Critics may have quibbled with the ending of “The Last Exorcism,” but nobody is complaining about Ashley Bell, who has drawn across-the-board raves for her performance as the problem-riddled girl at the heart of last weekend’s top-grossing film. In London for the U.K. premiere of her movie this week, Bell tells us she’s so thrilled by the response, “I feel like I’m in one of those inflatable jump-jump rooms.”
It helped that she is double-jointed and oh-so-very flexible.
“There’s no CGI in the movie. Daniel nailed my boots to the floor, pushed me over and yelled ‘Action!’” she says, referring to director Daniel Stamm. Then she adds, “I’m kidding.”
In fact, Stamm “asked me the night before we did that scene whether I had any ideas – which is a dream situation for any actor – and I said I’d been working on a backbend and several other physical bits.” The athletically-inclined actress, who is trained in ballet, karate and fencing (she competed nationally in the latter), tells us, “I was banned from yoga class. I’d end up in these weird positions that made people uncomfortable to look at and I was asked to leave.”
She never worried about being pigeonholed ala Linda Blair, she says. “Just because of the way the character is structured in this movie. I really favored the scenes where you got the chance to see who she is before she goes into one of her episodes – while this debate is going on as to whether she’s experiencing a mental break.”
Bell says she read extensively on mental illness as part of her research. “I’m obsessive. I read every single book on exorcisms that hasn’t been banned, went to some extremist churches, talked to people involved in exorcisms. It’s a fascinating subject,” declares the actress, who’s been a horror movie fan since age seven.
The Tisch School of the Arts NYU grad, whose mother, Victoria Carroll, is one of the founders of L.A.’s famous The Groundlings improv theater, says she doesn’t know what she’ll be doing next, but “I would love to do a comedy.”