How Ashley Bell Researched Being Possessed in The Last Exorcism
08.03.10 by Ryan
Ashley Bell may be a relative newcomer, but it sounds as if her role in the upcoming The Last Exorcism could prove to be a breakout performance. Bell plays Nell Sweetzer, a young woman who may or may not be possessed. Reverend Cotton (Patrick Fabian), a renowned exorcism "expert," brings a documentary crew to the Sweetzer farm for one final ritual. Fabian has praised Bell's performance, remarking last month that he was "seriously creeped out" by her portrayal. Bell told ShockTillYouDrop that she was drawn to the "complex character" of Nell and began to research the role before she was even cast.
I have a tendency to get very obsessive about things, so I actually began researching during the audition process and I read every single book I could find. I listened to tapes. I listened to some of the Vatican tapes on their lectures on exorcism. I visited churches. The scene I auditioned with was actually getting exorcised in the room. So, there I was in the middle of a casting office in West Hollywood and this man was summoning this demon out of me and I was writhing around on the floor and a cameraman was standing over me. And I just said to myself, "My parents would be so proud right now."
Bell said director Daniel Stamm encouraged her to "Watch all the exorcist films and then don't do that" for what is, admittedly, her "first really big role." Bell also praised Stamm for his shooting style, which she described as "shooting around 20 or 30 takes a scene and coming up with new things, new ideas, and letting us try so many different things."
The night before filming, we were talking about the exorcism scene — the second exorcism — and I didn't know what was going to be required of me physically, so I prepared for everything. And I was working on some backbends and some things. And I said, "Oh, can I show you this? I have a couple of ideas." And he said, "Yeah, sure." And I did it, and he went, "Do that. We're putting that in." And it was just so thrilling to have that happen there, or to be able to be on set and figure things out with everyone. It felt like such a collaborative process.
Stamm also received daily help from producer Eli Roth, said Bell.
He was traveling with Inglourious Basterds but we got notes from him every single day and I got a chance to work with him a lot in some of the post-production and the re-shoots. He was immensely integral to the film. I was talking to one of the people in post and she said she has never seen a producer that has been so hands on and has literally taken the project and run with it. I think that that is the heart of the film — that people were so passionate about it from the beginning. And Eli is definitely one of the frontrunners. It was so cool watching him in part of the editing room with Daniel because I saw him almost build a scene and build the suspense.