James Wan

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James Wan

James Wan attending Comic Con, 2007.
Born(1977-02-27) 27 February 1977 (age 36)
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
OccupationFilm director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1999 – present
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James Wan

James Wan attending Comic Con, 2007.
Born(1977-02-27) 27 February 1977 (age 36)
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
OccupationFilm director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1999 – present
James Wan
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese子仁

James Wan (born 27 February 1977) is a Malaysian Chinese-born Australian producer, screenwriter and film director of Chinese heritage. He is widely known for directing the horror film, Saw, and creating Billy the puppet. Wan has also directed Dead Silence, Death Sentence and Insidious.


Early life and education

Wan was born in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, is of Chinese ethnicity and was raised in Perth, Western Australia, from a young age. Wan was 11 years of age when he first dreamed of making films and his tertiary studies were undertaken at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree.[1]

Film career


Before becoming popular in the film industry, he made his first feature film, Stygian, with Shannon Young, which won "Best Guerrilla Film" at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) in 2000.[2]


Wan met future business partner, Leigh Whannell, while studying at RMIT University. He would later go on to co-create, co-write and direct the 2004 horror film (and franchise),[3] Saw, with Whannel. The pair only began collaborating after they had left university and they wrote the SAW script over the course of one year, before futilely attempting to attract financial interest in the screenplay in Australia. At the time, the pair had the support of a manager (a connection attained through Whannel's acting experience as a teenager), who sent the script to Los Angeles, US, where an agent showed a keen interest and agreed to meet with Wan and Whannel. Wan has revealed that "at this stage in my life, my day job had just ran out and I was flat broke."[4]

Wan and Whannel made a short version of the film to showcase the script — it was shot in three days and edited over forty-eight hours, with a budget of USD4,000 (Whannel played the role of David in the short film and the leading role of Adam in the feature film). Wan and Whannell received production approval for the film two days after they landed in Los Angeles and one of the film's successfully screenings occurred at the Sundance Film Festival.[4][5] Shot for a low USD1 million budget (approximate) — following an initial budget of USD700,000 — the producers had a straight-to-DVD release in mind;[6] however, Saw was to become a significant success, achieving USD55 million at the domestic box office — it was a feat that was unexpected in the media publication realm[7][8][9] and Saw subsequently became a horror franchise (Whannell refers to the original Saw film as an "underdog horror film" in his personal blog, "The Word in the Stone").[10]

Saw franchise

Since creating the franchise, Wan and Whannell have served as executive producers to the sequels Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV,[11] but was not involved with Saw V, Saw VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter — Wan had instead moved on to create other film works with partner, Whannel.

The release of Saw 3D, complete with its subtitle, was to signify the completion of the franchise; however, Costas Mandylor, an actor in the seventh instalment, revealed that multiple endings to the film had been shot and the series could continue depending on which was used. The seventh sequel continued the profit margin performance of the original film and earned USD136 million in the global market, based on a production budget of USD20 million, while all films in the series have grossed over USD100 million in the American market. In August, 2012, various online horror publications stated that a source at Lionsgate, the franchise's production company, had revealed intentions for an eighth Saw sequel, but it was at a "tinkering" stage at the time of the disclosure.[12][13][14]

Dead Silence

In 2007, Wan directed another horror movie, Dead Silence, a film that was the result of advice from Wan and Whanell's agent at the time; Whannell has since stated that the film was a negative experience for him:

It all started when James and I returned from the Sundance Film Festival, where we had screened ‘Saw’ to much success. Our ‘representatives’ promptly told us that we should get another deal for a film stitched up before it was released. It was presented as a kind of insurance - if ‘Saw’ was a flop, we had another film to fall back on. Seems logical. There was only one problem - I didn’t have any ideas for a new film. I had barely been able to catch my breath throughout the whole ‘Saw’ experience, let alone dream up another film idea. Instead of telling our representatives that they had to wait until I came up with an idea I really liked though, I locked myself in the bedroom of the crappy apartment we had rented in Hollywood and tried to force an idea out like a particularly stubborn hangover shit. It was creativity at gunpoint. If I could go back in time, I would politely tell everyone to go fuck themselves, but back then....no. I paced and paced and even took up smoking for a while, so stressed out was I.[5]

Dead Silence featured Australian actor, Ryan Kwanten (True Blood television series), and is based on the premise of a legend, whereby the ghost of a ventriloquist, Mary Shaw, removes the tongue of any person who screams in its presence. Rather than a gore movie, Wan described the film as "a creepy doll movie. It's in the spirit of those old Twilight Zone episodes or Hammer Horror Films. Very old school."[4][15][16]

Death Sentence

Wan also directed the action drama, Death Sentence, in 2007, adapted from the Brian Garfield novel that was written as the sequel to Death Wish.[17][18] The film's protagonist is played by Kevin Bacon and has no connection to the horror genre—instead, Bacon stars as a father who seeks revenge for his murdered son, who is killed by a local gang. Whannell features as a minor character in the film, playing one of the gang members who is eventually killed by Bacon's character.[19][20] Wan described the film as "a raw and gritty, 70s styled revenge thriller ... It's my arthouse movie with guns."[4]

