Interview: Patrick Fabian of "The Last Exorcism"

9/15/2010 Posted by Admin

Interview: Patrick Fabian of "The Last Exorcism"

By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

Patrick Fabian, star of the horror hit “The Last Exorcism,” is having a landmark year both personally and professionally. Not only has the film grossed more than $38 million and counting domestically, he also is prepared to have a baby girl who was “due any minute” as of Thursday, Sept. 9, with his wife, comedy writer Mandy Steckelberg.

Add onto that an abundance of new fan support from the horror community from his portrayal of the charlatan preacher in doubt Cotton Marcus, and it seems as though everything’s coming up Patrick. And it’s clear from talking to him that the 46-year-old actor is enthusiastic about his life and his past and present work.

Patrick took some time from his busy schedule (which, of course, includes anticipation for Abby -- named after Abby Road -- to be born) to talk to about “The Last Exorcism,” his upcoming TeenNick show “Gigantic” and the fact that, yes, he did kiss Kelly Kapowski.

Joel Crabtree: So ,I recently talked with Ashley Bell about her research for the role, and I was wondering how you prepared to play Cotton Marcus?

Patrick Fabian: You know, I was saying this to somebody else the other day--I think everyone has that Southern preacher in the back of their mind. Like if you were doing a Charades game, you’d be like, “Oh, I had a pretty reasonable facsimile of what it is.” For me, I did a lot of research.  I read some books that [director] Daniel Stamm had given me about exorcists and exorcisms and whatnot. And then I also took a cue from Elmer Gantry, the old film by Burt Lancaster, because I thought that he was a charlatan preacher as well. I wanted Cotton Marcus to be likable, on some level, you know, because if you’re not liking him, especially because of the way we’re doing the movie looking in the camera, if you think I’m a complete [jerk], you’ve lost ‘em, you know? No matter what goes on, you’re like, “[Screw] this, I’m off this ride.”

But also, you know, I looked at the charlatans of the most recent age--Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, all those guys who stand up onstage and say they know the way and they have a direct line to God and give me twenty bucks. There’s a very thin line between a preacher and a good actor, I think.
I don’t know if Ashley mentioned this, but we went to some Pentecostal churches here in Los Angeles. And it was like the whole hell, fire and brimstone, and singing and falling and speaking in tongues. I, myself, grew up Catholic.  I certainly didn’t grow up in that sort of revivalist kind of atmosphere.  But boy, whether you believe in God or not, when you go to those rooms, you sense something’s going on. There’s a real palpable energy that’s happening.

JC: So, I recently read that Ashley did all her contorting in the movie herself, without any help of effects...

PF: I did all of mine.  I did all of my own contorting...

JC: (laughs) You did all of yours?

PF: Yeah, I’m not gonna be outdone by her on that one.

JC: Did she freak you out with it?

PF: The great thing about it was that there is no acting involved. I put on my linen suit, went into that barn, she did her backward bend, I was freaked out.  It’s hot, it’s dark, it’s sweaty. You know, I can’t thank her enough for being so committed and pulling out that wonderful gift for us all. It ended up being the iconic image of the poster and the movie, which is fantastic.

But what’s great is that she also had the other side of the coin. She had the freak machine going, but she also had that innocent quality, when she plays Nell at the beginning. I mean, that’s also so arresting. Once again, if the audience isn’t somehow caring for her, like saying, “Oh, I don’t want anything too bad happen to this good little girl,” then you’re not equally freaked out when she’s walking around like a crab later on.

JC: So, when you read the script--and during filming--did you expect the movie to be such a hit?

PF: You always think everything you’re working on is gonna to be a hit. But you’re never quite sure what it’s gonna be like when it turns out. Especially with the idea of the using this direct-into-the-lens thing, usually I’m trained to ignore the camera. Here, we were asked to embrace the camera. So, with that in mind, it was sort of hard to have an idea of what it was going to look like, which is not a bad thing, by the way. I think what was really good about working with Daniel Stamm was that he broke down my conventional ways of thinking. We did multiple multiple takes. I’m talking like 20 or 30 takes. That is outside of my usual comfort zone.

So, I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like in the end, and when I finally saw the first cut, I only saw it the first time with Ashley at the L.A. Film Festival. Eli Roth had talked to us and we did some ADR work, some sound work on it, and we were like, “We wanna see it.” And he said, “You know, trust me, why don’t you wait and see it as part of an audience, under the stars, at night. You’re gonna love it.” And I’m so glad we did, because then when it unfolded I was like, “Ohhhh...” I mean, like, half the stuff that came up on the screen I was like, “Oh, that’s what he was going for.” I had no idea. Because in my mind, we had shot scenes forever. And he was just dropping in and taking slices out of it. So, thank God there are directors, because otherwise it would just be one big giant monologue and close-ups.

JC: A lot of the dialogue in the film seems very natural.  Did you get to improvise any of that to capture that documentary style?

PF: Yeah, just by the nature of doing multiple takes. Huck and Andrew had the script that was sort of the road map and we would sort of take exits, as it were, and explore other areas. And sometimes Daniel would be like, “That’s fantastic,” and sometimes he’d be like, “Wow, that’s really terrible,” and go back. So yeah, there was some liberal adding yourself into it.

JC: Without giving anything away about the movie, I was curious about whether there have been talks to do a sequel?

PF: Are you an executive at Lionsgate disguised as a reporter?

JC: I am not ...

PF: You know, I think the script existed on its own, as its own entity. And I have not heard anything to either prequalize it or sequelize it.

JC: So, we talked a bit about Daniel Stamm and I was wondering what Eli Roth brought to the film as a producer?

PF: Well, you know, Eli Roth is the name guy, and I can’t thank him enough. Eli saw the script and he said, “I want to get involved.” And if Eli Roth hadn't got involved, we might not be having this conversation.  That's the really the reality of it. I’m so grateful that he was enthusiastic about it--and that’s the best thing I think he brings to it.  His sense of enthusiasm for it is great.  So, when he would come down to New Orleans to visit set, he would just constantly sort of cheer us on saying, “Make it scarier, make it scarier, make it creepier, do this, try that...” He really blew some sunshine up our skirts to keep us going.

You know, since we started promoting it, he’s been tireless about doing so. He's a real champion of the movie. What I like to say is Eli’s producing finger prints are all over the picture, but it is definitely a Daniel Stamm film. And I think you’ve had people go into the film thinking you’re gonna get “Hostel Six” or “Saw 17,” and that is not this film. There’s a reason it’s not directed by Eli. If it was directed by Eli, perhaps there would be a different vent on it, you know what I mean? What I like about the movie is that it is PG-13, and it is scary as hell. And it is more of a psychological smart thriller that becomes horrific than it is a body-count movie.

JC: Have you gotten a lot of support from the horror fans and community from this role?

PF: Yeah, yeah, as a matter of fact I have. I grew up on horror films, I love horror films. I’m [happy] to be a part of something that actually became a hit and has a lot of people viewing it, and has a lot of support like yourself. I get lots of people saying they really dug it, and it’s weird because it hasn’t quite hit me. I’ve started to get recognized as Cotton Marcus, but, you know, let’s face it, the horror community is a distinct sort of community of people. And I’m starting to get asked for autographs from people who I think I was off their radar before, so that’s really fun.

JC: Other than the success with “The Last Exorcism,” I hear you’re also starring in a TeenNick show, “Gigantic.” Could you tell me a bit about that?

PF: Sure, that’s premiering Oct. 8 on the Nickelodeon teen network. And I get to play a movie star, ironically enough. Helen Slater, who is Supergirl and The Legend of Billie Jean, she plays my wife. And it’s basically about the kids, our son and daughter, and their re-entry back into Beverly Hills living. Helen and I play movie stars, and we’ve been abroad with the family filming a “Lord of the Rings” type thing, and now we’re coming back and the kids are in high school.  And, you know, high school hijinks ensue.

But the great thing about playing a movie star is that you get to wear really nice cloths and live in a really great house eight hours a day.

JC: Not too bad.

PF: Not too bad at all--although it’s a little lame getting into my Jeep Patriot on the way out.

JC: I have to ask you also about your role in “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” as Professor Jeremiah Lasky ...

PF: I kissed Kelly Kapowski--how can that not be your question out of the gates?

JC: I know, I know, I mean, that’s so cool. What was making the show like?

PF: That was probably 14 or 15 years ago. But TBS and TNT keep us young and alive, because they rerun it all the time. And every generation of kids in high school grow up watching it and eating potato chips after school while looking at it.

It was really fun to do. At the time, the kids--and I call them the kids, because at the time I was a little older than them, I guess I still am--they already had rousing success on the Saturday morning version. The first time I went to a taping, people went bananas for them and I thought, these are kids who could easily be egomaniacs. And they weren’t. They were really nice, polite, fun and down to earth. They kind of were like everyone you saw on the screen, their personalities really came out. They always made me feel welcomed and it’s always fun to run into them, too, around town.

But dude, like, I’ll go through airports and have people arbitrarily shout out, “Dude, you kissed Kelly!”

"The Last Exorcism” is currently playing in theaters.   

You can read WeekinRewind's review of it here.

Below is the trailer. What are your thoughts?

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  1. Anonymous said...

    The Last Exorcism was so well made. Not mindless gore like lots of horror films, but really twisted, disturbing, make you think about life kind of movie!