Ashley Bell is the "star" of the new thriller The Last Exorcism. In the film she plays Nell Sweetzer, a sweet sixteen year old girl who is alleged to have the devil inside her. Talking to Ashley Bell you find her to be a warm, witty twenty-four year old who studied hard to make her character believable, but who knows just how extreme the role was.
One of the first stories she told me was about her call back audition. "There I was lying on the floor pretending to be exorcised. I was moaning and groaning and rolling all over the floor and the thought running through my mind was how proud my parents would be." She said this with a laugh in her voice and you know she is in on the joke.
Ashley did a lot of research on possession and exorcisms to prepare for this role. Because of this I ask her is she is a believer in exorcisms and possessions. "Well I know real evil exists. Since I have been doing publicity for the film I have been in really high heels a lot of the time so believe me I know real evil does exist," she said with her dry sense of humor.
Her mother was one of the founders of "The Groundlings," a well known improv group, so she has a strong comedy background through her genes. Ashley says:
Daniel (Stamm, the director) let us improvise in some of the more physical and emotional scenes in the movie. When I was in the scene in the barn he encouraged me to do as many contortions as I could, and he seemed to like the fact I was so 'bendy.' I don't know if that is a word 'bendy' but that is what I was.
I asked her if there were any special effects used and she said no. "I am a method actress so I was happy to break my fingers for the role." Again she had that laugh in her voice that lets you know when she has stepped outside the serious response.
Filming the movie in Louisiana actually helped Ashley play sixteen.
Daniel didn't have any hairdressers and makeup on the set so it was just me on the screen. Plus it was one hundred per cent humidity and we all had that Louisiana film on us. It was the bare essentials and that made me appear younger.
Ashley seemed really happy when I told her how much as a Southerner I appreciated there were no heavy handed accents in the film. "Oh that is so great," she said. "Thank you for that. Having a true Southerner say we did them right is such a compliment."
I reminded her that in the past, horror films didn't get taken that seriously and so the actors were rarely recognized for their talent in the roles. Now, however, with Rooney Mara having been cast in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and one of her main credits being the recent Nightmare On Elm Street remake, things seem to be changing. She agreed and said, "You can't imagine how much this role has already helped me in my career. Just the things that I am being offered for auditions are amazing."
As a final question I asked the old reliable which do you prefer comedy or drama. She gave the standard answer "equally." In this case you have to believe her. She has certainly proved she can do drama with this role as Nell but you also hear her humor and comedic side in the answers she gives.
Ashley Bell is not a well known name at this point but all signs are she is going to get better and better known. After all how many young actresses in Hollywood are "bendy"? If you have to have a gimmick to get ahead this could certainly be hers.
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