One of the most memorable exorcism scenes was in 2010’s “The Last Exorcism,” in which the devil forced the young girl to do a very extreme backward bend in a barn.
Well, the story of that young girl, Nell, continues in the next movie “The Last Exorcism Part II.”
Here’s the synopsis:
Continuing where the first film left off, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found terrified and alone in rural Louisiana.
Back in the relative safety of New Orleans, Nell realizes that she can't remember entire portions of the previous months only that she is the last surviving member of her family. Just as Nell begins the difficult process of starting a new life, the evil force that once possessed her is back with other, unimaginably horrific plans that mean her last exorcism was just the beginning.
Latino-review had an exclusive interview via phone with actress Ashley Bell as she was at Portland Wizard World that past week. We discussed the excitement of playing Nell again and with a different setting for the plot. She even talked about the excitement for going to a comic book convention for the first time.
“The Last Exorcism Part II” is currently in theaters everywhere today.
Latino-Review: Hi, Ashley how’s it going?
Ashley Bell: Great. And how about you?
Latino-Review: I’m just trying to keep warm here in California. I’m not sure where you are at.
Ashley Bell: It is cold in California. But, I just landed in Portland. I’m here for comic-con. It’s my first comic-con ever. I learned a new word. It’s “blustery” up here. It’s horizontally raining. [Laughter]
Latino-Review: No kidding.
Ashley Bell: But, it’s great. We made it to the convention center and I got to walk around. It was so much fun—I’ve never been in an atmosphere like that. I had a blast.
Latino-Review: It must be quite a new experience to a convention like that just to meet fans.
Ashley Bell: Yes, it was! I was so shocked when I got off the airplane—there were people with posters and pictures. I always get so surprised when that happens. That’ll never get old. My day started off on the right foot.
Latino-Review: Here’s a question on everyone’s minds: why is there a sequel to “The Last Exorcism?” Doesn’t it imply to be “The Last?”
Ashley Bell: There’s no last exorcism for the devil. In part one [of the film], it’s Cotton Marcus’ last exorcism. In part one, we see a fake exorcist, Cotton Marcus, kind of coming clean and doing his final exorcism to show what his tricks were and make money. He does a fake exorcism and that night all hell breaks loose and turns out he needed to deal with the real thing.
Once you pop the lid off the devil, you never what you gonna get. Evil has no boundaries and it only begun.
Latino-Review: The sequel is a lot different from the first movie. The first movie was filmed like a found footage. Now this time around, it’s a little bit different. It seems like a normal horror movie. Am I correct?
Ashley Bell: Yes, but it’s just stylistically. That’s what so exciting when I first heard about the sequel being talked about was that they were going to do found footage. Everyone expected to be as a found footage.
And when part two was filmed, it was filmed very under the radar [and] very secretively. It was filmed under a completely different name so that nobody could detect it. It was stylistically so different. So when the trailer came out—everybody was so shocked.
And I love it! I think it’s the shock from the audience when they see part two.
Latino-Review: Did you have to make adjustments into your acting style because of this too?
Ashley Bell: Not necessarily. I think I was truthful to the character, Nell, and play the scenes. Probably the only change was that for part one, as the character, I had to play into the camera. It was those moments that were constructed very carefully with Daniel Stamm, the director. There would be those moment in which a look was given to the camera. It’s important such as how long, when to look, how to lose the camera and how to manipulate the camera. It worked with character.
This one is a straight narrative.
Latino-Review: Your character, Nell, was basically a victim needed to be saved and not quite the main character. In the second movie, your character seems to be a lot different this time around.
Ashley Bell: Yes, very much so. This film picks up where the last one ends. We see Nell as raw and shell shocked. She doesn’t remember anything that happened to her. And she’s trying to put her life back together.
It was different to play Nell again, because she was traumatized from the events of the last film. So it was like putting together a broken person. By rebuilding that there were some pieces missing. That’s when the doubt seeps in of the character. You doubt temptation and curiosity. Then the devil flips in and manipulates her. That’s when it gets really fun.
Latino-Review: I understand that the found footage from the first film still makes its way into the second film. Am I correct?
Ashley Bell: It does. Yes! I thought that was so cool in the script. It creeps into a viral video. I said, “Wow! How much more perfect can it be with that all of your skeletons in the closet thrown out for the world to see?” It’s haunting, y’know.
Latino-Review: The one thing that I do remember about your character from the first movie was that strange eerie contortionist scene. You didn’t have to do that again, right? You don’t have to strain yourself for doing that?
Ashley Bell: Yes! It’s very important for me to do for my own scenes and I wanted to challenge myself. And I wanted to one-up myself from that act. In working with Ed [Gass] and Eli [Roth], we had to figure out a way to find something new.
