Since its chilling release in 1973, The Exorcist has become a celebrated icon in the demonic possession movie genre, inspiring a number of film hopefuls over the years to try and emotionally scar audiences in the same way. The latest attempt is in director Ole Bornedal’s The Possession.
Inspired by real events, the film brings together Watchmen‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan and newcomer Canadian actress Natasha Calis, in a story about a young girl who becomes possessed by a demon spirit from an antique box in Jewish folklore. So rather than call your neighborhood priest, you’re going to the rabbi.
Causing serious goosebumps as the possessed girl is 13-year-old Calis from Vancouver, BC, who despite her age, appears to also possess acting talent well beyond her years. Criticize This! caught up with the young Canuck star during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
This is obviously a very heavy subject to try and reenact. What was your main focus going into the production?
Natasha Calis: I think when I knew I had the role locked, I was always focused on trying to create my character and build her into what I thought her to be as a possessed girl. But it was the story that really helped spark any effort on my part. The story is really good. The script is amazing. There’s a lot of substance.
Considering this is arguably your mega film debut, what was it like working with a director on a film with this kind of promotion behind it?
NC: Oh, I had a great experience with Ole. I feel that I defintiley learned a lot form him. I remember when we were shooting, he would always let me know ahead of time what was going to happen in each scene before we shot it. He was a great coach. So that was a really nice complement to my overall experience. He really took me under his wing in that sense.
You look back at The Exorcist, and you know that the possessed girl definitely had to go through some unpleasant physical special effects to make her look like the way she did on screen. What was the most challenging special effect scene to shoot through for you?
NC: Well, there’s this one scene where I have a lot of moths on me. And by “a lot,” I mean literally buckets of moths just dumped on me. Flying in my hair, my clothes, it wasn’t very pleasant (laughs).
Besides being possessed, what was it like also playing Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s daughter in the film?
NC: Honestly amazing. There was really no ice to break with Jeffrey, we instantly clicked and got along well. We bonded. I think that really shows on screen. He was definitely there as an unofficial mentor, cracking jokes and trying to keep things light for me, because it was such a dark story. It was a meaningful experience having been able to work with him. I mean, we shot the film like a year-and-a-half ago, and we still keep in touch. I think that means we’re now buddies!
Imagine you have the chance to possess one person in this industry for a day. Who’s it going to be?
NC: Oh that’s a good one. I guess if I were to possess an actress for a day, it’d probably be Chloë Grace Moretz. She’s a few years older than me and I really idolize her and how hard she’s working in her career. She’s always busy with so many projects. I’d really like to walk in her shoes for a day.
What’s coming up next for you?
NC: I’ve auditioned for a few things, just waiting to hear back. I’m just trying to be as versatile as possible. But also balance being a regular teenager with school. I don’t want to become the young actress who changes as a person because of how much acting takes over her life. My parents really help me out there [laughs].
The Possession is currently in theatres.