Miranda Otto is best known for playing the golden-haired Éowyn in the iconic "Lord of the Ring" films and for her performance as the savvy double agent in the thriller series Homeland. Now, she's taken on a drastically different role, playing the grieving mother of a deceased girl in the upcoming supernatural horror flick "Annabelle: Creation", which hits theaters August 11.
The film, from the creators of "The Conjuring" and "Lights Out", details how the notorious Annabelle doll came to be possessed by a demon. It's the prequel to both the first "Annabelle" movie that was released in 2014 as well as the 2013 horror flick, "The Conjuring."
After the death of their young daughter Annabelle in a tragic accident, doll maker Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther Mullins (Otto) turn to mysterious forces to see their little girl again. Still overwhelmed with grief several years later, the couple decides to welcome a group of orphaned Catholic school girls and their supervising nun into their farmhouse. Unfortunately, things soon take a dark turn as the supernatural entity the Mullins sought out to access their daughter begins haunting the young girls.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, Otto opened up about performing in her first-ever horror flick and why it forced her to face her "deepest fears".
GH: Mrs. Mullins is an interesting character because she ultimately has a good heart, but has accidentally let evil into the world, and now feels she has to pay for that. What was it like portraying this complex character?
MO: Well, we got to see two sides of her in this film, and I thought that was so important. At first, you have this idealized family, where they have a young child who they adore, she's just the most precious thing to them. And then, something tragic happens, and it changes the rest of their lives. Of course, that's what happens when you lose a child.
Then, you have modern-day Mrs. Mullins, and you didn't know much about her; you didn't know what had happened, why she always remains behind a curtain. When you find out the real story of what happened, you understand why she and her husband did what they did.
GH: Do you relate to Mrs. Mullins in any way? Do you think those watching the film will be able to relate to Mr. and Mrs. Mullins' characters?
MO: Of course, my life is very different than hers, but as a parent I can relate to that fear, how you want to protect your children all the time. You're constantly worried about how to protect them through every passage of life. Watching a character like Mrs. Mullins, you're forced to enter into your deepest fears. Obviously, when preparing for a role, you internalize a lot of things. I certainly understand her inability to let go of the fact that her daughter is dead. She's prepared to entertain any possibility, any hope, that her daughter is still present.
I think people will understand and will empathize with the idea of being in extreme grief and the lengths that you're prepared to go to entertain the possibilities that you may not be completely separated from your child. They'll enjoy the mystery of this character, where you don't really know what's happened to her, why she's so reclusive, shuttered into a single room behind a curtain.
GH: This is a departure from roles such as the one you portrayed in the "Lord of the Rings" films - was it nice to play a different type of character?
MO: Oh, I loved it. That's what we actors do, and the more different the better. Usually, I do one film, and then I look for the antithesis of that role. I think it's an antidote - you do something serious and then a comedy and it takes you away from that mindset, which I think is a good thing.
GH: What elements does a project need to have for you to be drawn to it?
MO: Well, I watched the original "Annabelle" and I really liked it; I thought it was stylish and interesting. I loved the performances and the realistic aspects. I thought that Annabelle, as the doll, was such an interesting character. I also admired (director David Sandberg), I thought he'd done such a great job - that was really the element that drew me to this project. Then, when I went on set, I was so impressed with the cinematography and the Production Designer - they had created such a great, beautiful, fascinating world.
GH: When audiences see the film - what do you hope get out of it?
MO: I really hope they enjoy the roller coaster ride it is to watch this movie. Horror audiences are always so fantastic - they get so engaged and interactive. I hope they get frightened, of course, and I hope they enjoy the frightening - I hope they're terrified (laughs). Dolls are so creepy - I think because they're vessels.
There's also so much going on, so many parts to the story. I hope they get into the kids and not just the adults - they really do a wonderful job.
"Annabelle: Creation" is directed David F. Sandberg and James Wan, with a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle. The film stars Stephanie Sigman (Spectre), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Lulu Wilson (Ouija 2, Deliver Us from Evil), Philippa Coulthard (After the Dark), Grace Fulton (Badland), Lou Lou Safran (The Choice), Samara Lee (Foxcatcher, The Last Witch Hunter), and Tayler Buck in her feature film debut.
The film has been rated R by the MPAA for horror violence and terror.