I love Campbell Scott. Love him. In this film he sports a fantastic mustache and as we all know, a mustache makes good things great. As a result, Campbell’s through the roof. The son of Changeling great George C. and his co-stars and director sat down with myself and other genre folks on the set of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the results of which follow. Enjoy!
Q: Those of you who are acting, were you familiar
with the story underlining this? Did you
do any research into the true story?
LAURA LINNEY: I knew
nothing about it. There is a similar
story that it is based on, but it is not a recreation of that story, so there
is a book that was written about the events and I did read that and then just
talked to Scott a lot.
SCOTT DERRICKSON: I
filled her in.
Q: This question is for Tom Wilkinson. You probably
have the most to do with the horror element in the film. How was it researching for and working on a horror
TOM WILKINSON: Almost
everything I ever do in a film I haven’t ever done before. What was interesting for me at least, I mean
is kind of relates to your question as well as far as research is concerned, I
didn’t do any. I mean if I can possibly
ever not do any research I won’t because like this, what was interesting about
this for my character is that it’s the first time it’s happened to him, the
first exorcism that he’s been involved with, and so I thought it would be quite
interesting if you could just do it from the kind of, both my character and I
were kind of beginners. So, it was an interesting aspect of it. You allow the events to sort of happen to you
in a certain sense rather than controlling them, like an expert might have
done. So I welcomed, welcomed the idea
of doing something that I had never done before.
Q: I saw THE
EXORCIST in the seventies when I was very young and it really scared me,
and when I saw it again in the re-release the whole audience was laughing at
parts that should be scary. Since this genre has been spoofed so much, how did
you approach writing the script and how are you approaching the direction of
SCOTT DERRICKSON: How
was it approached? I saw the, the same
re-release and had a different experience.
I mean the audience I saw it with liked it quite a bit and I am a big
fan of that picture. But I, I think that
if you’re going to make an exorcism movie of any kind you certainly have a
certain burden to carry or hurdle to get over with that film.
Q: Did you see that as a challenge? Were you excited about it?
SCOTT DERRICKSON: The subject
matter is profoundly compelling and I think that what everybody knows is that
it is a real phenomenon out in the world whether you believe there’s anything
spiritual to it or not. It happens. People get exorcisms. And, and there are lots of stories of lots of
cases, and that fact alone makes it interesting. And what I wanted to do was approach the
subject matter in a bit less exploitive way.
You can’t out exorcist THE EXORCIST and so you sort of have to almost go
under it in a sense, you know? I certainly want the film to be scary and I want
it to be compelling to watch, but in some ways I think to really frighten a
contemporary audience you just can’t do that with special effects and sound and
camera tricks and sort of the manipulative tricks of the trade that were
implemented there that were extraordinary at the time and that same sort of
approach has been used in a million different horror films. And so I think that with this one certainly
my intention, we’ll see if we pulled it off… but certainly my intention was for
the effectiveness of the sort of horror elements and the exorcism itself to be
rooted in the reality of these real characters portrayed by great actors and
for the phenomenon that you watch to be very counter-intuitive but not over the
top. And, and for me the result is that it’s effective and it’s really frightening
and it really puts your head in a space of thinking about whether or not you
believe that this sort of thing can happen.
I don’t think anyone really watching THE EXORCIST wonder if that’s
what it looks like. A lot of people know
that that was based on the
case. Something happened in St.
Louis. It was a boy, not a girl,
but something happened there. I don’t
think it looked like THE EXORCIST. So I think what we’re trying to do is make a
movie that’s a little bit more of an exploration of what does it really look
like and what, what’s the range of possibilities there and what can it
mean? And that’s what we’re trying to
Q: How do you feel about the decision that your
character makes to perform an exorcism on the girl? What motivates him and what scares him, and
how would you personally feel about it if you had been put in a similar position?
