Continuing where the first film left off, The Last Exorcism Part II: The Beginning of The End starts with Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) found alone and terrified in the woods. Back in the relative safety of civilization, Nell realizes that she can't remember entire portions of the previous months, only that she is the last surviving member of her family. Just as Nell begins the difficult process of starting a new life, the evil force that once possessed her is back with other, unimaginably horrific plans that mean her last exorcism was just the beginning.
Nell Sweetzer has become one of horror's new iconic monsters. We recently caught up with the face behind this tormented soul, the lovely Ashley Bell, who you wouldn't immediately recognize from her role as the possessed farmer's daughter. We had a fun chat about this sequel, in which she promises that The Last Exorcism Part II will be scarier than the first. At least for the audience.
After making the post-apocalyptic thriller The Day (which is available on Blu-ray and DVD this week), Ashley also became tight with the WWE, the studio behind that film, and is set to return in their franchise sequel The Marine: Homefront, the third in the series, this one being used to promote and further Mike "The Miz" Mizanin's acting career. She told us a little bit about her experiences working on that film, as well as plans for both a sequel and a prequel to The Day, which the WWE fans have been chanting about since it debuted in theaters last summer.
Here is our conversation.
Nell Sweetzer has become one of our modern day 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...Now, 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 ring 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.
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!
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