With an onscreen CV that kicks off way, way back in 1998 – with the unforgettable role of Soldier 1 in an episode of TV’s ‘Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog’ – you would think noted Dublin actor Simon Delaney would have hit pretty much every movie genre there is by now.
Known primarily for his comedy – having broken through here with TV’s ‘Bachelors Walk’ back in 2001 – Delaney is also a noted stage actor, and an unashamed lover of Broadway musicals. Not that the father of four can’t play it straight, as proven by roles in ‘David Copperfield’ (2000), ‘The Fall’ (2013) and ‘The Commander: Blacklight’ (2006).
So, the boy has range. So, when I heard that our boy had landed a role in the
sequel to the 2013 horror blockbuster ‘The Conjuring’ – wittily called ‘The Conjuring 2’ – it struck me that Delaney had somehow never done horror until now.
Delaney’s calling card just got a whole lot shinier now that ‘The Conjuring 2’ has opened in the United States with a box-office ass-kicking weekend total of $40.4million. The previous outing managed a worldwide box-office return of $518m on a $20m budget, so, it was hardly surprising when director James Wan and leading lights Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga once again signed up to work together, the latter twosome returning as real-life paranormal investigating couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. Celebrities back in the heyday of poltergeists and demonic possessions, the Warrens travelled the world throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Back when we all believed David Bowie might really be an alien. And that a ouija board was basically a Skype connection to the other side.
So, when, in the late 1970s, a single mother and her four kids claimed their rundown house in Enfield, North London was possessed by the previous owner, for two years, the mainstream media took notice. And the Warrens came a- calling.
“Ah, innocent times,” nods Delaney. “But, you know, there are definitely cases where no one can quite explain what truly happened, and this movie deals with one such example. I went back and watched a lot of footage from the Enfield case. I can see why it took such a hold, and even today, those kids – all grown up – swear by what they claimed back then. It’s truly fascinating stuff.”
‘The Conjuring 2’ is enjoying largely positive reviews, were they expected or did they come as a surprise?
“I tend to agree with all the glowing reviews,” deadpans Delaney. “This is something special. And, to be honest, it was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had as an actor. James Wan is completely with you in every scene, and he treats the camera like another character too. There was just such an energy, such a sense of collaboration on this film, that it just felt as though we were making something magical, right from the start.
“And I think we did…”
Like heavy metal, reggae and politics, it’s almost impossible to avoid the cliches in horror. Was that a concern for you?
“Going to the Dublin premiere of ‘The Conjuring 2’ was actually my first time sitting down to a full horror movie,” says Delaney. “It was a real shock to the system, but I stayed to the end. Unlike one reviewer at the press review for this movie, who threw his popcorn up in the air after about ten minutes and had to leave. These Spin DJs, they just don’t have any backbone… “
So, does Simon Delaney believe in ghosts?
“Well, last year, we did a TV3 series, ‘Tales Of Irish Castles’, where, of course, we took in one or two castles that were apparently haunted. And I took part in one or two seances in these castles, after hearing various ghost stories, and having some professionals there. And, basically, nothing happens, but that could be because I don’t want to believe. I don’t want it to be true.
“And when you look at the Enfield case, it’s pretty hard to believe that that many people could have been fooled, or that many people would have conspired to keep up the pretence. We had real Janet – the real girl at the centre of the story – out at the film set in Los Angeles, and she’s still emotionally scarred by what happened…”
The fact that Hollywood turned the claims and the real-life evidence up to 11 could be seen by even believers as something of a cop-out though.
“Hollywood is always going to bring a shine to a story,” says Delaney. “It’s their business. And certainly in the case of the unknown, how do we know what is really going on in the shadows? That’s part of an artist’s job – to shine a light on the unknown.”
Making his great big Hollywood adventure that little bit more familiar was Maria Doyle Kennedy, playing Peggy, the wife of Delaney’s Vic Nottingham, the couple offering the Poltergeist-hounded family shelter from the CGI storm across the road.
“It was great having Maria there. Definitely felt more like home, yeah. We had worked together once before, on ‘Mystics’, but we never shot any scenes together in that film. Being all the way out in big ol’ Hollywood, we felt like school kids out on a really swanky school trip. Magic.”
And what of the Holy Grail that is Hollywood? It doesn’t appear as though Simon Delaney has ever chased the Tinseltown dream…
“You’re absolutely right,” says Delaney, “I’ve never chased it. But, naturally, I’ll consistently audition for stuff, for TV, for movies. And that’s how ‘The Conjuring 2’ came about. It was an audition alongside three other taped auditions that day. And to get it, and head out all the way to the lot on Warner Bros, that’s pretty darn special. We had nine weeks in LA, and then three weeks in London. Very cool…”
The box-office bonanza that ‘The Conjuring 2’ is going to achieve will put a shine on Simon Delaney’s CV, right? Hollywood must be taking notice…
“I would hope so, but you can never know where or why or when a connection will be made. There’s always a certain amount of heat that comes with a hit, no question, but it’s who notices you during all those good times that makes all the difference. I had an experience with ‘Zonad’ where we were getting five-star reviews all across the board in America, with the likes of Variety comparing me to John Belushi, and yet that movie just didn’t connect. I’ve also just come off- stage, doing’ Driving Miss Daisy’ at the Gaiety for a month, and we got rave reviews, but just couldn’t get people through the door.
“So, you never know. Just be happy when you have a hit.
“And right now,” smiles Delaney, “I’m happy. Very, very happy.”
Words: Paul Byrne
‘The Conjuring 2’ is in Irish cinemas now. Watch the trailer below…