TOM WILKINSON: Big
question, isn’t it? Well I’m very glad that
he does decide to do it, otherwise I wouldn’t be in the movie. I’d be passing
by the window on a bicycle. What is
crucial about it and it doesn’t really involve my decision-making process, what
I feel about it, because I play this character.
What is interesting about priests when they take on an exorcism they’re not
there personally. They are there as a kind of embodiment of the Catholic
Church. It’s a Catholic priest who’s
doing it. So they have to have gone to
confession. They have to have
fasted. They have to be in a state of
grace I’m told, so that they become merely a conduit. They themselves are not there to sort of
grapple hand-to-hand with the demons but to act as a conduit from God through
the Catholic Church into the body and soul of the person who’s possessed and
that’s how that works. So in a certain
sense his private feelings and for certain my private feelings, but his private
feelings are kind of irrelevant. And
that’s the best answer I can come up with.
tell us about your character and how do you come up with the look? You’re usually a young leading man type and
this is more of an aged look.
Um, thank you, Dan, for half of that question.
LAURA LINNEY: I think,
I think he’s one of the handsomest men I know.
CAMPBELL SCOTT: It’s
been a long time since I’ve been the young whatever you said but thanks anyway
for remembering. How did I come up with the look? I don’t know. I always try to come up with some kind of
look that’s going to be different from the last look, to tell you the truth. This is my real hair and my real mustache
and my real color, which you often see removed for other jobs. I play Ethan Thomas, who’s the prosecuting attorney. I’m in fact acting on behalf of “The People,”
and he’s a very kind of no-nonsense, intense character who does not obviously
believe in this type of spirituality but does believe that this young woman was
harmed by the neglect of this priest. He probably doesn’t really go for
Catholicism. He’s a very intense
Methodist in the movie. And Paul and
Scott have made a very light but nice point of saying that he is in fact not
just a factual guy, he’s a religious guy, but he’s a different kind of
religious guy. And the look just seemed right, you know. You walk into things and you think,
personally my looks are always based on two things: what’s going to be different from the way
people have seen me before ’cause I find that interesting and also what’s going
to work for the guys.
Q: Given your previous credits for doing films like
Urban Legend 2 and all these sequels,
how do you make the transition?
SCOTT DERRICKSON: Write a good script. We just wrote the script and
developed it with Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson and we developed it outside the
studio system and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it wasn’t a
concept, a studio concept before it became a screenplay. We, we wrote it pretty much on our own and
did it the way we wanted to do it, and it’s with Screen Gems and Lakeshore they
just understood it. And there was a lot of interest around the project as soon
as it became kind of available to the studios and we ended up where we did
because we felt like that was a place where they were going to let us make it
the way that it was. It’s very satisfying, because I love the genre, you know,
and, and this isn’t purely a horror film. It’s a courtroom movie as well and it’s
got very dramatic characters and I certainly don’t have anything but really
positive feelings about the horror genre in general. But I do think that, you know, there are sort
of two tiers to it and this one is sort of going to that second tier, which is
great. And so far that’s the movie we’ve
Q: So the other films you’ve done didn’t quite get
there, are you saying?
SCOTT DERRICKSON: I
think that for what they were, you know. They were both sequels and they were
movies that were green-lit before there was ever a script and whenever that’s
the case there’s constraints and their limitations and they were there to serve
a very narrow purpose. And when you’re
in that kind of situation and in the case of URBAN LEGENDS there were
a lot of producers and there was a lot of different input, so I think that
project belongs to a lot of different people and whenever that happens you end
up with something that sort of can lose its way a bit. But I think that didn’t happen on this at all
and I’m very happy to have worked on those other films. They were a great place to start.
Q: My question is for all of our thespians. Have any of you had anything close to a
supernatural experience that might have informed your performances?
TOM WILKINSON: No. I
once lost a glove and found it the following week. I don’t suppose that counts.
Q: Laura, this seems like a departure for you. Did
you have to be talked into doing this?
