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Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Ed Gass-Donnelly first appeared on the scene with This Beautiful City, a dramatic debut that went on to be nominated for a handful of Canadian film awards. Renowned character actor Peter Stormare appeared in his follow up Small Town Murder Songs, a gritty crime tale that got people talking at 2010's Toronto Film Festival. The Last Exorcism Part II is his first foray into mainstream horror and third feature film. 

Simon Bland: Hi Ed, what was the first horror movie you saw that really scared you?

Ed Gass-DonnellyOh god, you know what I remember being traumatised as a kid by? It was one of those movies where I saw it again 20 years later and I was like ‘Oh my god, this is so not scary at all’. It was called Ghost Story. It’s a black and white film but I just remember there were certain images from that I remember seeing when I was under 10 and having nightmares from it.

SB: Do you have a favourite horror movie?

EGD: Probably my favrouite is The Shining. The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby are two that I really love but if I had to pick between the two it would definitely be The Shining. There’s a bunch of other movies that I like for different reasons. I like horror movies especially when they can somehow really be trendsetting, I love The Others because it just felt like a great character piece but it was scary and had unique reveals and for me it was just stimulating on a lot of different levels as appose to just being scary. Another favourite of mine is The Devil’s Backbone. I'm more drawn to the artier horror stuff.

SB: Exorcisms in movies tend to be overshadowed by what The Exorcist did so well. How did you try to make your exorcism scenes different?

EGD: Yeah it’s funny especially with the word ‘Exorcist' - any mention of exorcism in the title and people are like ‘So what’s your movie called? The Last Exorcist of Emily Rose?’ I’ve actually had somebody think that that was the title - ‘The Last Exorcist of Emily Rose’, combining four different movies into one! For me it was really about trying not to do a traditional exorcism scene. It was much more, I think, ultimately like a seduction because in the first movie the demon had taken her and what I found much more interesting was the idea of rather than this thing trying to take her, the idea of it actually trying to seduce her and invite her in and the people who are trying to exorcise her aren’t privy to that and again are they frauds or are they even good at their job? We have no idea but I tried to make it much more about the intimate relationship between her and the demon and ultimately that the two are inherently made for each other and are actually one. Unless you’re going to try and top The Exorcist in terms of head spins or top the original Last Exorcism with somehow more bending, that for me is not frankly to my forte or taste. I was much more interested in how we can make this different from an intellectual or emotional perspective.

SB: Talking about the seduction aspect...did you try to mirror that with Nell's personal relationships and what she is going through in what's left of her normal life? 

EGD: Definitely. For me, all of those things, everything that happens to Nell is almost pre-ordained. If this demon is all powerful and can do all this stuff why can’t it just take her? But instead it creates this little road map that she goes down thinking she has her own free will but creating all the points to choose the moment where she will actually invite him in and take his hand. So for me it’s all these little seductions, whether it’s from the very beginning just her looking at her own reflection and choosing not to put on the cross or the sensuality with this other girl putting lipstick on her, to boys, to all of these things until the very end and simultaneously she starts having these more sexualised dreams. I love the idea of possession as a metaphor for teenagers discovering their sexuality.

SB: Was it fun writing a character who was at war with herself?

EGD: It was. I think the most interesting elements of the movie are frankly unspoken because it’s a lot of her alone or her reactions and the core, the plot is very simple but for me it was always about the detail of her internal journey of her responding to this world and ultimately choosing to act or deciding to say at war at herself, babbling ‘is this right or this wrong?’ ‘this goes against everything I was brought up to believe but at the same time it’s exciting and feels right’ so that element, it really just suited her as an actress because she really is just so emotionally committed and available and I had the confidence that because I already knew who the lead of the film was going to be and I was already a fan of her work, I felt really strongly that she was going to be able to deliver a great performance that way.

SB: Eli Roth returns as a producer. How hands on was he?

EGD: He definitely had ideas but at the same time he was very respectful. There was something like seven producers, they were fans of my work and they just trusted me. They really just let me have a lot of freedom to do what I want. I think the reason they hired me is because they liked my take on it. That said, as we were editing they would all definitely weigh in and have their ideas. I like being collaborative because I like to do things my own way but then I want to test them to see if I’m getting the response I intended and they were all just really talented smart guys so I just felt like I was surrounded by really good people. Just from a personal experience the whole process working with the producers was frankly a lot of fun. They’re good people, that’s one of the best things about filming, it would be the worst to be making a movie for a year with people you hate! That would be awful, whereas I felt really lucky that I was surrounded by good fun people who were smart and resourceful.

SB: And finally, growing up who was your favourite horror character? Jason? Freddy? Michael Myers?

EGD: You know what it’s funny - it’s more of a guilty pleasure I guess, I remember when I was a kid I watched all the Chucky movies. As a kid that was definitely something I had to admit I watched a bunch of!

The Last Exorcism II is in UK cinemas from 7th June. On the run-up to the film's release, you can keep yourself morbidly entertained with the Possessed Message Generator and spell out your message with contorted bodies!


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