Romanian actor Ingrid Bisu is no stranger to the limelight. Having appeared in the dramedy Toni Erdmann, which was nominated at The Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d’Or, Bisu has also gone on to star in TV series such as Romania’s “Casatorie de proba” and was welcomed with open arms into The Conjuring Universe with roles in both The Nun and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. In her latest film MALIGNANT, which centers around Madison’s (Annabelle Wallis) shocking visions of grisly murders that soon become terrifying realities, Bisu takes on the role of Winnie, a sweet and offbeat CSI tech who loves a good, bloody crime scene.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to speak with co-writer/actor/executive producer Ingrid Bisu where we discussed everything from her fascination with medical anomalies, working alongside her husband, James Wan, creating the character of Winnie, and more!
I’m so excited to talk with you today, Ingrid! To start things off, how did the concept of MALIGNANT come about and how was it working alongside your husband, James Wan?
Ingrid Bisu: I was just always fascinated with this type of medical anomaly, the parasitic twin teratoma, the idea of twins in general, and the idea that one of them could be evil and influence the other person. So, I kind of pitched the seed of an idea to James and he was like, this is amazing. He had just come off of Aquaman premiering and he was like, I have a little bit of free time. Let’s develop this together. And it was fantastic because we got to spend time at home with our doggies and we got to work together. It was just an incredible experience. I didn’t know how it was going to go, honestly, just working with him because I do put him on a pedestal. Even though he’s my husband and we’re equals, I do see him up there. I’m fascinated by him. I think he’s incredible. So, a part of me was a little bit intimidated because obviously, he’s the one with all the experience [Laughs]. What was great about it is that he’s super patient, very kind, very giving, and he really cared about my opinion. It was very much a joint effort. And then, once we started outlining [the concept] better, we got the fantastic Akela Cooper who’s an amazing writer, to join in and she really helped us bring this to life. Overall, I would say, pretty dope experience.
When it came to your character, Winnie, was she someone you thought up, or was it a collaborative idea?
Ingrid Bisu: We both knew that we wanted for me to be in the movie as well. And I was like, why not take this opportunity and do something silly, create a character that I never got a chance to play. I’m usually always the victim, always traumatized, always hysterical. And you know, I’m like, let’s do something fun. Let’s do something dopey and so, even thinking about the name, we’re like, we have this CSI, and she’s like fascinated with blood, she’s obsessed. She’s fangirling over these scenes and she has a major crush on Detective Kekoa (George Young), but it goes completely over his head and he has absolutely no interest, unfortunately [Laughs]. Even the name, we were like we should have something cute, we were thinking Kitty and we could call her Kitty Cat, but then Winnie really stuck for James. He’s like, oh, it’s like Winnie the Pooh [Laughs]. I don’t even know what her full name is. It’s just Winnie.
Piggybacking off your response of playing victims, was it fun to be in the headspace of someone who’s allowed to just live?
Ingrid Bisu: It was a lot of fun and we really debated on Winnie… I thought it would be a good idea to kill Winnie, but then we got such positive feedback. People really loved the character. Also, I’m getting killed in every one of the husband’s movies [Laughs]. [In The Nun] I’m already freaking dead, come back from the dead, get shot, and then set on fire and people are asking if Sister Oana is coming back, and I’m like HOW?! [Laughs]. I jump off a freaking cliff in The Conjuring 3, so let’s do one where I don’t die a horrible death [Laughs].
Speaking about those films specifically, you’ve been part of The Conjuring Universe since The Nun. What is it about the horror genre that you enjoy exploring?
Ingrid Bisu: Honestly, for me, it really was something so new and cool that I got to do. For example, in The Nun, I got to play a character that when I walked on set, nobody recognized me. They didn’t realize who I was because of all the prosthetics and I had like this black goo in my mouth [Laughs]. These are things I never got to play with. It’s so crazy because it made me feel so free. Hiding my face behind all of this made me feel like I can do whatever I want, almost, you know what I mean? And I don’t think any other genre gives me this. I’ve played a lot in sitcoms, that’s how I started out, a lot of different types of genres and comedies, which I love, and drama, a lot of sadness and all that. Never have I ever had the chance to play so much as I did in horror. That’s what makes it so fun and exciting for me and each and everyone was such a great experience.
When it comes to the pandemic, was that something that affected the filming of MALIGNANT, or was it pretty much finished by that point?
Ingrid Bisu: So, we finished in December 2019, then the pandemic started and we still had additional photography. Everything got shifted for us. Our movie was supposed to come out in August of 2020 if I’m not mistaken, but by August, we still hadn’t done our additional photography. All the corrections and everything, we did them, I believe, in October or November of 2020 and it was a new world by then. I mean, we had tents, the red zone, the yellow zone, the green zone. You couldn’t mix. The actors had face shields that were coming from their necks because they couldn’t ruin their makeup with masks, they couldn’t use one of those forehead things. We had COVID inspectors on set that were watching, making sure everybody…I mean, we really took no chances and we were lucky. Nobody got COVID. Knock on wood.
Not only did you co-write and star in the film, but you also were an executive producer. It’s clear that this film is near and dear to you so how does it feel to have it out in the world for everyone to see?
Ingrid Bisu: Oh my god, it’s surreal, honestly. I do feel like this movie is so polarizing and I’m not going to pretend that everybody’s on board with it. I don’t think I’ve processed all of it. What does make me really happy is that the people that this movie was actually made for, love and appreciate it. This isn’t a movie for everybody, it’s just not. It’s a movie for the lovers of this type of genre, for the lovers of ’90s slasher films, for the lovers of gore, for the lovers of horror, for the lovers of Giallo. It’s for those ones. You hear very often, and I’m also one of those people, that Hollywood needs to bring something new. And now we’re finally doing that! It’s very, very hard to get stuff like this done that doesn’t have a precedent that’s an original IP. And what’s going to help us set this precedent and be able to make it again is if people actually go watch it and go watch it with an open mind. Don’t expect anything like other James Wan work. This is brand spanking new. We did something completely nuts and unexpected. Go in with an open mind and an open heart and you might be really pleasantly surprised.
MALIGNANT is now in theaters nationwide and on HBO Max for 31 days from the theatrical release. For more on MALIGNANT, check out our review here.
All images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures