Ashley Bell on ‘The Last Exorcism’

By now, it’s safe to call The Last Exorcism a hit. The low-budget, Eli Roth-produced horror movie has pulled in upwards of $33 million at the U.S. box office, a signifcant take for a movie with no stars, that isn’t based on an eighties children’s show. Much has been made about the film’s faux-documentary style and its shocking ending, but you don’t hear too much about the talented actress who plays Nell Sweetzer, the young girl who may or may not be possessed in the backwoods of Louisiana. Her name is Ashley Bell, and she’s got some career ahead of her. Here, Bell discusses what it was like playing one devilish chick.

I’m sure there was an unorthodox audition process. What did you have to do? Well, my manager submitted me for the film and actually, in the call back they had me get exorcised in the room. I was lying on the floor and I started convulsing and writhing and screaming, and this man was trying to get this thing out of me. I just thought, My parents would be so proud.

Was it surreal when you landed the role? It was huge. I fought so hard for the role. She’s so complex, and I knew I wanted to play her from the moment I read the script. Getting to do all of that research and preparation and play such a physical role is what I love most about acting.

Have you always been interested in the horror genre or Eli’s films? I love the Hostel movies because of the revenge aspect. I don’t know if that makes mw a 13-year-old-boy or not. I grew up watching horror movies with my parents, and I saw The Exorcist when I ten.

Did it scare you? It’s such a smart, psychological thriller and the way Zoltan Honti has done the cinematoraphy, he’s made a device that’s been used before feel brand new. I really feel like it’s a new breed of horror film.

How did you avoid imitating others that played this kind of role before you? Going into it, Daniel had said to watch all of the Exorcist movies and to not replicate that. He was aiming for something different and I think it’s immediately different because of the documentary feel.

Do you believe in other-wordly beings and people actually being possessed? I definitely believe real evil exists in the world. I had a rollie backpack, a perm, and braces in junior high school, so I know it exists out there. It was torture.

Has the religious community said anything about the film so far? If anything, they really like it because both the scientific element and the religious element are represented equally in th film. You have a preacher that’s telling my father to get a therapist and my father is asking to do an exorcism. I heard in one theatre in Louisiana, after the movie, everyone got down and prayed.

Eli Roth called your performance Oscar-wothy. how does that feel? I’m speechless. Just to be even thought of in that category by anyone in this industry is so unbelievable.

As an up and coming actress, is there anyone in Hollywood whose career you’d like to emulate or that you really admire? I really admire Tilda Swinton. I have that article you guys did on her. I cut it out and saved it.

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