You've probably never heard of Jennifer Carpenter. But after the release of
Columbia Pictures' "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" across the Philippines on
Nov. 23, people here will be talking about her.
Carpenter, 26, plays the title character Emily Rose. Her performance in the
film as a demon-possessed young woman is so convincing, one of the film's
producers said that people on the set nervously joked that perhaps she was
really possessed. Director and co-writer Scott Derrickson said Carpenter's
act was so realistic that "she was, in and of herself, entirely terrifying."
The film is based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a German college
student who died during an exorcism in 1976. Her parents and the priests who
carried out the exorcism were later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced
to six months in prison.
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose," likewise, begins with the same premise: A
young woman dies during the course of an exorcism, and an ensuing court case
explores the fundamental question: Was she truly demon-possessed, or merely
manifesting mental illness and/or epileptic-like episodes? The movie flashes
back and forth between courtroom scenes, the tormented life of Emily and
scenes of the exorcism.
At the trial, the defense (Laura Linney) tries to convince the jury that
Emily really was possessed, while the prosecution (Campbell Scott) argues
that there's a scientific explanation-rather than a spiritual one-for
Emily's disturbing behaviors.
Derrickson had all but settled on an actress to play Emily Rose, when Laura
Linney suggested that he audition Jennifer Carpenter. Laura and Jennifer
had worked together in the Broadway production of "The Crucible," and Linney
counted her as one of the best young actresses she'd ever seen. "Jennifer's
callback audition altered my entire approach to making the movie," says
Derrickson. When I saw her do what she did--the way she sounded and moved
her body--I knew I wouldn't have to rely on visual effects. She was in and
of herself, entirely terrifying."
"I prepared for this role like an athlete would, so that I could do
anything, physically or mentally, that Scott wanted me to do, and be able to
go wherever he tried to take me," Carpenter explains. I read several books
on possession and exorcism and did some study on epilepsy. I tried to look
at everything from a bird's eye perspective and not let my own point of view
get in the way."
"It has been a tremendous privilege to work with Jennifer," says Tom
Wilkinson, who plays the priest-exorcist Father Moore. "She really went for
it and that was great for me because it gave a certain terror to my
performance. She was incredibly vivid."
Says Carpenter, "One thing that struck a chord with me is a line spoken by
Father Moore, that says faith and doubt should coexist, because faith
without doubt can be dangerous." - Columbia Pictures