Exclusive Interview: Last Exorcism’s Patrick Fabian

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1:1 with the film’s Reverend Cotton

He’s not a household name (yet), but he’s got a commanding voice, a grin that instantly wins your trust, and he’s one of the best parts of The Last Exorcism, which opens in theaters this Friday. Patrick Fabian began his acting career in ’92 and since then he’s been bouncing all around television taking roles in shows like The Mentalist, Bones and, most recently, Big Love. Exorcism puts him front and center on the big screen as leading man Marcus Cotton, a flawed preacher who sets out to pull back the curtain on exorcisms and lands in hot water with a truly possessed young woman, played by Ashley Bell (interview). Shock caught up to Fabian, who was all smiles and eager to talk about his time on the film, in Los Angeles this week.

Shock Till You Drop: I hear the audition for this was a bit beyond the norm.

Patrick Fabian: It was very unusual in that I was asked to come in and improvise with Ashley [Bell] who was playing Nell. Stamm just wanted me to try different tactics to get her to go see a doctor. Daniel in his mercurial, German way was reticent to give me much more than that. I tried all of these different things. Then he asked me to come back with a ten-minute sermon. It’s a preacher role, you got to learn how to preach. So I went in, delivered my sermon and he dialed it up and down accordingly and I got the role. Then I got the script and we talked about it then. He was instrumental in finding what our point of view was for Cotton. If we don’t like him, I don’t have a movie. In the same way of saying, if the possessed girl isn’t good, we’re in a house of cards. If you don’t like Cotton, it’s like…I hope you die, asshole!

Shock: Well, this guy knows his flaws, so you earn the audiences’ respect.

Fabian: He knows his foibles. Exactly. You can go along with that.

Shock: What was the sermon you wrote about? The one for the audition…

Fabian: You get an assignment to write a sermon and you get locked into these rules your brain comes up with. I got the bible out and I had three days to get this done. But there were no rules. I made up quotes out of the bible and made up books from the bible. The whole idea of those preachers is to whip people up into a frenzy. The banana bread gag that we do in the film is a great example. So I just started taking popular songs and novels – I’ve been working as an actor for 20 years, so I just took the things in my brain and wove them together and stole from the best. Ashley and I went to a Pentecostal church 20 miles from here and it’s fire and brimstone, bleeding eyes of Jesus. You feel that. I don’t know if it’s God, but there is a belief amongst those people.

Shock: And that’s just in Los Angeles. Did you get a chance to check out the churches in the south?

Fabian: I did. On my own, I did. I’ve never been to New Orleans and I was so glad. It’s just multi-cultural. It’s hot, oppressive, sweaty, sexy and dangerous. All of those things come into play. I went into a couple of churches and that was the real deal. I went to Baptist churches and I felt like I was saved. [laughs] It was uplifting. I was raised Roman Catholic, so not so much raising the hands to Jesus. When we shot, we shot for three days in this Baptist church. And the background people, they were all good church-going folk, and I told them I was an actor, I’m not a preacher, but if I’m off base, then help me out. The first time I said, “Can I get a halleluiah?” it was this wall of sound, “Halleluiah!” That got me in the spirit. I preached myself hoarse. Those ladies, God bless them. Again, those scenes are real.

Shock: During our chat with Ashley, some unanticipated stuff came about during the scare scenes…

Fabian: Oh yeah, working with Ashley, you can’t say enough. She embodies that so well. There’s no CG with the work she’s doing physically. My unease and the creeped-out factor is genuine. Especially in the exorcism scenes, like the one in the barn. It’s late at night, there’s rusty implements of destruction on the wall. We’re just this team against her, but Ashely just pulled out stuff that would scare us. Daniel would go over to her between takes and whisper in her ear. Then I would wait for my cookie or something from him [laughs], some direction, and he’d just walk by me and we’d do another take. But it was great, because it put me off balance and I had to be aware of what Ashley gave me.

Our conversation leans into spoiler territory as we talk about the end of the film, however, Fabian drums up a bit of nerd chatter as we talk about our favorite horror films.

Fabian: Have you ever seen The Dark Secret of Harvest Home?

Shock: I haven’t…

Fabian: That kept me up at night. Burnt Offerings is terrific…

Shock: I do like that one…

Fabian: Oliver Reed and Karen Black. What a messy set that must have been! [laughs]

Click here for clips, trailers and stills from the film!


Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor