TORONTO — The Last Exorcism star Ashley Bell bent over backwards for the role. Literally.
The 24-year-old Santa Monica, Calif., native says there was no trickery involved when she contorted her body into painful-looking positions to appear possessed by a demon in the horror film that hits theatres Friday.
“I’ve done a lot of ballet my whole life and I’ve just naturally been really flexible,” Bell said in a recent interview.
“I’m double-jointed. It’s a party trick,” she added with a giggle.
Patrick Fabian, who plays a preacher in the film, vouched for her ability to bend backwards and practically fold her body in half while standing up, as is depicted in the creepy promotional posters.
“Everything that Ashley does in this film, Ashley does in the film,” he said proudly as he sat beside her during an interview.
Directed in docu-style by Daniel Stamm and written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, The Last Exorcism follows Cotton Marcus (Fabian), a slick Louisiana preacher who doesn’t believe in demons or possession and wants “to expose exorcisms for the fraud they are.”
He gets his chance when he receives a letter from the father of Nell Sweetzer (Bell), a sugary-sweet teen whose recent sleepwalking antics on their rundown rural farm have her dad convinced she’s possessed.
Suspecting a mental disorder, the preacher heads out to the property with a camera crew to provide video proof that exorcisms and possession are a sham and that those who undergo them only feel better because they think they’re healed.
After meeting Nell and her fundamentalist father, he secretly sets up his exorcism theatrics that include a cross that spews out smoke and a hidden stereo system with 800 different “demon sounds.”
Of course, this being a horror film — one produced by genre filmmaker Eli Roth, no less — his plan doesn’t go quite according to plan.
“The set itself was very eerie,” said Fabian, 58, a Pittsburgh native who’s been on dozens of series including Big Love, where he’s had the recurring role of Ted Price for two seasons.
“We were shooting in the Lower Ninth Ward (of New Orleans) which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and not recovered and we were in an old house from the 1860s.
“It’s sort of steamy, sexy, murky and we’re out in the swamp in the bayou so there’s a thousand bugs, and alligators walked on set.”
To land the part, Bell had to pretend to undergo an exorcism in a callback audition.
“There I was, lying in a casting office in the middle of West Hollywood lying on the carpet, having this man summon this thing out of me and I was contorting,” she recalled.
“And I just thought: ’My parents would be so proud.”