Exclusive Interview: Ashley Bell For ‘The Last Exorcism Part II’
The second installment of the successful movie The Last Exorcism Part II comes out to theaters today and Film Equals had a chance to chat with the lead Ashley Bell about the audience can expect from her character and the story in this sequel. Check out what she had to say below.
It must be really exciting to comeback for a sequel.
Ashley Bell: It is, it is. Nell was a character that was so close to my heart, and it was really, for a first film it was such an amazing opportunity because I got to build two characters, both Nell Sweetzer and Abalam, the devil. So when the discussions were happening about a possible sequel, I was very excited to jump back into my Doc Martens.
Alright. Breakdown the premise of this new movie.
Ashley Bell: Well, part two starts off where part one ended. So we see Nell completely raw, having escaped from the incident in the woods, having given birth to a demon baby, and she’s raw. She’s vulnerable. She doesn’t remember anything that happened to her, and here she is, she’s thrown into New Orleans city. She’s thrown into Mardi Gras, and there’s temptation everywhere, and she has to choose between good and evil.
For the fans of the first movie, which did very well, how do you feel this movie will be different from the first one?
Ashley Bell: Well, what was exciting when I first read the script is that I saw that they were jumping out of the found footage genre, and that was so cool to me, because even when the film got announced, everyone thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to be just another found footage film.’ But the fact that it’s now a straight narrative, a straight horror film and they’ve incorporated the first film through it as a leaked YouTube video, I just think it really surprised fans. It spun the genre on its head and I think it’s a good sign of the surprises to come, when audiences see the film.
You talked about building two characters for the first film. How are you approaching the character in this film?
Ashley Bell: Well, it is a rebuilding of Nell. Here’s this girl that’s been completely broken. She doesn’t remember anything. She doesn’t even know what an iPod is, and it was almost like picking up the pieces of a broken girl and putting them back together. There are cracks and missing pieces, and in those cracks, that’s where doubt comes in and that’s where she starts to question her past life and her memories and that’s where the devil comes in. There are scares and manipulations and temptations, and all that fun stuff.
Your performance has so much intensity. How do you get into that mindset during production and sustain it take after take?
Ashley Bell: Well, I’m really grateful for my training in those moments. I studied at NYU and I also studied Shakespeare in Cambridge University for an intensive, and I workout at The Groundlings which is a comedy place from time to time, just to keep loose. So I’m grateful for what I’ve learned in my training. What’s always been helpful for me is research and grounding a character in research. I read every single exorcism book I could find. I watched videos. I listened to tapes because some of the videos were too explicit, and when I began to see this footage, it scared me, but it also inspired me to try it out myself and that’s how I found that I could do that backbend. The night before the exorcism scene, for the film, Daniel Stamm, the director, asked if I had any ideas, and I said, ‘Well, I can do this if you can use it,’ and I did the backbend and he said, ‘Okay, you stay there. Let me change some things,’ and I had no idea it would become the poster image for both films and be this iconic pose.
Are there any particular scenes in this movie that stay with you, even now?
Ashley Bell: One of the most fun days on set and most challenging, if you see the trailer, there’s this levitating backbend, and it was really important for me to be able to continue to do all the physicality myself. That was something that I did for the first film, and I wanted to push myself and try to do it again for this one, and that…levitating like that, I taught myself how to do it, which was very challenging. [laughs] Kidding.
There wasn’t enough time to fully levitate, but that scene, I think there was a whole stunt crew on set, and I was okay to do it for eight takes and we did it for about twenty takes and every take got more and more and more intense. The director, Ed [Gass-Donnelly] was conducting it like an orchestra almost. There was a physical therapist to pop my shoulder blades out between every single take. It was this huge moment on set for everybody involved, and it was challenging in the moment, but that’s where things get fun for me.
Do you have a message for the fans of the first movie who are eager to see this sequel?
Ashley Bell: Oh, go see it. This is a fun, scary movie. When I saw it for the first time, I actually scared myself. I was in a movie theater with a couple of people who knew nothing about it, hadn’t read the script, and they were jumping out of their chairs and grabbing onto each other. Those are the kind of scares you’ll see when you see it. There’s nothing like going into a theater and just having fun getting scared, and yeah, but get ready. There’s a twist at the end that only Eli Roth can pull off. So I don’t think audiences will see it coming.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can talk about?
Ashley Bell: Yes. I have a bunch of films coming out, which I’m really proud of. ‘The Last Exorcism Part II’ is coming out March first. I’m also in an action film called ‘The Marine: Homefront,’ which is out March 5th. It’s a straight up raw, action, cars exploding, jumping through windows, and then I’m in a romantic comedy called ‘The Bounceback,’ which will be premiering at South by Southwest, and ‘Sparks,’ based on the graphic comic, which will be premiering at Cinequest.
A busy year for you, that’s great.
Ashley Bell: It has been, knock on wood.
If you could work with any actor or director that you want, who would it be?
Ashley Bell: Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy. I think he’s brilliant. I think just the way he completely changes physically and emotionally and mentally and vocally for his roles, he’s such a chameleon. I just want to watch him work.
And you can teach him how to backbend.
Ashley Bell: [laughs] No. I’ll just learn.
The Last Exorcism Part II comes out in a theater near today Friday March 1st 2013. In the meantime, check out the trailer below: