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Oscar Longshots: Ashley Bell


This week's cover story talks about actors breaking out in horror films and features "The Last Exorcism" stars Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell as prime examples. The horror genre doesn't always get a lot of respect, but it's actually a great opportunity for actors. It's one of the few genres where unknowns can get cast in lead roles, either because the genre sells itself or filmmakers want fresh faces that keep the audience wondering if they'll be killed off. It also often gives actors an opportunity to play a wide range of emotions. Case in point: Bell's transformation from  naive farm girl to dark demon.

So when asked what longshot, no matter how crazy, I would love to see sneak into the race, I offer up Bell as a Best Supporting Actress candidate. Fabian is also fantastic as a preacher who has to regain his faith, but the Lead Actor category is already overstuffed with amazing performances, whereas Bell could actually have a shot in Supporting. (Though it could be argued Bell is a lead as well.) The supporting categories are quicker to embrace genres not usually lauded--think Kevin Kline's hilarious turn in "A Fish Called Wanda" or Whoopi Goldberg in "Ghost"--and they're also more likely to go off the beaten path--the perpetual example will always be Marisa Tomei's out-of-nowhere win for "My Cousin Vinny."

Is there any other actress who can boast a performance this year as varied as Bell's? Her Nell starts off all "gosh golly gee" wide-eyed innocent; her reaction to being told she looks like her mother is sweet in its childlike glee. Soon after, she's scurrying around in a bloody nightgown, scaring the wits out of us. That's range. And hey, if Linda Blair can get nominated for playing a possessed girl, why not Bell?

Other people have mentioned Bell for awards, so she certainly has her supporters. One of whom is the film's producer, Eli Roth, who I spoke to at the premiere of the film. "I feel like Ashley Bell and Patrick Fabian deserve Oscar nominations, but it’s a horror movie and people are weird about awarding horror films," Roth admitted. But then again, Roth had his perspective on what's truly important, noting: "But horror gets the respect of the fans, and that’s all that matters. If it wins Oscars, great because it means it reached a wider audience, but we’re making movies for fans. And that’s the only respect that matters."

--Jenelle Riley

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