Emily Rose on set exclusive
Exclusive LOVEFiLM on set interviews
A surprise hit in the US, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is less a horror movie than a courtroom drama probing the death of a young woman who believed herself to have been possessed by the devil, and who died during an exorcism ritual performed by a Catholic priest.
Although it is based on a true story, the film has been fictionalised by writer-director team Paul Boardman and Scott Derrickson, who transposed the material to the US. Their previous films are not exactly inspiring (they include Hellraiser: Inferno and Urban Legends: Final Cut) but Emily Rose marks a definite step up for them - not least in assembling a heavyweight cast including Laura Linney, Campbell Scott, Tom Wilkinson and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
LOVEFiLM visited the set and had the chance to chat with the filmmakers. Co-writer and producer Paul Boardman explained how they came across this story…
Paul Boardman: 'We were researching a film about this kind of material for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, reading a lot of books by priests or by people who believe they have been possessed. Then we came across one of the tapes from this case, and we knew it was better than the script we were working on. We thought it would be a great vehicle to do something different, a hybrid supernatural thriller with a courtroom drama folded in. To protect the family and everyone else involved, and also for our own dramatic purposes, we took the nucleus of that and built it into something else.'
LOVEFiLM: Do you belief the girl was really possessed?
PB: 'The subject matter is something that people come to from different positions. People have a gut reaction to it. This story approaches it from a scientific and medical perspective… Scott and I have a kind of Mulder and Scully relationship on this. We have seen tapes. Met with people who have performed exorcisms. I'm more of a skeptic. I'm interested in these stories and beliefs. But I grew up in Tennessee with a grandfather who was a minister, so I was in the Bible belt. Scott is more of a traditional believer, but very open-minded, doesn't want to preach to anyone.
For me, I think she was probably mentally ill and perhaps physically ill too. But it is a compelling story, and if you wanted to believe the opposite you could back that up too. It becomes a leap of faith either way; it's very hard to prove either way.'
SCOTT DERRICKSON: 'I have religion from my upbringing. When I went into this subject, I really wanted to know more about it. When in the Bible it talks about Jesus casting out demons, I wanted to wrap my mind about what that really means, and how that fits into my beliefs. I found myself more persuaded by the credible evidence in this case, but Paul is much more sceptical, and he's seen exactly the same evidence that I have seen. So we tried to incorporate both sides into the script.'
LF: (to the cast) Do you believe in possession?
TOM WILKINSON: 'No, I don't. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's like ghosts, I've never seen one, but I've talked to people who have - and I'd sort of like to believe in them. Or flying saucers… you see these documentaries where people are convinced, there couldn't be any other explanation. The Belgian Air force says it's a flying saucer… And I'm like, "I hope it's a flying saucer." It generally isn't.'
LAURA LINNEY: 'I don't. For me what was interesting about the script was the difference between religious demons and secular demons. People who have emotional struggles…. Some people who have alcoholism consider it a demon. Or anxiety attacks. Has it come from the outside or from the inside. Those questions interested me. But I can tell you while we've been making the movie my TV has been turning on by itself. And Jennifer Carpenter, (who plays Emily Rose) her stereo has done the same thing. It's been happening. I can't explain it.'
SHOREH AGHDASHLOO: 'I do believe in possession. Being born and raised in the Middle East, I witnessed possessed people in the streets. I visited a place that was shut down for being a nest of demons, and the people of that area didn't even dare to knock down the building for fear of waking up the demons. I have seen possessed people on the streets in Iran and in Morocco. I followed one girl all the way through this village, because I wanted to see what happened. In the end she started speaking in tongues. She was dancing. And I was told sometimes she even flies, believe it or not. I've witnessed it, so I strongly believe in it.'
TW: 'Well, the question arises, as it does in this movie, how can you tell what you're looking at? Are you looking at possession, or at somebody who's crazy?'
SD: 'This movie certainly is not trying to propagate belief or scepticism. At all. But you can't go into this territory without going into deep waters. You end up talking about God and the Devil, Evil, some of the most significant things you can think about.'