Ashley Bell talks about role in "The Last Exorcism"

Ashley Bell is the star of the new horror film “The Last Exorcism”. She plays the tortured young girl Nell who gets possessed. YES, that really is her doing that back bend, BTW. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Ashley about her role in the film and her growing career.

Click here to purchase “The Last Exorcism” DVD or Blu-Ray

Mike Gencarelli: What inspired you to be an actor?
Ashley Bell: I come from an acting family.  Both of my parents (Michael Bell and Victoria Carroll) are actors and my grandparents were actually vaudeville performers who went into publicity.  So it’s kind of the family business.  I like doing character roles.  I love researching and getting as far away from who I am as possible.  I discovered that in high school and have stuck with it since.

Mike Gencarelli: How does it feel to be starring in your first major role in “The Last Exorcism”?
Ashley Bell: Oh my God!  It’s incredible.  It’s incredible!  When I first went to audition for the role the character of Nell just hit me so strongly.  I fought so hard for this role.  The audition was actually me getting Exorcised in the casting office.  So there I was in this casting office in West Hollywood with a cameraman hovering over me while I’m having a demon summoned out of my chest and writhing around on the floor.  I thought to myself “my parents would be so proud right now.”  The character of Nell is so huge…to be able to research the role and go to Baptist churches…read every book on Exorcisms and talk to people…it was so much fun.  There was so much to explore.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you develop your character, Nell Sweetzer?
Ashley Bell: The director (Daniel Stamm) told me to watch all the “exorcist” films I could and “not do that.

Mike Gencarelli: What was the most challenging part of the production?
AB: When it ended, I think (laughs).  That day was the hardest.  I loved every single day on set.  We filmed on a plantation about 30 minutes outside of New Orleans on the bayou and between the bugs and the alligator that crawled on set and the humidity…it all lent to a really eerie and creepy feeling that is conveyed so beautifully in the film.  Actually one of the most fun and challenging days was filming the second exorcism scene when I did the back bend.  I didn’t know it was going to be required of me physically on set.  I prepared about a month before doing back bends and Daniel asked me if I had anything I wanted to try…any input.  And this being my first film I never would have dreamed in a thousand years that I’d be allowed to give any input. So I said yeah, I’ve been thinking about this and this and he said “good, good…put it in.” And the next day we ended up doing about 20 takes…we started early in the morning and went way late.  There was a thunderstorm in the middle of the day and I’m on the set just covered from head to toe in fake blood.  It was great fun.  Not only being challenged like that but having my opinion asked.

MG: Have you seen the finished film? More importantly, did it scare you?
AB: I did see it.  I saw it for the first time at the L.A. Film Festival.  It did scare me.  I live in Los Angeles and after the movie I went back to my old room in my parents’ house to sleep.

MG: Are you a fan of the horror genre?
AB: I am a fan.  I started watching horror films with my dad when I was about eight.  I saw “The Exorcist” when I was ten…and also slept with the lights on.  We watched everything.  We watched “Jaws” and “Pumpkinhead” and “The Gate”…”Poltergeist.”  I was raised on all of these horror films.  And Greg Nicotero (a long time friend of MovieMikes) did all of the special effects work.  I did all of the physical stuff but he handled the effects.  And getting the chance to go to his studio and see the “things” I’ve watched for years was mind blowing.  And Eli (Roth, producer of the film) is such a master in the genre’.  He knows how to build stories…how to build suspense.

MG: What are you working on next?
AB: There are a couple things brewing but I can’t really go into details.  But everything is going well.  To get the chance to experience the whole aspect of the job…doing publicity and getting interviewed…photo shoots.  Sometimes you can go your whole life as an actress and never get to experience that.  This film has been so much fun.  And it’s opened up so many doors.  I’m writing and developing a cartoon show.  I continue to work with the Groundlings (her mother was one of the founding members of the improve group.  I guess I’m hoping to just continue to work.

Click here to purchase “The Last Exorcism” DVD or Blu-Ray

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