LAURA LINNEY: I had made
MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, so that’s in there. I did have to be talked into it. There
were things about the script that interested me that have nothing to do with
horror or with typical horror. The whole idea of people’s personal demons,
whether you’re religious or not, whether that’s depression or anxiety or stress
or whatever, interested me, and there’s a line in the script that deals with
that, and that’s what I found really interesting. I had very very long talks
with Scott. I had very very long talks with Clint Culpepper, one of our
producers, just to see where they were and what they were thinking and what
kind of movie they wanted to make and were they both on the same page and, and
was this something that, that I thought that I could contribute to in a
positive way? And would I have a good
time making it? I was thoughtful about it, definitely.
Q: Was there any one thing that finally convinced
you to do it?
LAURA LINNEY: Scott,
you know, talking to Scott. His sincerity about wanting to make a good movie,
and wanting to be true to the story first, that went a long way.
Q: I wanted to ask you about your next movie, JINDABYNE?
LAURA LINNEY: JINDABYNE.
Q: What is different about that from this?
LAURA LINNEY: Oh, JINDABYNE
has no horror in it whatsoever. It’s
based on a Raymond Carver short story. It’s
an ensemble piece that’s being directed by Ray Lawrence, who did LANTANA. It’s set in
Carver short story that deals with death, and it deals with ethics but not
Q: This question is for Scott. It’s my
understanding that you’re playing the film in an ambiguous way where you’re
letting the audience figure out is she really possessed or is she not? Do you
find yourself having to self-censor yourself visually when you’re filming the
exorcism scenes because you don’t want to make them too horrific and imply to
the audience that she is possessed?
SCOTT DERRICKSON: Yeah.
I mean yeah, it’s a real tightrope walk that balance and again I don’t know how
well we’ve achieved that. I do know that
it hasn’t been terribly difficult like I haven’t been distracted by it because
I think that there was so much rigor put into that in the screenplay. I think
that our actress Jennifer Carpenter who plays Emily Rose is so extraordinary in
the role that it actually took a lot of that weight off of me because I really
reconceived how to do the entire movie at her call-back audition because she
was so frightening, and it was so surreal just her in a room full of guys behind
a table like this. And what she was
doing was so counterintuitive to watch what she can do with her body and the
realism to it and I had this terrible sense of gosh, how am I going to make
these possession and exorcism scenes frightening, you know? Well what camera tricks can I use? How far can I go? And then when I saw her I was like “Well,
you’ve just gotta turn the camera on and point it at her, you know.” And, and when she is doing things that are
more representative of, you know, sort of mental illness and something that’s
not so supernatural it’s really equally disturbing. And, and I think that’s one of the things that’s
interesting about it. So she took a lot of the burden off me in that, in that
respect. There is a good amount of kind of
paranormal things in the story, and so you’re always trying to remember who’s
telling this story and of course in that respect it was very influenced by RASHOMON. And there’s a RASHOMON type story, that’s a
phrase that gets thrown out a lot but just because something’s fragmented it’s
not RASHOMON but there’s a same event that really is being remembered different
ways or being thought of as different realities are being presented, it’s
incredibly interesting because memory does warp history in some regard, and so
you get a certain range of freedom when you’re telling a story like that too
because when you can go a certain distance and think boy we’re really making
this look supernatural and this is supernatural, but then you’re remembering
“Oh, but that’s the priest telling his, his version, you know, as opposed to
someone else who’s talking about, uh, the same situation from a much more
skeptical point of view.” So, but that’s
what’s fun about it, and it’s what’s interesting about it and, and somewhere in
the heart of that is what the movie is about, I think. It certainly is for me.
Q: Do your spiritual beliefs change as you’re
working on a film like this?
