Interview: Joey King and John R. Leonetti Talk Wish Upon


Wish Upon

Wish Upon: Interviews with director John R. Leonetti and actress Joey King from the Wish Upon set

There are lots of new horror films coming out in 2017, but few, if any, are aiming to run you through an emotional gauntlet of terror as much as the new project from director John R Leonetti (Annabelle), Wish Upon. The film stars the very talented actress Joey King as Claire, a teenage girl who finds a magical wish-granting box with dire consequences for each of the wishes it grants. With a prominent supporting cast in Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks, Meridian, Ray Donovan) and Ryan Phillipe (Flags of Our Fathers, Shooter, Damages), this much hyped chiller is definitely one to watch out for.

RELATED: Exclusive Wish Upon Motion Comic Premiere

If the director and cast weren’t enough to grab your attention, the behind-the-scenes crew certainly should be. The film is produced by Sherryl Clark (Cloverfield), production design by Bob Ziembicki (Boogie Nights, Scream 2, Annabelle), costume design by Antoinette Messam (Orphan, Creed, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), and Paul Jones handling special effects (Shadow Hunters: Mortal Instruments, Orphan Black, Ginger Snaps, Silent Hill). was lucky enough to get to visit the Toronto set of Wish Upon this past winter and sit down with Leonetti and King. This is what they had to say about their bloody labor of love. John and Joey, can you tell me how you two got involved with this project, and how you ended up working together again?

John R. Leonetti: Our lovely producer Sherryl Clark kind of nicely pursued me for some weird reason. I’m so thankful that she did, and I read the next draft. I was blown away, I actually read it again it put a curse on me. Claire’s (Joey King) character is so layered, there’s so much going on in this young woman, this young girl and I immediately, for whatever reason thought of Joey first, period. The good news is when I mentioned her to the studio, they immediately went “oh, yeah!” and her name had even already come up [to them], of course.

Joey King: I’ve never worked with John as a director before. The last time I worked with him he was my DP on The Conjuring, and we had so much fun together that when I heard he wanted me to be in this, I was so touched because I’d had such a good time with him and [the fact that] he remembered me and wanted me to do this with him meant so much. I loved the script, loved it. It was such a fun fast read.

CS: Joey, is this the type of movie you like, the kind of thing you would watch if you weren’t in it?

King: Yes… The thing is I am totally a huge scaredy-cat so that’s the only reason I wouldn’t is because I get so scared of things. But it’s such a good story. I like to call it more of a psychological thriller than a total horror movie. I think it’s very layered and it’s very emotional and you get really attached to the characters, more than you do in a typical horror movie. I will watch this movie, I will just have to turn the lights on when I go home. After I saw The Conjuring, I couldn’t sleep for freaking six months!

Leonetti: What’s so awesome about this movie is that it’s a dark tale, a very dark tale, but with uplifting characters. And so they all have an essence of hope, even Claire, and that’s what’s so cool about her is she wakes up twelve years later at 17 after… a cold opening that is pretty intense, and she gets up out of bed, hugs her dog and she goes to the window and her dad is leaving to go off to collect junk. And she turns and you can see the look on her face and you can tell this is going to be a sh*tty day, and to her in front of the mirror getting dressed and she says “no, this is going to be a good day.” So immediately in the movie you get hope. No matter what she’s been through, she has hope, and we all need hope.

CS: You make a discovery in one of the scenes we saw today where we find a dog under a house. What did he do to deserve his fate?

Leonetti: Unfortunately there’s a ramification associated with every wish. It’s the old careful what you wish for thing, and this movie definitely goes deeply down that road. It’s the close people around her [Claire] or whoever has this thing that are targets. She doesn’t know this, and it’s not until wishes have been made that she’s starting to figure to figure it out. But the elixir of the box, it’s like a drug, it’s almost like heroine, has grabbed her. So even though she is starting to put two and two together, it has a hold over her, and that’s the whole thing. You can’t beat the box.

King: It’s absolutely an addiction, and every addiction you think you can stop whenever you want, that’s what makes it an addiction because it takes over your mind. It tricks you and manipulates you, and that’s exactly what this box does to Claire. She thinks she can just give it up whenever she feels like it. She’s convinced herself of that, and it’s evident to the audience, everybody else but Claire that she can’t.

CS: Was it easy to get into your character of Claire?

King: I think so; I think Claire is very easy to get into. I think she’s a very, very sweet girl. And that’s what makes this story so heartbreaking, is to watch this lovely girl who wants the best for her family and her life, her dad and you just watch her get manipulated and thrown on the ground over and over again. It really breaks your heart because you take a liking to her.

Leonetti: This girl brings it you guys. And I mean, to the point where she could duplicate tears on the same cheek three times in a row. I don’t know how the f**k you do that?

King: I honestly don’t know…

Leonetti: The thing is she didn’t even think about it, and this is real, she just did it. And you know, this is not a horror movie even though there are horrific images in this movie. This is so layered and so complex, and so emotional. And it really takes someone like Joey to maintain that through all the highs and the lows of the addiction. This movie can make you laugh, it can make you cry and it can scare the sh*t out of you. And if we pull that off, which we’re touching on in my opinion, who knows, you never know until you know, then we have done our job and we have made a movie that is extremely entertaining on so many levels.

King: It’s also got a very wide audience. Every young generation every millennial loves scary movies, and scary movies, not even scary but psychological thrillers, movies that play with your brain are timeless and I feel like everybody can get into them.

Wish Upon hits theaters on July 14th, 2017. Stay tuned for more interviews and coverage this coming week.