If you had seen the trailer, you’ve seen this levitating back bend. It was one of the most challenging day, but rewarding day on the set. I was lucky enough to be okay to do that stunt. A bunch of stunt guys on set said, “Oh, you want to get her for six takes.” And I think we did it for about twenty times. We kept on doing more and a new layer got added. New quirks were developed. And new elements were placed.
There was a physical therapist on set to pop my shoulder blades out between every take. It was a really good production and very fun to do. At the end of the day, I could say, “I flew!” This was great.
Latino-Review: You didn’t hurt yourself in all this. How did you prepare for all of this?
Ashley Bell: I actually stress fracture to prove that I did it! [Laughter] I went to the doctor and he said, “You have a stress fracture in the lower vertebra. Do you remember hyper-contorting? Do you do any gymnastics? Did you do any backbends?” So I said, “Well, one thing…..comes to mind.” [Laughter]
I guess it’s an occupational hazard being possessed by the devil. It didn’t stop me physically at all. I was worried that it would limit me. But, the cure was to work out more. I’m so physical. I love doing ballet. I studied Muay Thai.
So the cure for something like this was to work out more to build up a stronger core. I can do the back bend again. I just needed to be put back together.
Latino-Review: So you can really do that back bend in real life, huh?
Ashley Bell: Yes, yes! As long as I get put back together—I’m good to go. [Laughter]
Latino-Review: The original film was directed by Daniel Stamm and the new sequel was directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly. Could you discuss the adjustments with the director this time around?
Ashley Bell: I was a big fan of Ed from the film “Big Town Murder Songs.” It was a beautifully glossy film which was character driven. Ed has a huge background in theater. I was very excited to work with him. He brings a whole new aesthetics to the film, which is very exciting. He loves New Orleans and he soaks it in [the movie]. He wanted this film to really show that.
In the exorcism scenes, there’s a lots of hints to voodoo and voodoo culture. And it really gives it something that hasn’t been seen before.
Latino-Review: In speaking to that, that’s a lot different in which the first movie was a Christian-based type movie, but you’re saying the sequel will imply some voodoo magic rather than a Christian-based type scenario?
Ashley Bell: Yes, it takes a very different turn. And you don’t know who’s taking it that way. As an audience member, you’ll see the victim as very vulnerable. You will feel Nell was prey upon. The devil appears in many different forms to tease Nell and tempt her. And you don’t know where he could come from next.
Latino-Review: I have a question then—why is the devil still coming after you? Isn’t everything all settled in the first film?
Ashley Bell: Things are never settled with the devil. He has always something up his sleeve. [Laughter]
Latino-Review: For the first film, the background for the film was in the countryside of Louisiana. So the second film is still in Louisiana, but much more in the city environment than the countryside—am I correct?
Ashley Bell: Yes, it’s still in Louisiana. Going to back to part two—there’s no other city that we could go to except New Orleans. It was really fun.
The first day of filming was actually during Mardi Gras. A skeleton crew actually went out to film in the actual parade with me, Ed and Brandon, the photographer. I got into Nell’s wardrobe and makeup to go into New Orleans. It’s the badness of Mardi Gras. And, that was the first day.
It was just incredible to step back into Nell’s skin and to see everything for the first time. And [it was] seeing everything that was hidden from her. To hear the music. To see the costumes, makeup and disguises. And to live all of that in the moment as Nell, there was all these sensations and feelings—it was just a wonderful way to jump back into the character.
Latino-Review: That would lead us to this question—how is this film going to be compared to the original film in your opinion?
Ashley Bell: Oooo, I’m not sure. What’s so incredible about the first film was that it started off as an independent film. People saw it in droves. That’s what anyone hoped for in a movie.
What I love about this [sequel] is that it makes the audience feel very vulnerable like the first movie. And it’s also PG-13. So it has a very fun elements and scary elements in the movie. I saw it and I actually scared myself.
Latino-Review: Oh, really.
Ashley Bell: Yeah, I was with a couple of people. People were jumping who hasn’t seen it. It’s that horror film that you want to get scared watching. You will grab on to the person next to you. You will get startled. It’s a fun scary movie.
Latino-Review: One last inquiry and you can enjoy Portland to its full delight. Personally, do you personally believe in the devil?
Ashley Bell: Yes, I believe in the devil. I survive eighth grade as a drama student geek and a horrible pack of girls. Yes, the devil was in me and a bunch of eighth grade girls. [Laughter]
Latino-Review: Thanks so much for this interview and enjoy Portland.
Ashley Bell: It’s great talking to you. Good night. Bye.
“The Last Exorcism Part II” is out in theaters everywhere today.