar-nominated Demian Bichir (A Better Life) as Father Burke, Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) as Sister Irene, Jonas Bloquet (Elle) as local villager Frenchie, Charlotte Hope (Game of Thrones) as the abbey’s Sister Victoria, Ingrid Bisu (Toni Erdmann) as Sister Oana, and Bonnie Aarons, reprising her Conjuring 2 role as the title character.
While promoting the film in Mexico, Blackfilm.com sat down with Taissa Farming and Demián Bichir as they spoke about their experiences making the film.
What attracted you to the role?
Demian Bichir: It’s one of those characters that are so well written, and so well put on the paper that all you have to do is be truthful to it. I have played before another type priest, another revolutionary on the father of Mexican independence. So, I got a lot from that, from that knowledge, because we also played a Jesuit. Those guys are really, really smart, and very clever, and are very well educated, and brave as well.
So, I always tried to find a link to get closer to the character as possible. The quicker the better, and I found that we are both assertive. We both believe that we can make a difference, but we also have our own contradictions. We also have our own fears, and our own demons to fight.
Where you parents tough on it?
DB: Yeah, as Mexican yes. Pretty much because I wanted to go with my grandmother to church. I would always, “Where are you going Grandmother?”. “I’m going to church. Just stay home.”, “No, no, no I want to go with you.”. Boom, I would follow her, and I would be with her. She taught me how to, you know, personality, cross, and the first things that I learned about praying, and stuff, and all that. The place was a formidable place. The smell of it. The tranquility of the air. Then I didn’t stay there to long.
Talissa, how did you prepare for this role? And what was your experience while working on the project?
Talissa Farming: I wasn’t raised Catholic, I didn’t have much experience with nuns. But I really wanted to provide authenticity to the character, because you are playing someone who is so specific. It’s someone who’s chosen this life of dedication, and commitment, and that takes a very specific strength. An inner strength to have, and I really wanted to know more about that. I wanted to know the details of the day to day struggle.
I learned, from when I watched the Nun Story with Audrey Hepburn, which was actually quite informative. I learned that the life of a nun is a struggle for self perfection, which I don’t know anybody that wants to try, and be perfect every single day. It’s physically impossible. So, one thing I really wanted to incorporate, that I learned, was the physicality of it. You are always sensing, or you’re always watching yourself, and correcting yourself. Am I walking humbly? Am I walking close to walls? Am I closing doors quietly? Am I walking with purpose? Are my hands being useless? Am I used them for work?
It’s little tiny things that you realize you’re thinking about on a constant basis, it actually takes a quite a bit of mental space, and time throughout the day. So, while playing Sister Irene I really wanted to make sure I was incorporating all those little corrections.
And on that note of Sister Irene, she’s a woman that’s been so holy, but yet she’s so nuance with representation. There’s even some tension with Marisa, and it seems like there’s almost this affectionate tension. So, what about the representation, the female representation of her character in the movie?
TF: You know, I agree with what Demian was saying before, that there was so much in the script. I think Gary Dauberman wrote such amazing characters, so we really just played what was given to us, you obviously always have to make it your own. Even though someone becomes this holy figure like a nun, you’re still human, you’re still flawed. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to be perfect, you’ll never achieve it.
Sister Irene, yeah she’s not supposed to fall in love and get married with someone else, considering that she’s a bride of Christ, but you can’t help having connections, emotional connections with different people. I think Sister Irene and the Frenchie character, I think they had a strong connection.
Did working in a movie like this change your point of view on religion, exorcism, this kind of stuff?
TF: For me, it really opened my eyes to how much it takes to be someone who has so much faith, and so devout. I was sincerely impressed by it. I’m not scared of commitment, but committing yourself to the Lord, and committing yourself to struggling to be a perfect being in His honor, that’s scary. I don’t think I could ever do it.
So, I’m not sure if it validated anything for me, but it really opened my eyes. Made me really respect them, these religious figures, and how they commit their lives to this.
