Bonnie Aarons, known for her portrayal of the iconic Demon Nun in the Conjuring franchise, has launched a legal battle against Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. Aarons, who has brought the sinister “Valak” character to life in various films set in The Conjuring universe, including the upcoming The Nun II, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles seeking what she claims is her rightful “contractually required share of merchandising revenues.”
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, accuses Warner Bros. of capitalizing on Aarons’ talent, creativity, and likeness without duly compensating her. Notably, The Nun, featuring Aarons as the Demon Nun, amassed a staggering $365 million at the box office, achieving remarkable financial success compared to its $22 million budget. This accomplishment solidified its position as the highest-grossing film within the Conjuring Cinematic Universe.
Aarons’ legal complaint asserts, “The importance of Ms. Aarons’ contributions to the success of the films is undeniable.” Unlike typical horror movie monsters, Valak’s physical appearance is based on Aarons’ unique features.
The suit references Peter Safran, a producer for The Conjuring 2 and The Nun, stating, “‘The moment we saw [Ms. Aarons], with the unique geography of her face, everybody said: ‘this is exactly who we want, this is who it has to be.'” The lawsuit further highlights that Aarons’ portrayal of Valak was instrumental in spawning the successful spinoff franchise, The Nun, as well as a multitude of merchandise featuring her likeness.
However, the legal filing claims that Warner Bros. has allegedly refused to transparently account for and compensate Aarons for her contractual share of merchandising revenues. While Aarons was reportedly paid a fixed fee for her work on The Nun, she was also promised additional compensation through box office bonuses and merchandise-related income. The suit asserts that the studio has concealed the proper amount of Aarons’ rightful share, while still capitalizing on her likeness and contributions.
As a result of these alleged actions, the lawsuit contends that Aarons “has suffered damages in an amount to be proven at trial.” The Demon Nun character was a last-minute addition to The Conjuring 2, directed by James Wan and starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Wan shared insights about the creation of the character, explaining that it was designed to corrupt Lorraine Warren’s faith by taking on an image close to her heart.
The upcoming film, The Nun II, directed by Michael Chaves, is currently under production, and Chaves himself praised Aarons for her exceptional dedication to her role. He stated, “Bonnie’s incredible. She can really turn it on, she really knows what’s scary, and she’s just so easy. It’s not like she’s always in this Dark Nun persona, she’s not the Method Nun.”
The legal battle between Bonnie Aarons and Warner Bros. raises questions about the treatment of actors’ contributions to film success and the intricacies of compensation within the entertainment industry. The outcome of this case will likely have implications for how studios handle the financial aspects of merchandising tied to iconic characters portrayed by talented actors.