Ashley Bell Talks The Day, available now on Blu-ray and DVD
WWE fans, take note! Their latest film release The Day carries the same body-slamming aesthetic as its ringside brother, bringing plenty of violent action and scenes of unbelievable mayhem. A thrilling ride that never slows down to take a breath, the story revolves around five survivors, armed with shotguns, axes and machetes, who wander a ravaged landscape looking for refuge in a terrifying future. These warriors soon realize that they must do whatever it takes to stay alive. With food and ammunition dwindling, the group must make a desperate final stand for one more day's survival.
It's Fight or Die for this wicked bunch. Ashley Bell stars as one of these fierce nomads, who must shotgun her way through a wretched life. And one thing is for sure, you won't recognize her from her most famous role to date, the possessed girl, Nell Sweetzer, in The Last Exorcism.
Ashley Bell doesn't mind getting a little dirty for a role, and fully transformers herself here, playing Mary, a reserved, quiet young woman who must contend with a pack of cannibals and prove herself to a group of outsiders. She does just that, becoming the weapons expert of the whole operation.
We recently caught up with Ashley Bell to talk about her role in The Day (which is now available on Blu-ray and DVD), her love of shotguns, and her return to Nell Sweetzer in The Last Exorcism Part II. One thing is for certain, no matter how much fun you have watching her in The Day, she had a lot more fun shooting it.
Here is our conversation.
This is a little bit different from your typical WWE movie. Especially since it's not trying to promote one of its own Superstars in the cast.
Ashley Bell: This film was done independently, and this was the WWE's first acquisition out of the Toronto Film Festival. They came in after the fact.
So they aren't comping you tickets to the WWE shows?
Ashley Bell: Oh, my god! That was the thing! It couldn't have been a better family to be a part of, for this film. At one of the screenings, it was hosted by the WWE Superstars. They all rallied behind The Day. It was just an incredible experience to see the WWE fans...They are the most die-hard fans I have ever seen in my life. At one of the WWE screenings, they started chanting, "Prequel/Sequel!" They wanted to see more. Which is awesome!
Those fans are crazy. I went to one show, and I was just amazed at the energy coming off of this mob...
Ashley Bell: I know! Which show did you go to?
I was in Ohio. USA Network was promoting Psych, so Dule Hill was hosting that night. John Cena was the main attraction...
Ashley Bell: Oh, okay, cool...Yes, I remember hearing about that. We lucked out. They invited the whole cast out to Summer Slam for this one, because the movie was in theaters around that time. We got a change to go and talk about The Day during Summer Slam. That was so crazy. (Laughs) It was a lot of fun.
This is yet another very physically demanding role for you. Do you actively seek out characters that are going to play you out, and put you through the paces all day long? Watching the movie, its obvious this was no vacation...
Ashley Bell: I think these roles find me. I couldn't be happier. I'd just finished doing press for The Last Exorcism. And I read a lot of scripts. This one just really grabbed me, because of the character of Mary. When I sat down for my meeting, the director and the producer actually tried to talk me out of doing it. They were like, "You are going to have to lose weight. You will have to survive through the freezing cold. You'll have to do your own stunts." That seemed very exciting to me, to have the opportunity to do all that. It really did grab me.
So, they are basically, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" And you're on the other side of the fence, going, "This sounds like the most fun I'll have this year!"
Ashley Bell: (Laughs) I was, like, "Bring it on! This sounds great!" (Laughs) Our first field trip was a cast trip to the shooting range, organized by the director and the producer. In what other alternate world do you get a chance to do that? I was working with pretty much a life-sized shotgun, for me, because I am only 5'3. This was a huge gun. I got a chance to learn how to work with this shotgun, and clean it, and load it. I wanted to train heavily with it, because that was Mary's weapon of choice. I wanted it to be an extension of my body. This would be something she would cling to in this post apocalyptic world. She depends on it for her life. To be able to have that chance to do a role like that, and transform, and learn that skill set...That doesn't come around too often. When I saw it, I knew I had to fight for it.
What are the bruises like? I know the kickback on one of those guns is pretty hard-core...
Ashley Bell: Yup! (Laughs) The bruises! I wore my bruises like war wounds. On the first day of shooting, they were painting bruises on all of us. By the last day, they didn't have to do anymore painting. Those bruises were there (laughs).
Am I wrong? For The Last Exorcism, you did a lot of weird physical stunts with your body, right? The distortion and wicked body movements, that was all you...
Ashley Bell: Yeah. I did do all of that. There was no CGI. I did that all by myself. That was a unique opportunity. I was sitting down with Daniel Stamm, the director, two nights before filming. He asked me if I had any ideas, and I showed him that back bend. He said, "Ok, you just stay there, and I am going to rewrite the scene." I had never experienced that before. And it was so incredible to have that open creative forum to share. I had no clue it would become the poster image, or anything like that.
Twisting as though possessed by the devil. Was that a skill set you just knew you had? It's not something you trained for...
Ashley Bell: (Laughs) I know. Its odd. I didn't do any of that in my audition. I did a ton of researching. I'd read that in one of the accounts, that the Devil had turned whoever it was possessing into a battleground. And used them as a puppet. I thought about what that would look like physically. So I was experimenting with some stuff. I have been diagnosed with hyper-mobility, I must say. (Laughs) That is the official word for it. And I found out I am double-jointed. I figured out I could do these things. If there is a place for it...I didn't know at the time, what they were going to ask me to do. I just wanted to be prepared for it. I was prepared for everything when I got on set.
So you're perfect for jumping into the wring with the WWE...