I, I would think we wouldn’t often admit it, but conjecture, that that’s
part of the reason those of us who are actors became actors in the first
place. There’s something about… not necessarily changing outwardly, but
there’s something about learning about someone’s point of view that you would
have never considered before, whether you’re playing a military person or a
priest or a lawyer. I mean to me this is the attraction, because suddenly
instead of immediate labeling, which we’re all very fond of because it cuts the
fear down, you’re suddenly literally walking in their shoes. Now, you know, we joke around all day. It’s
an exorcist movie. Do we really believe
this stuff? No, late at night is
probably when we really think about what you’re asking about, and personally I
think those things change as your life goes on too. There, there have been
points of my life where I might be much more open to the kinds of things that
we’re talking about, whereas another part of my life I might be much more solid
and think no, no, no, I don’t believe in that.
It just depends on your track.
But the cool thing about being an actor is that when you get a job you
get to go and spend one or two months or whatever finding that out, and usually
nobody gets hurt which is a very, uh, a very satisfying way to live. Not always.
I mean by solving those problems can be very frustrating and piss you
off or whatever, you know, or scare you.
But most of the time it’s very, it’s very rewarding.
Q: The question is for Scott. Who is actually doing the effects and what
kind of budget do you have?
SCOTT DERRICKSON: To be
honest with you I don’t know exactly what the budget is on it. Captive Audience
is doing it, and Captive Audience, I talked to a number of people about special
effects and there were two reasons why I really chose Captive Audience. One, they did the effects on THE
PASSION OF THE CHRIST. They did
both makeup and digital effects and so much of that was dealing with the human
body, and there was a seamlessness I thought to a lot of the effects in that in
terms of the blending of makeup effects and digital effects and there was a
realism to it that I thought was very very effective. They were also the
company that I think best just kind of understood the aesthetic of the movie
and they seemed really excited about making
something that was intelligent and they recognized that it was very important
given the quality of the actress that they would be mostly working with in
Jennifer to stay out of her way and rely on her performance, let her
performance be what it is and only enhance it rather than distract from
it. So, as they’ve really been getting
underway I’ve been really happy with them so far.
Q: This is for you, Scott. Other than musicals
horror films have probably created the most rabid expectations. How do you view
the genre in its current state, and where do you think you’re contributing to
SCOTT DERRICKSON: Uh,
that’s an excellent question. Yeah, I
know exactly what you’re talking about, you know, because I’ve been in-involved
with and I’ve been to all of these websites at some point, so you know none of
your names are surprising me. Horror
fans are rabid fans, you know, and I think what I love the most about horror
fans is I think the greatest misconception about horror fans is that they love
gore and they love cinema and they really love this kind of cinema and they
love the things that horror cinema can do that they can’t get anywhere else,
not in horror novels, not in graphic novels, not in anything else. What was the second part of your question?
Q: I was just asking you about the current state of
SCOTT DERRICKSON: Well,
I think that it’s a very exciting time to be working with this genre because
it’s beginning to branch out where it belongs.
I really feel that this is pure abstraction and I don’t want to be too
abstract about it but I really think that this is a genre that historically hasn’t
gotten the respect that it deserves. I don’t
know how else to put it. I mean in cinema. But if you look back at the rest of
history, you know, literary history and history of the theater, you know, the
macabre and the horrific and the gothic, these are things that were so integral
in all of the great arts and the cathedrals have gargoyles on them in
know the churches nowadays don’t have horrific things in them like they did
back then. I think that there’s
something about cinema this century that as it went on and special effects developed
it began, it, it sort of began to pander I think a little bit to the lower
common denominator and it’s almost like now people are realizing wow, you can
really, you can really branch out with this genre. You can really get into ideas and you can
really get into characters and get into situations that are as provocative as
anything you’re going to find in any movie. I look at the great sort of,
whether it’s THE OTHERS or THE SIXTH SENSE or THE
RING, you know these are all movies that have I think started to open
up the possibilities of the genre. And I think that you can even be more
frightening than those films and still have great characters. And the seventies gave the promise of that
BABY and THE OMEN, and those are my favorite horror films, you know, certainly,
EXORCIST. So I think I’d love to
think that this is gonna fall in that line, but, that would be presumptuous to
think that until it’s done.
Look for The Exorcism of Emily Rose this fall from Screen Gems.