Read our exclusive interview with contortionist, stuntswoman and actress Bonnie Morgan, who can currently be seen as the demonically possessed Rosa in the new horror thriller ‘The Devil Inside.’ The movie, which is the highest grossing film of 2012 so far, follows Maria Rossi (played by Suzan Crowly) as she calls 911 in 1989 to report that she had brutally killed three people. It’s revealed the victims were two clergy members and a nun from Maria’s church, who were performing an unsanctioned exorcism on her. Twenty years later, her daughter, Isabella (portrayed by Fernanda Andrade), begins filming a documentary to uncover what really happened on the night of her mother’s ill-fated exorcism.

Morgan, who rose to fame after performing Samora’s infamous spider walk in ‘The Ring Two,’ discusses with us what it was like filming with director William Brent Bell. She also talks about how shooting the new low-budget film differed from the sequel to the acclaimed Japanese remake.

ShockYa (SY): You can currently been seen in the horror thriller ‘The Devil Inside,’ in which you play the demonically possessed Rosa. Did your experience as a stuntwoman and contortionist influence your decision to audition for, and accept, the role?

Bonnie Morgan (BM): Actually when I auditioned for ‘The Devil Inside,’ they were not necessarily looking for a contortionist, or even a girl with any stunt experience. I walked into an unsuspecting room as an actress. I came in with the whole thing wrapped and ready: The script was in English, to later be translated, and with the help of my friend Marco Fiorini (the pope in ‘Angels and Demons,’ go figure), I came in with it already done.

I even went as far as to wear a brunette wig and brown contact lenses (I have bright red hair and blue eyes) to look more the part. We got into the scene, Italian curses flying (and some French profanity too, just for good measure)…and then I dislocated my shoulder and screamed like a toddler in a grocery store. And so did they.

SY: While preparing for your role as Rosa, did you do any type of inquiries into exorcisms? If so, did your research influence the way you portrayed her, and the stunts you performed, in the film?

BM: I have actually done quite a bit of exorcism research in the name of character development throughout my career. When it comes to possessed little girls with “otherworldly” movement-I am sort of the go-to-girl.

For instance, in ‘The Ring Two,’ I portrayed ‘Samara’ in the ‘well sequence.’ Production was originally slated to produce her in CGI, but the director, Hideo Nakata, was searching for something more for his audience. I was fortunate enough to be that end result-and developed a movement that my boyfriend assures me gave him nightmares long before he met me, and recurring ones since he realized that she and I were the same.

SY: Since Samara became such an iconic horror character after the release of the first film, did you feel any pressure to perform the stunt in any particular way?

BM: Oh for sure! Samara has terrified millions, so when I got that call, I knew it had to be something really unique and extra spicy. It was a horror honor to be called in for a test, and my competition was unusual. If I didn’t manage to scare the execs, they were intending to hand the part over to visual effects.

The end result was something that I am pretty proud of-not only does it stick with people, they still find it hard to believe that it isn’t a CGI effect. In fact, when I auditioned for ‘The Devil Inside,’ Brent recognized me as the girl responsible for the “spider crawl.” It also set a high horror precedent with myself- and when it was time to shoot the “Rosa” exorcism scene, I really hoped I could bring a special breed of disturbing to that room.

I brought my sister Molly to Romania with me to help out. She is not only an actress herself, she is a horror connoisseur. But as my big sister, she knew how to really help me stretch the character and to bring my bendy, twisted and evil ideas to a whole new level. I imagine our neighbors in that Romanian hotel were VERY concerned about the girls in the next room.

SY: How was filming ‘The Ring Two’ similar and different than ‘The Devil Inside?’ What have you learned as an actress and stuntwoman from both films?

BM: ‘The Ring Two’ was a big budget studio picture shot on a sound stage with a full crew in a very controlled environment. ‘The Devil Inside’ was down and dirty, “let’s do this,” in the trenches, in a foreign country. Just a skeleton crew making a scary movie the old fashioned way. They were two completely different approaches, but both were a total blast.