Having worked on his previous three films continuously, Wan told CraveOnline that he was ready for "a bit of time off just to chill... but at the same time I'm using this opportunity to write again" following the completion of Death Sentence.[21]


The horror film, Insidious, directed by Wan, premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, as part of the "Midnight Madness" programme, and was sold to Sony Pictures Worldwide for a seven-figure sum within four hours of the premiere's conclusion. The film began its American theatrical release in the first weekend of April 2011 and achieved third place at the box office, with an estimated USD13.5 million in ticket sales.[6]

Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey, the film was made independently, as Wan sought complete creative control and also wanted to make a film that was markedly different to the gore that he had become synonymous with due to Saw. Wan stated in an interview, "the fact that Insidious was not being run by a committee really afforded me the luxury to make a film with lots of creepy, bizarre moments that a studio might not "get.""[22] Both Wan and Whannel stated that they wanted to use techniques such as restraint and silence to create a horror film, similar to The Sixth Sense, The Others and David Lynch's films.

Following the release of Insidious, Wan revealed in an interview, in regard to his career beyond the film: "I definitely do want to experiment in other genres, or make films in other genres because I love, Leigh and I have, we’re not just horror fans. We’re film fans. I love action films. I want to do action films. I want to do romantic comedies. I love all this stuff. So, if I find the good material, I’ll do it."[6]

The Conjuring

The horror film news website, Bloody Disgusting, confirmed Wan's directorial involvement with a film entitled The Warren Files. The film centres on the real life exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married couple that investigated paranormal events.[23] Originally titled The Conjuring, the film will reportedly focus on the couple's most famous case, second to the Amityville haunting, in which they investigated a witch's curse on a Rhode Island family farm. In his second collaboration with the pair, Patrick Wilson will feature in the film, and he and actress, Vera Farmiga, will play paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, respectively.[24] Filming commenced in North Carolina, United States,[24] in late February 2012 and New Line Cinema, together with Warner Bros. Pictures, has slated the film for a release on 25 January 2013.[25] As of October 2012, it appears that the original title of the film has been restored, with Warner Bros having set a 25 January 2013 release date.[26]

A test screening of the film occurred in October 2012 at the New York Comic Con event, where it screened in the IGN Theater, and the audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive. At that stage, Wan had several more weeks before the film is complete, and a summer release date was announced, with a planned date in July 2013.[27]

Insidious Chapter 2

After work on The Conjuring is complete, Wan has confirmed that he will be helming a sequel to his 2011 release, Insidious. The film will once again be written by longtime collaborator and close friend, Whannel, and the cast of the original film will be returning; it was later revealed that the title of the film will be Insidious Chapter 2. Filming for the sequel will commence in January 2013, with the American release date scheduled for 30 August 2013. The budget for the film has been described as "shoestring" by one media outlet and Orin Peli, the creator of the Paranormal Activity franchise, will return as an executive producer.[28] Film District has been identified as the company that will be responsible for distribution of Insidious Chapter 2.[29]

Wan stated in an interview following a test screening of The Conjuring:

I think the sequel to ‘Insidious’ is kind of my reaction to Saw, where for my own reason I wasn’t as involved in the sequels, and so I felt with Insidious, think it would be good to shepherd it and keep it more in track to the version I had when I made the first film so that it doesn’t detour too far. So yeah, I’m kind of working with Leigh [Whannel] on the story and the script. I never set out to make sequels to any of my films I direct,” Wan admitted. "If they happen, that’s great because that means people out there love it and they want more of it, but I always felt with Insidious we created this really interesting world that we can explore more, and so even though we didn’t set out to make a sequel, I felt that there are stories still out there that could be told.[27]

Future projects

On 13 November 2012, news emerged of Wan's ongoing negotiations to direct an adaption of the 1980s television series, MacGyver. Wan posted on his Twitter account: “People are surprised?? You guys never saw shades of MacG in Jigsaw??", in response to public comments regarding the news. The screenplay is complete and the series creator, Lee Zlotof, is also involved.[30]

Past announcements (without further news)

It was announced that an adaptation of the graphic novel, Fall Night, was to be Wan's next film after Death Sentence. The plot involves the events that take place after a criminal is sent to a Texas prison run by vampires.[31] However, as of December 2012, the director's IMDB page does not list the film, nor is the project classified as a "pre-production" film or a project in the "filming" stage on the database website.[32]

In 2009, a Whannel–Wan collaborative project, called X Ray, was announced and described as a new "film noir/action project", with a producer, Robbie Brenner, also attached to the project; however, as of December 2012, no further developments have been reported.[33]

Video games

Wan directed a trailer for the survival horror video game Dead Space.


2003Saw (short film)
2005Saw II
2006Saw III
2007Dead Silence
Death Sentence
Saw IV
2008Saw V
2009Saw VI
2010Saw 3D
Also editor
2013The Conjuring
Insidious 2
ТВАHouse of Horror


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  2. ^ Shannon Young (April 2005). "Shannon Young". Melbourne Independent Filmmakers. Bill Mousoulis. http://www.innersense.com.au/mif/young.html. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
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External links