[Interview] Michael Chaves for THE NUN II

This piece was posted during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, THE NUN II being covered here wouldn’t exist.

In director Michael Chaves’s newest film, THE NUN II, audiences travel to 1956 France where a priest is found murdered and an unimaginable evil is spreading. Following the events of the first film, the sequel follows Sister Irene as she once again comes face-to-face with Valak, the demon nun.

Leading up to the release of THE NUN II, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke to director Michael Chaves. During their chat, they discussed everything from what has been the most rewarding part of working in The Conjuring Universe, how Saint Lucie was incorporated into the final story, and which scene was the most challenging to pull off visually.

It’s so wonderful to speak with you again, Michael! You’ve established such a strong presence in The Conjuring Universe having directed both The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Now that you’ve directed THE NUN II, what has been your favorite part about working within this Universe?  

Michael Chaves: Honestly, the people. I grew up on horror movies and when I saw that first Conjuring movie, it was like seeing a horror movie for the first time, and I fell in love with it. To work in this space is just a total dream. It’s really such a privilege. I think what has been so rewarding and why this is my third movie in the space is the people that are brought into it are the best people. The teams are so great. I also think that horror is a genre that really draws some of the most fun people like real artists, real creators, and really passionate people unlike anything else, and the genre has such a strong community. I think that’s one of the reasons that The Conjuring succeeded so well because the fans have embraced these movies.

[Interview] Michael Chaves for THE NUN II
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
When it came time to film, were you able to collaborate with writer Akela Cooper to ensure that your creative direction matched the essence of her story?

Michael Chaves: Her script was one of the things that drew me into it. There were three things: I love The Nun. I absolutely wanted to do a nun movie; I thought the script was so awesome, just right out of the bat it was great; and then Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet, I got to know them briefly while Corin Hardy was directing the first Nun and I was doing La Llorona. I was like, they’re so cool. They’re so fun. I bet that’d be a really fun set to work on. Corin has that great energy and I think he brought that out of them. Those were the three things that made me absolutely want to do it.

The script was great and we just developed it and took it further. Richard Naing and Ian Goldberg were the writers who actually did some subsequent passes after that. They made awesome contributions to that movie. The focus gets put on Akela and she definitely did a few drafts on it but it was a process that developed over a while.

I think the two biggest things in developing it were the elements of Saint Lucie. Without getting into detail, it was written more like a made-up saint and I was raised Catholic. I’m like, there’s a million saints to choose from, and like 20 saints that got their eyes ripped out. We will just grab one of those [Laughs]. Saint Lucie felt especially unique and there was something special there. That was one of the big tweaks that was made and that was woven a little bit more into the story.

The other big change was setting it in a boarding school. Honestly, that was because I’m a fan of Diabolique which takes place in ’50s France. I watch that movie every three or four years and I went back to it initially because I was looking at movies that were made in France in the fifties. I rewatched it and was like, oh there’s a boarding school. We should set [THE NUN II] in a boarding school. That was one of the other big changes that we made and I’m so glad we did that cause I think it really gave a lot of unique character to the movie and it made it stand on its own.

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

I love the stylized visuals you use in all your films because they leave such a lasting impact. Can you highlight any scenes in THE NUN II that posed either challenges during filming or left a lasting impression on you? 

Michael Chaves: The magazine scene was a beast. That was one of the first ideas I had and it came from going through old photos of ’50s France and looking at a lot of street photography. I saw all these magazine stands and I was like, oh, those are cool. René Maltête is a photographer and there’s something very playful about the contrast of… he’ll do collages in the contrast of imagery he uses. I just thought, Oh, that’d be cool if it worked together. Then I was thinking, maybe it’s like a flip book. Maybe there’s an animated quality to it. It’s easier said than done.

It’s one of the first ideas we developed and one of the last things we were working on at the end with cleaning up the images and making some of those pages land correctly. It was [done] in the nick of time. If we had one less week, it wouldn’t have been finished because it was so complicated to get that whole thing done. But I’m so proud of it because it’s so bizarre and wild. Everyone was saying that they’ve never seen anything like that before. That’s one of the challenges, you have nothing to point to [in order to compare]. You’re kind of making it up as you go.

THE NUN II is now in theaters. For more on the film, check out our review.

Shannon McGrew
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