Exclusive: Dread Central Chats with The Last Exorcism Part II’s Ashley Bell
This Friday, March 1st, star Ashley Bell returns to the big screen as Nell Sweetzer for The Last Exorcism Part II, which was directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly and produced by Eli Roth.
During our recent interview with the actress, we heard more about the story of The Last Exorcism Part II and where we pick up with her characterl. Bell also discussed pushing herself even harder this time around both physically and emotionally and how her growing reputation as an asskicker after her turns in the original The Last Exorcism and The Day led to her getting her own fight scene and more in the upcoming The Marine: Homefront, too.
Read on for all the back-breaking highlights from our exclusive chat with Bell below, and look for The Last Exorcism Part II in theaters Friday courtesy of CBS Films.
Dread Central: Because you guys have been so secretive about the sequel and considering how crazy (and awesome) the first one ended, I really have no idea what to expect with The Last Exorcism Part II at all. Can you shed a little light on the story for us?
Ashley Bell: Well, this one picks up pretty much right where the last one ends – like literally during all of that craziness – so you’ll see a continuation of Nell’s story and see how she tries to rebuild her life after that. She doesn’t remember anything about what happened to her so there are pieces of her memory that are missing, but it’s in those missing pieces where the devil comes in, warps her sensibilities and begins to manipulate her once again.
In this movie we follow Nell to New Orleans so she’s also thrown right into Mardi Gras, which means there is temptation everywhere and the devil knows that; he preys on that weakness so he presents all these temptations in her life and then very methodically takes them away, once again leaving her broken. Just a really great story, and it was wonderful to step back into this role and into my Docs (Martens) again.
Dread Central: Because this is a character that you really went all out for in the original, did you get to have any kind of input on Nell’s story for the sequel?
Ashley Bell: I did in some ways; because the character was written so well once again, I was more focused on making sure I got to do all the physical stuff in the movie instead of a stunt double. I just wanted to push myself as far as I could. But the whole team is always very collaborative – Ed (Gass-Donnelly) and everyone at Strike – so when I do have some ideas, they’re always really open to hearing what I have to say. To be able to collaborate with so many great people on such a wonderful and scary movie like this is really awesome.
One of my favorite, but probably hardest, days of filming for Part II was that backbend you see in the trailer where I’m levitating. It was like THE hardest thing I’ve ever done in a movie, but shooting that day was so fulfilling for me. I only had clearance to do the stunt like eight timesm but we pushed it to something between 16 to 20 times just so we could keep trying new things. There was a physical therapist on set to pop my shoulders in and out of socket between takes and they heated the bed for me, too, which helped with all the hyperextension I was doing to my body. It was a lot of fun, but I still don’t think I’ve pushed myself like that ever before.
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Dread Central: Because you’re putting yourself through so much both physically and emotionally, does it ever get to be too much for you on set?
Ashley Bell: Sometimes, but I’m just lucky to get to do something I love for a living so you have to take all those challenges in stride; it’s part of the job. It’s exhilarating to push yourself like this and then see that it all pays off when the movie comes out, and I’ve been really lucky because since the first Last Exorcism, I’ve been offered a lot of action roles in movies like The Day and The Marine: Homefront, which is awesome. I love doing action- those are my favorite sets to be on.
Dread Central: So you got to do more stunts for The Marine: Homefront then? How did you get involved with that project?
Ashley Bell: The Marine: Homefront happened because of my work in The Day; they saw that I could really handle myself in a more action-oriented role so they offered me a role opposite Mike (Mizanin- WWE Superstar “The Miz”) where I get taken hostage and he has to come and rescue me. What was really cool, thoughm is that this character is a fighter by nature so she’s not just the damsel in distress waiting to be saved.
Actually when I came on board, the director, Scott (Wiper), wrote in a whole fight scene for me because he knew my capabilities with all the physical stuff so that was really cool. I grew up loving action movies, and getting to play a strong female character in one was pretty fantastic.
Ed Gass-Donnelly directs The Last Exorcism Part II from a screenplay by Gass-Donnelly and Damien Chazelle. Ashley Bell stars. Look for The Last Exorcism Part II in US theaters on March 1st and in the UK on March 15th.
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.
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