Fernanda Andrade and Suzan Crowley talk about their experiences on William Brent Bell's horror tale hitting theaters January 6
Last night, I was invited to take part in a screening of Paramount Pictures' upcoming horror tale The Devil Inside, which opens in theaters nationwide January 6. Several members of the cast and crew were on hand for the event, and I was able to speak with the leading ladies of this exorcism tale, Fernanda Andrade and Suzan Crowley.
The story centers on Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), a woman seeking the truth about her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley), who killed three church members during her own exorcism. When Maria was transferred to a facility in Rome from the United States, Isabella began to question whether or not her mother was possessed by a supernatural force.
Can you talk about when you first heard about this project, and what was the first thing you took away from the script when you first read it?
Fernanda Andrade: The first time I heard about it was two years ago. I went in and auditioned for it. I didn't get the script, at first. I read one scene, then they called me back and I read another scene. It wasn't until I went to meet up with (director) William Brent Bell, that they finally handed me the script. I had connected with the material before, but it was really then, when I read the script, that I realized this was something different, something new. I was just so excited to be a part of it.
When actors are playing characters based on actual people, I'm always curious about what their research process is. How far deep into the history did you delve into this before shooting?
Fernanda Andrade: I did as much research as I could, because we started shooting almost immediately after. Brent gave us a really good source, which is a book called Interview With an Exorcist. That was great, and really informative, and really helped me look at everything from that perspective, which helped me understand the church a lot better, and the character a lot better. Then I did a lot of online research, like YouTube videos, especially the recording for Annalise's case that was The Exorcism of Emily Rose. That kind of stuff. I talked to a lot of people as well, and it's interesting because the more you tell people what the subject matter is, the more they have stories about their family. Everybody has got something.
Did you have a lot of time with Suzan before shooting?
Fernanda Andrade: No, not at all. Brent really wanted us to not meet before the very first moment that we meet. The scene that you see, even in the previews, that is actually the first time I ever saw Suzan.
That's really effective, I think, to create that separation.
Fernanda Andrade: Yeah, it was creepy.
What was the shooting schedule like on this? Was it rushed at all?
Fernanda Andrade: It was short and intense, but it was wonderful. It was very cold. We were there in December. It was dark, but we were all in heaven, even though we were dealing with a lot of hell.
Is there one moment, maybe a scene you shot or a moment on the set, that will always stand out when you think back about this movie?
Fernanda Andrade: Yeah, absolutely. It was actually the first time I ever went into the room, where the exorcism of Rosa (Bonnie Morgan) takes place. That room is actually in the basement of a huge mansion in Bucharest. It was an abandoned mansion, and you know Bucharest was in a Communist country for so many years. The very first time I set foot in there, I felt something really bad, you know? Luckily, I didn't really feel that once we were in there and shooting, but when I stepped into it, there was just something and it hit hard. I'll never forget that.
Can you talk a bit about working with Brent in general, and what he brings to the table in a movie like this?
Fernanda Andrade: He was wonderful, really. The thing that made it so special, was really the way that Brent worked. It was the first time ever that I had experienced somebody that let us breathe those characters so much. The way that we shot it, and the way that he allowed for us to collaborate and figure it out together, I hope that I have more experiences like that.
Was there a lot in here that wasn't quite on the page that stood out for you? Was there a lot of improvisation, or a lot of things that evolved from the script that stood out?
Fernanda Andrade: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think that as a core, the script and the story remained very much original to the story they wanted to tell, but there were so many surprising elements, when we actually got to the location and we actually found creepier spaces and especially terrifying moments, things that would just coincidentally come together. Those are all over the place, especially when we were shooting in big locations like in Rome.
Does this give you a different view on church and religion?
Fernanda Andrade: Yeah, I think it had to. The main thing that I noticed, when I started researching the stuff, was that I kept hitting blocks. I kept reading things and rolling my eyes, and I realized that I could never really understand this, until I got rid of all that. I had to really clean my slate of all my preconceived notions, because that's what Isabella was doing, basically. Words like 'demon' and 'satan' is really ingrained and familiar to us. I think sometimes we mistake that familiarity with actually knowing what they mean. It was really cool to be able to go back and actually look at that.
When you say "demon" to a normal person, it doesn't have a real-life connotation.
Fernanda Andrade: Right, exactly. It's almost like a conceptual fairy tale... or the opposite. I never really had a hold of it, but when i started reading and understanding what that realm means, compared to the angelic realm, compared to the human realm, the God realm, the hierarchy of the system, it really became quite obvious and practical, and I understood what it is that they were doing.
What would you like to say to anyone who's curious about The Devil Inside about why they should check it out in theaters?
Fernanda Andrade: I think it will scare your socks off, and I think it's just a new, fresh take on it, uncomfortably so. It's a new, fresh look at exorcisms.
It seemed right off the bat, that this wouldn't be a typical exorcism movie. Did you get that feeling right away when you were first introduced to this project?
Suzan Crowley: I think I did. It's actually a really well-crafted script. It's not supposed to look that way, but it totally is. (Writer-director) Brent Bell and (co-writer) Matt Peterman have written a really great story, and that makes the whole difference.
Can you talk about the things you had to do to prepare for these really intense scenes?
Suzan Crowley: Well, I suppose it's like anything. If you're playing someone who is not like anything you encounter in your usual life, you have to really get into it. It was great. We were working in Romania in a veterinary hospital, where we filmed a lot of it, which was pretty grim, I have to say. But it totally added to the story. We would use a lot of little things that would come along, and also just trying to find all kinds of different things. As far as being an actress, I really like playing people who are out there, to try and do the total opposite.
How is it between takes though? Are you the kind of actress who is completely method and in the character the whole time?
Suzan Crowley: Oh, no. I'm not that sort of actor. I would be insane, I think, if I did that. Possession by devils, it's like something out of The Crucible, actually, the Salem Witch Trials. That was something I was thinking a lot about, actually, because I had done The Crucible in theater school. There are some really terrific, frightening, haunting, terrifying scenes, and there's nothing. There's no special effects, it's literally done by the hysteria. I think this is tapping into that hysteria in this script.
When I talked with Fernanda, she said you two had never met until that first scene.
Suzan Crowley: I thought they were doing something sneaky like that. I thought it was really suspicious that I hadn't met her, and then I thought, 'Oh, I see what they're doing. Fair enough, I'll play along.' It was incredible. I wasn't looking at her when she came in. I could feel her. It's a pretty cool thing to do. It did help that scene, because, well, I don't know this person.
I also heard it was a very quick shoot.
Suzan Crowley: It was very quick. We did a little bit here in Los Angeles, and then we flew to Romania. I didn't go to Rome. I know some of the crew did. All in all, it was about two and a half weeks for me.
For you, what's it like seeing all the TV spots and the billboards for this around town?
Suzan Crowley: Well, thankfully, nobody recognizes me (Laughs). It would be worse if they did. No, my husband nearly drove off the road on Melrose. I was in London, actually, and he was driving down Melrose and he called me. It was the middle of the night and he says, 'I've just seen you! You look awful!' I go, 'I don't think this is a flirt.' He goes, 'I don't think this is a film for husbands.' But he's here, so we'll have to see.
Finally, what would you like to say to fans of the horror genre or anyone who might be curious about The Devil Inside about why they should check it out in theaters?
Suzan Crowley: Definitely, definitely. If you like films that are freaky and beyond, then this is the one for you. It actually scared me, when I was doing the thing for the television commercial. It freaked me out, and that's hard.