Situated on a corner in the French Quarter of New Orleans sits the infamous LaLaurie Mansion. A stop on every ghost tour, the LaLaurie sits as a dark reminder of centuries-old atrocities. The house and property’s haunting has been made infamous thanks to Madame LaLaurie, a New Orleans socialite and serial killer who tortured and murdered enslaved persons in the house. On the outside, she was the center of attention – beautiful, wealthy, and famous in the town, and known for throwing extravagant parties. Unknown to most, her house had secret rooms and passages where horrific nightmares came to life.
McKay, who had a producing hand in such films as THE ZODIAK, SHUTTER ISLAND, THE BLACK SWAN, and THE CONJURING franchise, was visiting the 2020 Sundance Film Festival when we had a chance to speak with him on the new project still in development. Though well known in popular culture the infamous Madame LaLaurie has never been given the detailed, extensive deep dive that this film has planned, including the exclusive right to the home itself.
Doug and his company Faster Horse Pictures announced they have partnered with The Conjuring Creators Chad and Carey Hayes on the film and larger franchise, so we jumped at the chance to talk to the producing team about their plans.
Arriving at the lobby of the Park City Doubletree, we made a sharp left and found McKay seated on a lobby couch. After introductions and getting set up, we wanted to get right into the discussion. Would we be able to glean any new information for you fine readers? Read on to find out.
HorrorBuzz: What is your goal with this movie?
Doug McKay: The intention and hope is for it to be a franchise. We partnered with Chad and Carrie hays who created the Conjuring Franchise. While we are working to make this first movie as strong and as terrifying as it can be, the guys came into this with an idea of how this could be structured as a franchise by planting the seeds in the first film that can spring forth from it. That’s the ho[pe
HB: Do you have an idea of where the arch or the plot will begin and end?
DM: Yeah, we are in the development process. In fact, the brothers are down there, in New Orleans, staying in the house writing the script as we speak and we are keeping the storyline of the franchise under wraps for the moment. From the very beginning, we started talking about what the story arch would look like and having that big picture in mind while still having it work at each of its individual pieces. For me it’s been fascinating to see them structure it in that way because they have done it so successfully in the past and I have been part of watching something like that in its gestation period, it’s pretty cool to witness.
HB: Is it going to be a period piece or a modern film with flashbacks?
DM: The answer to that question is part of what we are keeping under wraps at the moment.
HB: Do you have any stars in mind?
DM: We’ve had discussions on who could play the characters, but we aren’t there yet. As I said they are writing the script right now. So we aren’t at the point yet of approaching anyone with it yet.
HB: Will this be with Warner Bros. like The Conjuring was or is this still something in development.
DM: The idea here, and I can tell you how it came together, So in my company Faster Horse Pictures, my business partner Cindy Bond and I were sitting with one of our frequent collaborators and friends, Michael Weighland, and Michael said to us, “We really ought to make a story about my house.” because Michael owns the LaLaurie mansion. He doesn’t live there full time but he owns it. We thought that was a great idea because it would be difficult to find a place with as rich and terrifying a history as that house has. Then Cindy says, “Well, you know, I have an idea for who could write it. I’ve been friends with the Hayes brothers for about 20 years. I didn’t even know she was friends with the Hayes brothers but I thought it was a pretty fantastic idea. She called them up an she started to tell them about the idea and the Laurie Mansion and they cut her off and said “Oh Cindy, we know this place already. We’ve been down there, we’ve been on the ghost tours. The mansion itself is kind of the Grand Finale of the Ghost tours down there in the French Quarter. They had known about the stories for years so they jumped right on board and within a week of our very first conversation we were down there staying at the house on a research trip.
HB: Talk about fast tracking something.
DM: It was one of those things where the core team just came together instantaneously.
HB: We know it’s basically her torturing slaves in the attic. How are you going o be approaching those subjects of racism, torture, slavery…
DM: Really the most famous story of what happened in the house is the story of Madam LaLaurie and the things that she did there. In our research, however we found that in the decades and years prior and the decades and years after that, there had been a string of very strange sometimes terrible thing s that went on in that house. So it has a long history of things, supernatural and non-supernatural, horrible things happening inside of it. Of course when you are dealing with a story that is a tru story and involves some terrible things that happen to real people you have to approach that with the utmost respect and care. You have to take specula care in the way that you handle that subject matter. Again, that’s one of the events that happened in that place and we want to be as thoughtful and respectful as we can.
HB: Would you say that the trilogy the focus is more about the LaLaurie Mansion and all of the terrible things that happened in it?
DM: The scope and the possibility of the things that we have are wide because fo the long history. So the options we have are great in regards to the raw material there. It has been a lot of fun and we have taken special care to really dig in to the history. New Orleans, especially the French Quarter, is a place that is particularly proud of its history. There’s a lot of attention paid to the past today and there are a lot of fascinating people to go down there and talk to about, there are a lot of public records, and things you can do to find out about the true history of this place and that has been an enormous help.
The exciting thing for us is that it’s super active. Like I said, the brothers are there right now writing at the mansion. I have stayed there, I would not stay there again.
HB: Did anything happen to you while you were there?
DM: There are endless stories about the creepy things that you hear and the uncomfortable feelings that you have.
HB: Did you see or hear anything?
DM: Absolutely. I heard things, I saw things. and Also, most disturbing is the feeling that you get. There’s a feeling of unease there all the time. THere’s a history of people passing out on the ghost tours when they get near the house. I can tell you at one point when I was there, I’m in the house and this terrible feeling of nausea hits me. I’m thinking what am I gonna do, I’m on this research trip, and I push through it. I walked outside and the second I walked out of the house it went away. My colleagues and I did see things and hear things, but the worst thing of all is the feeling because it’s internal.
HB: What are you doing at Sundance?
DM: Taking a lot of meetings, seeing a lot of films. The company that we are, we put a high premium on the development process. We have development funding and we start many of our projects through that. It’s a big deal for us to get an early eye on some of the filmmakers that we are just not familiar with that we wouldn’t get a chance to meet very often in LA. It’s a great opportunity to see new things and meet people.
There you have it. While not full of new information, the more fascinating aspects are just between the lines. The film franchise that focuses on the LaLaurie Mansion will focus more on the location than the atrocities committed by LaLaurie alone. Apparently thick with atmosphere and dripping with bloody lore, it seems a perfect place to mine for film projects.
We will keep you posted for any new info.