Ashley Bell: (Laughs) I have asked them to let me fly off the rings and go! (Laughs)
That would be so much fun...
Ashley Bell: Oh, my god! Those guys look like they are having a blast. Yeah. I actually got to work with a WWE Superstar, Mike Mizanin, who is The Miz in the WWE. He was telling me that it is crazy in there. I also got a chance to watch him in the ring. It was so incredible to watch. They are so larger than life. They are so cool. It's a whole other world.
You worked with The Miz on another WWE production, The Marine: Homefront, right? That's the third one of those...
Ashley Bell: Yes! I got a chance to work with him on The Marine: Homefront, which is more of a straight action film. That was incredible. He plays my older brother in that. My character gets taken hostage, and he has to come and save me. And he did a damn good job.
I'm a huge fan of the first two movies. My girlfriend is in the second one...
Ashley Bell: Yeah, yeah! I love The Marine movies. Working with Mike Mizanin, he really took it upon himself to become a Marine. He studied privately with former Marines, and he learned how to enter buildings, and how to break down a door. He is obviously an incredible athlete and fighter, and he does all of his own stunts. He used the skill set he already has, and his athleticism, and he became that Marine. It was really cool to watch.
Was this another opportunity for you to go in with shotgun a blazing?
Ashley Bell: (Laughs) No! I was the hostage, so I didn't get a chance to play with any guns in that one. But they did have these armory tables. So, in-between takes and scenes, I would go and play with all the bad guys' guns. I got to play with a grenade launcher, and a sniper rifle. Just an assortment of all these dangerous things. It appeased my inner-action hero geek, I guess. It was great.
That sounds quite awesome. Now, I mean this as a compliment...I would never recognize you as the same actress from The Last Exorcism to The Day. Are you always looking for roles that transformer you into a completely different person? It seems like you are more intent on the craft, and less about selling yourself...
Ashley Bell: That is literally one of the biggest compliments I could ever receive. Thank you so much for saying that. Yes. You nailed it. That is what I love to do. I got into acting for the chance to be many different people, and many different characters. I love hiding in a role, and doing the research. If there is an opportunity to change my body, I will change my body. I'll slip in and disguise myself in a role. That is a really big treat for me. Yeah.
Nell Sweetzer has become one of our new horror icons. What is it like to be in the midst of still working with that character, and still being able to create new avenues for this person who is going to be remembered from the horror history of today?
Ashley Bell: Oh, my god. Thank you. Yeah. I loved playing the character of Nell in the first film. When the conversations were circling about a second film, I couldn't have been more excited to get back into my Doc Martins. This film is a lot scarier than the first one. It is the same psychological thing. It's Eli Roth again. It's out of Eli Roth's mind. There is no one that does it like him. It is a continuation of the first film. They have found ways to stretch and contort Nell into places you've never seen her go before. It was so exciting to be back in that character, and to be back in New Orleans filming that. I am so excited about how it turned out. It is going to scare audiences, and it's going to excite them, when they see this continuation of the story, and everything that goes with it.
In terms of playing someone who is possessed, and giving your body over to an exorcism, that has to be very draining, and dangerous...
Ashley Bell: For me, working is the ultimate vacation, for lack of a better word. Its being in-between jobs were it becomes emotional, and brutal, and draining. It's such an incredible feeling as an actor, to play someone like Nell, who is such an epic character. And she is now part of a franchise. That was so much fun. Yeah, she is an intense character. In the sense of building that, and playing that...It was incredible. I didn't just get a chance to play Nell, I got a chance to build this character of Avalon, and the Devil, for the first film. I couldn't believe that I got a chance to play the Devil. That was amazing,
See, I think you are going to disappoint some of the fans. They want to hear about how scary taking on an exorcism is. You're telling us how much fun it is....
Ashley Bell: I know! I know! It was fun for me. But the film is going to scare the hell out of people. Eli Roth has found a way to make this scarier, and more psychologically intense than the first one. Only Eli Roth could do it.
Are we to blame Nell for the resurgence of the Doc Martin? They are coming back strong...
You should do it as Nell. That would be so rad. Last question for you...You said that while you were at the WWE shows, fans were screaming for both a prequel and a sequel to The Day...Where does that stand? Will The Day become its own franchise?
Ashley Bell: Literally, the whole cast would be on board for that. Spoiler alert, I think the prequel would be exciting, because it would have Dominic Monaghan's character in it. Working with Doug...Douglas Aarniokoski is a master of action. The chance to do that, and go back into that post-apocalyptic world, and the chance to do all of that action and those stunts...I think the whole cast would be on board to go back there again, and do that. Yeah. The Day in Thunderdome!
Did you get astrology readings from Shannyn Sossaman on set?
Ashley Bell: She didn't give me an astrology reading. No. But we did talk about astrology. She didn't give me a reading. I feel like I missed out.
You did miss out.
Ashley Bell: Did she give you an astrology reading?
Oh, yeah. I've gotten a couple of them in the past.
Ashley Bell: No way! She is the best. We were the two girls on location. Pretty much working together on a day-to-day basis. We sort of just clung together at times. My goodness. It was a brutal world. And she was great.
Yeah, she is a weird one. She knows that I am a Virgo Everytime I see here, before I even open my mouth. I don't think it's that she remembers me...
Now, it's important to get The Day, and keep it in our storage shed just in case December 21 actually happens, right?
Ashley Bell: Or you could use it as a Black Friday survival tool. What to do at a Black Friday sale. You could use it for that as well.
That is no joke. We need your character's axe!