Malaysian-Born Maestro: James Wan’s Cinematic Journey from Saw to Aquaman

Malaysian-born filmmaker James Wan has gained prominence primarily in the horror genre, co-creating the successful Saw and Insidious franchises and establishing The Conjuring Universe. Despite his horror roots, Wan expanded his repertoire by directing Furious 7 (2015) and the superhero film Aquaman (2018), along with its sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023), both grossing over $1 billion worldwide.

Wan credits Saw as the film that significantly impacted his career, marking him as the first Asian director to achieve a billion-dollar box office success. The 2004 horror became a global hit, grossing over $103 million worldwide. Wan continued his success with horror releases, such as Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013), earning him the title of the king of the horror genre.

His inspiration for horror stems from Asian ghost stories heard during his childhood from relatives, particularly in the rich cultural context of Asian traditions. Before achieving widespread success, Wan directed his first feature-length film, Stygian, which won “Best Guerilla Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in 2000.

Born on February 26, 1977, in Kuching, Sarawak, to Chinese-Malaysian parents, Wan moved to Perth at the age of 7. In a recent visit to Malaysia, he expressed joy at being back, indulging in his favorite Malaysian foods like laksa, chicken rice, and durian. Wan’s cinematic journey showcases his versatility and success across various genres, solidifying his status as a Malaysian-born maestro in the film industry.