DB: That’s pretty much the same thing. It is very truly remarkable how these people become soldiers, just like in any army. It doesn’t matter if you have fears. If you have doubts. If you have your own demons to explore, when they call you, and you are required you have to get up, and perform. Go it there, and accomplish a mission.
TF: It doesn’t matter what fear feelings you have, you have to put that aside.
DB: Exactly, that’s truly remarkable. We can always, work say, “Nah, thank you I’ll pass.”, you know what I mean? Not these guys, these guys are like a … That’s what makes you powerful. That’s what makes these characters, at least I’m talking for Father Burke. That’s something that was really, really interesting, and clear.
In terms of how powerful knowing that the worst thing that can happen is that you will lose your life represents when you don’t care. Once you’ve reached that point that it’s for a greater good for others, in this case humanity maybe, then you become truly powerful. Almost invincible, because anything in your fears, especially your fears, are beyond yourself.
To me, that’s what we’ve been talking about the whole day today, that’s something that is really, really impressive right now. A lot of kids are fans of these franchises, horror films in general. They will go, and have fun, and they whoa, they get scared, but they will also remember that faith is much more needed now than ever before. That it’s faith in humanity, and our fellow humans, that’s going to save us. That’s what keeps us standing up with some instability going on everywhere. With so much horrible stories written courtesy of the White House, and beyond. You know what I mean? Yeah, right?
So, it’s faith in us that keeps us going.
But maybe say but not organized religion?
DB: Not fanaticism at all. You see, it’s because I believe in this bigger energy that everyone calls God, I guess. They never want, depending on where you were born, and where you’re from, and all that they all choose their own God. This is the same thing. When we create, when we use God as an excuse to hurt other people, then that’s when things go crazy.
Did you feel scared when you were shooting the film? Or having any thoughts something would happen?
DB: I’m not a fan of horror films. I know that might sounds contradictory, but I don’t like to sit in a place, and be scared. I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like to pay to be scared. Yes, it’s because of that. I already saw this film in a small little room, and of course it wasn’t finished yet, but still I was like oh fuck ghosts.
This question is for both of you, if you had to create your own worst nightmare in a horror scenario, what element would be in there?
TF: Oh man, you could literally drop me in any scary situation, and I would panic. If you ask for a list of my fears it’s so long. I mean, I don’t live a life of fear, but I’m just super sensitive. I don’t like the darkness. I don’t like nighttime. I don’t like being alone. There’s a lot of scenarios that you can do with that. Take your pick, don’t invite me.
DB: I think a very scary scenario for me would be being trapped in a coffin. Having these hands coming out of no where, you know? Get in my face like man where are these coming from?
Can you talk about that scene?
DB: Sounds very familiar, it’s one of those scenes that … You see, when you read script you detect these are very heavy scenes. These are difficult scenes. These are scenes that are going to keep me awake the whole shooting, I want to get rid of this as soon as possible. Then you take a look at the shooting planner, and fuck they put this at the end, dang it.
DB: Exactly, so it’s one of those scenes that you say okay I hope this will be done, like an in and out situation. I’m okay with small, little places. But filming in the dark coffin, and them slamming the cover of it in your face. Then a creepy something grabbing your face, and all that, it was not happy on the paper. It was not happy there, so I could only imagine what it was going to be there.
Then, of course, we shot it three different times, in three different days, in two different countries. So, that was my punishment.
How was it to work with Bonnie (Aarons)? She’s terrifying.
TF: Oh my gosh, I have a strong affection for Bonnie. She’s so passionate. So passionate about the characters, and the creatures that she plays, and creates. One of her favorite past times on set was scaring me. She would just be sitting in the cast chair across from me, and she would be like, “Hum.”. I was like, “What? Why are you laughing?”.
