A veteran stage performer while still in her twenties, actress Ashley Bell's onscreen efforts were largely limited to minor parts on episodic television and in independent features. However, her astonishing turn as a young woman apparently in the grip of demonic possession in "The Last Exorcism" (2010) brought her to the attention of critics and audiences around the world, all of whom marveled at the punishing physical torments endured by her character. Bell's character underwent seemingly impossible back bends, facial contortions and other terrifying phenomena while depicting her possession, all of which were performed by Bell herself. Her performance earned her enough buzz to warrant her growing status as a starlet in the making.
Born in Santa Monica, CA on May 26, 1986, Ashley Bell was the daughter of prolific voiceover actors Michael Bell and Victoria Carroll, so she not surprisingly followed in their footsteps throughout her career, providing voices for numerous animated programs, video games and features like "Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" (2009) and "The Last Song" (2010). As a teen, she studied dance, which provided her with the extraordinary flexibility she displayed in "Last Exorcism." Bell graduated a year early from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and dove into theater work, accumulating appearances on stages in New York and Cambridge, England, as well as with the famed Los Angeles improvisational group The Groundlings.
Bell made her screen debut in a 2003 episode of David E. Kelley's "Boston Public" (Fox, 2000-04), and worked infrequently in television in the ensuing years. The year 2009 appeared to be her most prolific: in addition to a recurring role as a high school friend to Brie Larson's troubled teen on "The United States of Tara" (Showtime, 2009- ), she made her feature debut in the independent drama "The Truth About Angels" (2009). A turn as a high school valedictorian in the Polish Brothers' "Stay Cool" (2009) soon followed.
In 2010, Bell was cast as Nell Sweetzer, a Louisiana farm girl apparently possessed by a powerful demon in "The Last Exorcism." Her case was taken up by a preacher (Patrick Fabian) hired by a documentary crew to prove that demonic possession was fraudulent. However, Nell's malevolent behavior, which included animal murder and astonishing feats of physical contortion - all largely performed by Bell herself - offered terrifying contrary proof. Produced by Eli Roth, the film was a sizable hit on the arthouse circuit, and brought Bell critical praise - enough that in November 2010, the Independent Spirit Awards nominated her for Best Supporting Actress.
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