I love making movies. Big, small, studio or independent, when everybody is prepared and manning their battle stations for the adventure on set. ‘The Devil Inside’ was a real treat to finally be given the opportunity to play the part and be trusted to perform the stunts.

SY: What were some of the most physically challenging aspects of filming your stunts for ‘The Devil Inside?

BM: You know, it was a ‘pound of feathers’ kind of situation. “Okay Bonnie, we are going to shoot your exorcism scene.” Great. “And it will be in a basement.” No problem. “In Romania.” Thank goodness for my passport! “In the winter, so bring a coat for between takes.” Oh. (Extreme cold is always a catch for contortion- if you aren’t careful your muscles can lock up while your joints are out of socket- forcing them further in or further out of where you want them to be.) “Bonnie, we are probably looking at a 16 hour day down here.” Oy.

SY: Director William Brent Bell filmed the movie on a budget of $1 million. Did not having a large financial backing influence or limit the type of stunts you could perform, or pose any difficulties in general, while shooting?

BM: The size of the budget was never an issue for me. Brent was a man with a vision, and I knew he could accomplish it regardless of the budget. Brent and the producers, Matt Peterman and Morris Paulson, were down in the trenches with us making it happen. When you are on a project, all working for the good of the picture, you just make it work, stunts, effects and all. Of course making movies is easier when you can throw money at challenges, but it can be pretty exciting to fly by the seat of your pants and see it all come together.

SY: William is known for helming horror films, as he also directed 2006’s ‘Stay Alive.’ What differentiates him as a horror director from other filmmakers in the
genre, and what was it like working with him?

BM: Brent was awesome to work with! So enthusiastic, so on the ball, so…ready to make his movie.

When I read for Rosa, it was a fairly small role, but after I was cast, he expanded the part to encompass what I brought to the table. He made the process a comfortable co-op environment, and many of the ideas I presented he let me work in. I came in with a Bulgarian lullaby, a couple of Italian curses, some German, French, Chinese, a little Yiddish thrown in for good measure, and Brent let me run with it. I think I may have shocked him a little when I came up with the line that involved the “C” word. He just looked at me, seemed stunned for a second, and then laughed and told me, “That’s disgusting…Go for it!”-clearly a man who knows his genre.

SY: While the film debuted at number one at the box office its opening weekend, and has grossed over $33 million so far, it has received negative reviews. Some people have also suggested that the ending is one of the worst in film history. Is it difficult to hear the criticism of the film, and do the reviews influence the way you portray your next characters?

BM: Forgive me for saying this, but horror movies rarely end well…that’s what romantic comedy is for. Evil is never truly defeated, I mean look at the greats, there’s always something else lurking in the shadows, in the lake, or in the new roommate, waiting to devour its next victim…then we go home and sleep with the lights on.

As far as the abrupt ending, it’s nothing audiences haven’t been shocked by before, my Dad calls those the “‘Easy Rider’ ending.”

SY: Before you could walk, your father started teaching you acrobatics, and throughout your childhood, you also learned the trapeze, silks, stilts and the high wire. What is it about acrobatics and stunts that you find appealing, and convinces you to continue with the profession?

BM: I am a third generation circus/stunt performer, and my upbringing was littered with everything from the typical actor’s auditions and classes to trapeze work, hand balancing and high falls. It’s hard to escape (not that I ever wanted to) when your dad’s briefcase consists of pads and a fire suit. Not only did I have my blood family, I also had the benefit of being raised in the stunt community. To me they were, and are, on-set super heroes: taking the falls, flipping the cars, doing everything you see on the screen that elevates a movie beyond an every day story. I will always want to be on that team, and yet my aspirations are to be an actress. I just hope there are more opportunities down the line to do both!

SY: Besides doing stunts and acting in films, you have also guest-starred on such television series as ‘Blossom,’ ‘The Nanny’ and ‘Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.’ Do you have a preference of appearing as a stuntwoman in films over television, or vice versa?

BM: Truth be told-I love my job! Whether I am working the big screen, or the little one, I am at home on set. It’s great to have the opportunity to develop a character, shake up the screen-and more often than not, give it my own little “twist.”

Written by: Karen Benardello

Bonnie Morgan in The Devil Inside

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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