Ashley Bell talks The Last Exorcism

The young actress discusses her role as a possessed teen in the creepy new horror film from producer Eli Roth

Devil worshiping and possessed people have always made for great subjects in horror movies. From classic films like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist to recent hits like The House of the Devil, creepy religion and possessed demons have never gone out of style. Evidence of this can be found in the new horror film from producer Eli Roth (Hostel) titled The Last Exorcism, which opens in theaters on August 27th.

The film, which stars Patrick Fabian (Must Love Dogs), Louis Herthum (I Love You Phillip Morris) and Ashley Bell (State of Play), centers around a Reverend who has lost his faith in the church and takes a documentary film crew along with him to prove that exorcism is a fraud. Except things get out of control when he tries to help a girl who really is possessed. We recently had a chance to speak with Ashley Bell, the actress who plays the possessed young girl in the film, about her scary new flick, her favorite classic horror films, if she believes in exorcism, and what it was like working with Eli Roth. Here is what the talented young actress had to say:

To begin with, the movie feels a lot like a throwback to the classic horror films of the late '70s and early '80s like "The Exorcist" and "Poltergeist," do you think that was the tone the filmmakers were going for on this?

Ashley Bell: You know, actually in preparation, Daniel said to watch all of The Exorcist movies and then to not do that. So we were from the start aiming for something that is totally different, totally unique and I think the film turned out to be that. It's very smart and very funny in all the right places. I think it is a very unique exorcist film. On set though, Daniel does about twenty to thirty takes a scene, which is incredibly freeing as an actor because this is my first big film. I was welcomed to try anything and my opinion was welcomed, which you can go your whole life waiting for something like that. So it was really a safe environment to do anything.

Your role in the film is extremely physical, did it ever become physically draining to do that many takes in a row?

Ashley Bell: Yes. Honestly I fell in love with this role from the second that I read the breakdown. So everyday I really welcomed the challenge and was happy to do all that physical work and have the opportunity to play such a huge role. So I was very proud of all the bruises that I got. They were war wounds.

What can you tell us about your character, Nell, and what she is going through emotionally in the film?

Ashley Bell: Well Nell is fifteen years old and from the back woods of Louisianan. She is extremely religious and thought to be possessed. So when I read that, you know, the topic of exorcism is so fascinating and there is always another turn and bend to that subject. When I read about it I loved researching it. As an actress that is what gets my mind going and gets me as much into the character as possible. I just tried to read every single book I could find on exorcism. I interviewed people and visited Baptist churches in the Valley and everything. So I just soaked up as much as I could about the topic, which is endless. From the actual tapes, the voices you hear and the sounds that come out of the tapes, you listen and think, that's doable or that's human. Then there comes a sound that is not male, female, human or animal and you just listen and think, what is that? So I had a field day doing my research.

In the beginning of the film Patrick Fabian's character, Rev. Cotton Marcus, has lost his faith in the practice of exorcisms. Now that you have made this film and from the research that you have done, do you think exorcisms are real?

Ashley Bell: Yeah it's interesting, I'm not as doubtful now as I was going in. Its odd cause you think its fake or that it's the power of suggestion but honestly with the things you hear and some of the things I've read it doesn't seem humanly possible, what happens. Especially those tapes that I've listened to, when you are hearing something that is like I said, unworldly. You really go, "What is that?" My take on it has definitely changed. I think (the film) is very much through his perspective, Rev. Cotton Marcus, and he is so sure and so confidant going in. As he begins to doubt himself and his beliefs begin to falter you as an audience feel very vulnerable and susceptible to this evil. I think that is where the horror and suspense comes from in the film.

Can you discuss the struggle that begins to develop in the film between your character's father and Rev. Cotton?

Ashley Bell:Louis Herthum plays my father in the film and he is an incredible actor. He is one of the most generous and giving actors to work with. Most of my scenes are with him and Patrick Fabian who is also wonderful. A lot of the scenes were just all of us filming with Daniel and Zoltan, the DP, and take after take we were there for each other. I think without that trust none of us could have achieved what we did so it was really a gift to work with them.

The narrative of the film unfolds in a documentary style, is that correct?

Ashley Bell: Yes. The Rev. has summoned this documentary crew to help him come clean on all of his tricks on exorcism. He does a fake one on me that night and then eventually all hell breaks loose when the real thing comes.

Can you talk about producers Eli Roth and Marc Abraham and their contributions to this film?

Ashley Bell:Marc was definitely on set as was all of Strike Entertainment. They were very hands on producers the whole way through. They were very involved and invested in the project. You can feel that a lot of care went into making this movie. I got a chance to watch Eli a little bit in the editing room and it was so exciting because you really see him building that suspense and creating that horror that he does so masterfully. It's almost like math. He would say, "Okay, cut this here and put this here." He builds that tension and he builds that thrill so he's been very passionate about this project. Between he and Daniel, I think they have really created something so unique and such a different brand of horror film, that I think both new fans and horror fans will be excited about.

Finally, if you had a chance to speak directly to the "old school" horror fans, what would you say to them to get them excited about and interested in this film?

Ashley Bell: Well, I've also been a fan of horror my whole life and you mentioned Poltergeist and The Exorcist and I grew up watching films like that. I saw this film for the first time at the LA Film Festival and afterwards I actually went home and slept at my parent's house in Los Angeles because I scared myself. It is very thrilling, very scary and it is something unique. I think people will be surprised at what they see.