“The Last Exorcism”: Interview with the film's star, Ashley Bell

8/24/2010 Posted by Admin

“The Last Exorcism”

Interview with the film's star, Ashley Bell

By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

You know that down-to-earth, hardworking, grateful actress that all young women in Hollywood claim to be? Ashley Bell actually is.

The 24-year-old actress has received the opportunity of a lifetime landing a breakout role in “The Last Exorcism,” due out in theaters Aug. 27. After putting in hard work and fighting to win the role, she remains grateful for the opportunity, and for all the doors “Exorcism” has opened for her.

The film, produced by Eli Roth and directed by Daniel Stamm, documents the last exorcism of the Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he heads deep into rural Louisiana to face a possessed 15-year-old.

Even though she scales walls as Nell Sweetzer, Bell seems to stay grounded in real life. She took some time recently to talk to WeekinRewind.com about her scary research for the role, being exorcised at a callback and her run-in with scantily clad male models during one of her mother’s auditions.

Joel Crabtree: How did you come about getting the role in “The Last Exorcism”?

Ashley Bell: I was just submitted by my agent for the role. And it was odd, when I first read the breakdown for the character of Nell Sweetzer, she just kind of struck me. I don’t know. She’s a 15-year-old girl who lives in the backwoods of Louisiana, and the character just hit me so strong, and I just fought so hard to get it. And actually, in the callback for the audition, I had to do an exorcism in the room. And I was in the middle of a casting office in West Hollywood laying on the carpet getting exorcised and squirming around and having this thing summoned out of me, and this camera man was standing over me. And I just thought, Oh, my parents would be so proud.

JC: Now, let’s talk about the horror genre.  How familiar were you with the genre before taking the role?

AB: Really familiar. I grew up watching horror films. I love horror films. I think I saw “The Exorcist” when I was about 10. Between “Pumpkinhead” and “The Gate” and “House” and all of those horror films, I grew up watching them. “Poltergeist."  Yeah.

JC: So, is becoming a scream queen something you’d be interested in?

AB: Oh, wow. Um, well, you know, I’m not quite sure. Because I think for scream queen you do all the screaming. I think my character instills fear in people. So ...

JC: That’s true.

AB: But of course, that’s a huge role to step into.

JC: Could you tell me a bit about the research you put in for the role?

AB: I had about a month to prepare for the role, and I actually started to begin researching during the audition process, because I get so obsessed with things. I interviewed a lot of people who have gone through exorcisms or who have been around them. I would go to baptist churches in The Valley, I read every single book I could find on exorcisms and listened to tapes. I listened to a lot of tapes -- yeah -- they’re very scary.

JC: How does “The Last Exorcism” separate itself from other, similar-themed movies?

AB: That’s one question I’m actually really excited to answer. I saw the film for the first time at the LA Film Festival. And you know, it is a genre that’s been done before, and the hand-held camera aspect of it has been done before. But the way it is filmed is so different from anything that has been done before, truly. Eli Roth is such a master at building suspense and horror, and also putting in a lot of humor in all the right places, so before you know it, you’re kind of lured into this spider’s den.

Daniel Stamm, the director of the film, also beautifully constructed it. And with the editing, it really leaves you so vulnerable and so open to evil, you know, from anyone in the film. It’s very, very creepy.

JC: So, you filmed the movie in Louisiana.  What was it like working there?

AB: It was great, actually. I think it was the perfect setting because it was in the middle of the summer, so it was already about 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity.  So, by the time when we were filming, it was like walking into a big wet warm blanket, which is kind of gross. But it leads to that great look on everyone’s faces, you know, everyone has kind of that Louisiana film on them. You can feel the heat and you can feel the pressure of the bayou and of that rural area, which is so creepy in itself. You know, it’s filled with some many stories and so much lore. I think it was a perfect setting for it.

JC: I’ve read that you’ve done a lot of theater work and voice work, if I’m correct?

AB: Yeah!

JC: How does your method change from medium to medium?

AB: I think there’s definitely a different style for film and TV, for sure. But I think the basic heart of everything -- you know, the craft of acting and the attention to detail and preparation -- kind of remains the same. Theater is something I always go back to.  I went to NYU to study theater and to study the craft to have longevity in the business.

With theater, there’s such a privilege because you’re allowed four or five weeks rehearsal time to really develop characters through rehearsal and really work on [getting] deep into the character work. And, with that, even when the play ends, you can take what you’ve developed or take bits of character that you’ve developed and bring them to film or TV, which is a much faster medium. So, I think it’s all very changeable.

JC: At what point in your life do you think you realized you wanted to be an actor?

AB Oh, God. Both of my parents are actors, actually. It’s kind of, I guess, a family business. I used to go on commercial auditions with my mom, actually, and sit in the back when she would be auditioning. She was actually going in for a Beverly Hills matron role and all of these big models came in the room with her for the pool boy, and they said, “All right guys, strip down into your bathing suits.”

So they all changed and they looked like these Abercrombie models standing there. And it just made me laugh. I looked at my mom and said, “I want to do this now,” and she was like, “Helllllll, no.”

But I think it was during high school, mainly. I started doing theater then and some TV work and everything. The ability to transform into a different character and the ability to do comedy was really what first got me interested. I was such a geek in high school, so to be someone completely different was very appealing.

JC: Your part in “The Last Exorcism” is kind of a break-out role for you. Do you have an idea of where your career is going from here?

AB: Honestly, the opportunities and the doors that this role has already opened are so exciting. It’s like, just meeting so many new people and auditioning for so many great roles, and being privy to so much. It’s all just unfolding right now, and that in itself is very exciting.

JC: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

AB: There are a couple things, but I cannot really talk about them yet. But there are a couple things. And, you know, the whole publicity end of it is also something that is new. Like I said, both of my parents were in this business, and sometimes you go your whole life and never get to experience something like this. So, I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of all this now, and I’ve also continued to do writing and everything. I’m working on developing a cartoon show. And I go back to The Groundlings [a sketch comedy group in L.A.] all the time. My mom is one of the founding of the The Groundlings, so I just finished their writing lab program, and I’m really interested in doing sketch work there as well.

”The Last Exorcism” hits theaters Aug. 27, 2010. Below is the trailer. What are your thoughts on Ashley Bell and the film?

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