At the end of October, it was announced that a franchise centered around Madame LaLaurie and her mansion of horrors would be coming from the creators of The Conjuring franchise. For those not familiar, Madame LaLaurie was a serial killer and socialite living in New Orleans who tortured and murdered slaves in the 1800s. If the name rings a bell, it’s because she was featured in season three of American Horror Story: Coven and was portrayed by acclaimed actress Kathy Bates. Though information is scarce on this upcoming LaLaurie Mansion franchise, we were able to get some insight into the project from Faster Horse Pictures’ Doug McKay, one of the producers of the upcoming film(s).
During the Sundance Film Festival, we chatted with Doug McKay who gave us a peek into what horror fans can expect from this new iteration of centered around the LaLaurie Mansion. During the interview, we discussed everything from the involvement of the Hayes Brothers, his experience staying at the mansion, and how the films will differentiate Madame LaLaurie from what’s already been presented in pop-culture.
To say we are excited about this project would be an understatement. How did everything come together?
Doug McKay: It came together in a really interesting way because one of my partners in the project, a guy named Michael Whalen, who has been a long time collaborator of my business partner, Cindy Bond and I, owns the house. He bought it several years ago and doesn’t live there full time but does go there occasionally. He had been aware of the incredible history of the house but [until recently] hadn’t spoken about trying to convert it into a movie or adapt some of the terrifying things that have gone on in there into movie form. One day, Michael, Cindy, and I were having a conversation and he said, “You know, I think it would be a really good idea to explore the notion of making a movie about my house.” Cindy had a long-standing relationship that goes back a couple of decades with the Hayes Brothers and once we had the conversation with Michael she called the Hayes Brothers. She started to tell them about the house and was intending to describe a little bit about what it was and what the history was but barely got any words out before the brothers jumped in and said they had known all about it. Having gone on ghost tours of the French Quarter in New Orleans, they had been by the house and were very aware of and fascinated by its history. Immediately, they were on board. We went from the very basic idea of doing this at all to having our team together with the Hayes Brothers in about 2 hours. It’s one of those things that came together really, really quickly and immediately started on a fast track.
Have you had a chance to visit the mansion and if so, what were your impressions of it? I’ve also read that the Hayes Brothers are planning on writing the script in the house, is that true?
Doug McKay: Yes, I have been inside the house, in fact, we went down there with the Hayes Brothers on a research trip to do some interviews and to really dive into the history [of the place]. This kind of dovetails with the last story because we had this team put together in about 2 hours and about a week after that we were all down there in New Orleans researching it where we stayed in the house. It is a very disturbing, unsettling place to be, especially at night. The honest truth of it is, we stayed there for a few nights and I really do not believe that given the opportunity I would sleep in that house again. However, it’s also true that [the Hayes Brothers] are writing the script in the house and as a matter of fact, they are down there right now writing the script in the house as we speak.
I’m familiar with Madame LaLaurie from taking the ghost tour in New Orleans, but for those who were unfamiliar with her, American Horror Story: Coven introduced her to the masses. How do you hope to differentiate Madame LaLaurie from other interpretations that have already been done?
Doug McKay: The story of Madame LaLaurie is well-known, as you know from going on those ghost tours in New Orleans. This house is the grand finale of most of the ghost tours. She’s a well-known and notorious character but while we are still keeping the storyline for this movie under wraps, I can say that we are envisioning this as not just one film but as a series of films. There have been a lot of frightening and disturbing things that have gone on inside that house over the years and they talk about that on the ghost tours a little bit too, that the house has a whole long haunted history. I feel like with the Madame LaLaurie character, what we’ve seen in TV shows before has been a fictionalized version of her in a totally different sort of piece. In American Horror Story, which we are fans of, she was a character based on a real character but it was a fictionalized version of that where we see her hanging out with Marie Laveau. It really was a creative jump from the actual history of the things that went on there. While we are keeping everything under wraps, for now, we do want to tie Madame LaLaurie to the realistic and actual person who had lived there and done some of these things. We will tie her back to the actual history in a number of different ways but that’s our intentions. We’ve done an incredible amount of research as well as interviewing people who have either studied her intensely or people who had lived in the house in earlier years. We obviously see having a lot of material to support a franchise but we always want to tie it back to what truly went on in that house. I feel like tonally, it’s safe to say we’ve got a very unique perspective on this and one that’s really, really scary. We feel like this film will stand out from some of the other stories told or depictions in media of this character because of our truly terrifying approach to the material.
Lastly, with the Hayes Brothers being the writers on The Conjuring, is there a chance that this film could be an off-shoot of that Universe?
Doug McKay: We have a great collaborative partnership with the Hayes Brothers and obviously they have created what has turned out to be one of the most successful horror franchises ever in The Conjuring and they’ve done it in a really interesting way through building out spin-offs, sequels, and all these things. What I can say is, through that experience they have become experts in establishing, from the very get-go, a universe that is rich in material, storylines, and possibilities. There is a major focus on making this first film as scary and successful as it can be but always with an eye towards what the larger picture could be. I have been very impressed because I really feel these two guys are experts in structuring and establishing that kind of world.