Laura Linney Interview

Apparently demonic possession and law go hand in hand in The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The immensely talented and beautiful Laura Linney steps into the horror genre in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Laura plays a familiar role as a self-obsessed lawyer, but the film itself is radically different from what we've seen from her. It's a bold step and proves her versatility. This was actually the fourth time I've interviewed her. She always has a pleasant, incredibly professional demeanor with the press. It's refreshing to talk to actors who aren't bothered by interviews.

The trailer seems to be pushing the exorcism and the horror theme. There's no mention of the court room drama. Are you concerned they'll be disappointed by the more serious aspects of the film?

Laura Linney: No, there's nothing we can do about that. Hopefully word of mouth will change that. Studios are studios and they know that their target audience is young and there are a lot of young people who will go to the theaters to see this sort of stuff and it will be very satisfying to them. I think there's several different trailers. It depends on what one you've seen.

Actually, you're not in the theatrical trailer.

Laura Linney: Right. There's that one, and there's one that's targeted to different people. There's an attempt to get the different audiences. With a movie like this, you can make very snap judgments about it.

You recommended Jennifer Carpenter to Scott Derrickson (the director). Why did you think she would be good for this role?

Laura Linney: Jennifer and I did "The Crucible" together, and I have never been so impressed with anyone in rehearsal, in my life, as I was with her. She is exceptionally talented. Physically she's an athlete, so there's a physical component that is very rare, vocal capabilities…but more than that, it's her approach to things, how she thinks about her work, how she prepares for it, the connections that she makes, the imagination that she has. It's her integrity in knowing what her responsibilities are, it's her selflessness. She will serve the project that she is in. I have enormous respect for her. I also love her to bits.

You also recommended Campbell Scott?

Laura Linney: Campbell's an old friend of mine, I love and adore him, and I think he is an unbelievable actor. And they were looking for someone and I said Campbell Scott, Campbell Scott, Campbell Scott.

What appealed to you about the film?

Laura Linney: It was challenging. I wanted to make sure it was going to be an equally balanced examination of these events. I was not interested in any way in making a movie that told people how to think. So I wanted to make sure, and once Scott told me that was the case and the producer told me that was the case, then I signed on. And what interested me, I didn't know it was going to work, really, was how do you combine the tension of a courtroom drama and the fear of a supernatural horror film. How do those things fit together, the tension of one and the fear of the other? Do they cancel each other out? Do they move the story forward? Usually a movie has one or the other, but rarely both.

Do you feel a certain responsibility working on a film inspired by true events?

Laura Linney: Yes, absolutely. Of course you do. It's based on true events, but there's a lot of the movie that's fictionalized. I'm completely fictional. I can't imagine, you know, having someone you know go through that.

The studio is trumping the truth aspect. How much of the actual event is represented in the film?

Laura Linney: Not much. What's amazing is that someone could go through an exorcism, die, and then the priest would be put on trial for homicide. It's just interesting. And that's really the issue of the case, is he guilty or is he not guilty of negligent homicide? Not whether or not she was possessed, but did he contribute to her death.

Did you research exorcism?

Laura Linney: A little bit, yeah, I went to Amazon and I typed in exorcism, and I went to Google, and I typed in exorcism and I ordered a bunch of books. The ritual of it is very interesting.

What are your thoughts on demonic possession?

Laura Linney: I think it is irrelevant what I think, who cares? I don't have any answers. There are certain things I don't believe in, certain things I don't understand, and I don't know how they happen. I think there's a real knee jerk response to make very certain opinions about something you don't know a whole lot about. So being forced to re-evaluate, rethink stuff is good regardless of what your opinions are.

You've done well playing self-obsessed lawyers. What interested you about this character?

Laura Linney: (laughs) Right. There is the personal story. I believe she is really dealing with personal demons, that's written into the script. So you're seeing someone who's dealing with personal demons and is confronted with religious demonology and having to research all that and what connections happen. And she's also someone who's rather arrogant and flippantly convinced about certain opinions she has, and she's forced to reevaluate all that. Then as far as all the law stuff is concerned, I did an enormous amount of research when I did "Primal Fear". So I recycled a little bit there, I must admit. But what's fun, in playing lawyers, is lawyers represent themselves in different ways, with their agendas, their means to an end.

Can you talk about working with Tom Wilkinson?

Laura Linney: He's fantastic. You're just working with a great person. The better they are, the easier it is. That's one of the great joys of acting with someone of that caliber. I've had certain experiences working with certain people and it is easy, easy, easy; because they are just so good. And you make them better and they make you better, it's about letting the chemistry, letting stuff go. A lot of it is just trust.

And when you're working with people who are not as good?

Laura Linney: Sometimes you quickly access and go "ok," and you stay as kind and as giving as you possibly can without letting yourself be abused. And things can happen, it's just you work in a different way. I love actors, regardless of where they are in their skill level. There's something terribly satisfying about working with someone who's really learning.

We've heard you're taking a break. What do you do in your down time?

Laura Linney: I'm trying to do that. You get to a point and you can only give so much, you can only give to the work and to the press and to the business people. You've got to have time to stop and recharge, and I'm very much at that point. I want to go to the theater, I want to go to the museums, I want to listen to music, there are books I want to read, walks I want to take. I want to do seasonal things. I want to go swimming, I want to eat corn, and then when fall comes I want to kick leaves, I want to smell fall. Is want to do those things.

Is there a common thread to your films?

Laura Linney: It's a new experience every time. I'm sure there are underlying subconscious things that attract me to stuff, but I don't examine those. It's also whether or not a script is actable. Most scripts are written to be green lit. They're not written to be acted. And a lot of writers with the greatest intention in the world don't write for actors. They don't understand the architecture of what an actor needs to get from point A to point B. You look at the great playwrights and its all just right there. It's just astounding, the genius that's there. But then you have scripts that are actor ready and ready to go. And when you get that, regardless, you jump.

Dont't forget to also check out: The Exorcism of Emily Rose