Honestly, it was a blast. It’s fun working with people who are so excited by it. Most of our crew was. Corin and the director grew up creating these monsters, and wanting to do this for a living, and now he has the chance. You give someone this opportunity for something that they’ve wanted to do since they were a child. I mean the energy they put off, it’s amazing, it’s infectious, and I love working with those kind of people.
DB: Yeah and Bonnie, I mean, she is such a beautiful lady. She has this beautiful, fabulous face, and she’s a sweet heart. So, it’s all days the best part of any shooting is the time you spend with your teammates. Everybody, crew members, and actors, and directors, and everybody. We spend a lot of time having breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, and that was always fun. She’s a crack up.
Corin famously talked about having a supernational experience on set at Comic-Con. Did either of you guys have any sort of supernational experience, or if not was there a time when you were genuinely scared?
TF: I did not have any supernatural experiences on this particular show. I’ve had it on season three of American Horror Story. It was the one time that I ever experienced something, but I went into this project adamantly telling myself, “Okay, you’re going to come home. You’re going to be in Romania. You’re going to be in a hotel at night. You are not going to let anything, just you need mental strength. You are not going to let anything in.”. And it worked
I mean, I had to do like a whole lot of meditating, and just focus on breathing. Not let the little demon that’s knocking on my head to let me in, but I’m really happy I didn’t have the experience. I probably would have wanted to go home.
DB: Yeah, and some of the locations we were at they were one, the real thing, and second pretty creepy. Some of those places were, and you could feel that they’d been there for centuries.
TF: There’s so much history.
DB: There was so much history, and so much energy going around. You can feel that. Just as Talissa, I did this work previously thinking, “Thank God I’m Father Burke. Father Burke is unbreakable. Father Burke does not get scared of anything.”. So, he’s ready.
I guess, like we were saying that faith makes you powerful. Faith makes you invincible, and invisible too for ghosts, and all those kinds of things. Right?
Did you have to learn Latin prayers?
TF: There’s the perpetual adoration scene where we’re praying in Latin, the Santa Maria. So, actually that was my audition scene, but it was in English back then. When I read the script, and I’m like oh this is actually in Latin, but luckily enough the production sends me little audio clips of someone saying it in Latin. I just rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed it, but it’s such a beautiful language.
As soon you’re in this church, and in my nun costume, all of a sudden you assume the prayer position, you start doing it … I don’t know, just feel something magical about it. It feels real. Obviously, I’m saying the words, and I’m praying, but there’s just something about that. It was almost peaceful inside, even though it was such an intense scene.
DB: It was enchanting when you see it. It was so beautiful. The effect of seeing this beautiful creature praying Latin was really wonderful. In a horror film, you know there’s that oh something’s coming.
Was there any specific times where you had to walk the line between faith and fear?
TF: Oh man, I don’t know. It was interesting, it was something when I was filming, when I was Sister Irene one of the things that I kept writing down on the script was to remember, oh okay. There’s the stage directions she looks over her shoulder terrified, I was like okay this one is terrified. But a nun who’s devout, and has faith, but she’s terrified. What do you do when you’re afraid? You pray, so I always wanted to incorporate that into my performance, and remember as soon as you feel fear. Okay, when Talissa feels fear I run, but when Sister Irene feels fear- Yeah, faith has to kick in. In that in itself was a really moving experience.
Do you feel more comfortable now in horror genre, because congratulations I read that you’re going to be reprise in both your role in Coven, and Murder House.
TF: Yes, yes, thank you. Feel comfortable? I mean it’s surprising I don’t think I ever feel comfortable in a horror set, because it’s always doing the thing I don’t like, being scared. But for me what I love about it is the atmosphere on set, the energy of the crew. When you’re doing something so grotesque, and gory, and dark, and heavy the energy on set is always the complete opposite. That’s what drives me. I don’t know? It’s almost like a shot of something. I love that happiness, and that feeling of comradery. Just enjoying life. It’s funny that, that’s were I find it on a place where we’re doing such dark things.