One of the most spectacular parts about the found footage exorcist thriller, The Devil Inside, is Rosa, the possessed woman. She bends and folds and twists in ways that aren't human - and yet they are. It is a mere mortal, contortionist / actress / stunt woman Bonnie Morgan who played Rosa. Not a demon, and not computer effects. A real live girl. The real life Bonnie is nothing at all like the monsters she often plays on-screen (one of her best-known roles was as Samara in The Ring 2) - she is bubbly, always ready with a joke, and quick to laughter. On the eve of the release of The Devil Inside on blu-ray, I chatted with Bonnie about playing monsters, growing up in a circus family, and exactly how she gets into those wonderful positions.
Apparently you are pretty popular amongst horror movies.
Apparently so. Who would have thunk it?
Are you a fan of horror movies?
I am. I've never made it into ingenue land; I always seem to make it as a monster. Which I think just makes life more spicy. I'm a huge comedy fan, but I love horror, for a very similar reason. It just pushes it so far into "holy hell" land.
I have to imagine that being the monster is way more fun than being the ingenue.
Oh good gosh, yes. I have been face-down in a puddle of super-slime with some pretty thing, covered in mud, running, screaming from me, with a director screaming at me, "Get her Bonnie! Get her!" My dad bought me a t-shirt - it's a kid's shirt - that says, "Grrr, I'm a scary monster" on it. That is my set shirt. My dream part is Edgar from Men in Black. That is my high hope.
So they didn't call you in for Men in Black 3?
I was in Men in Black 2, and they had some other, interesting aliens in that. I played one that Rick Baker made specifically for me that became affectionately known as "Jabba the Butt." I was in a contorted position and the head was literally an ass cap. They had to sit the head on my butt because I was hunkered down between my legs in a contorted position, walking around, and the head was very... jowly. I was also one of the seven locker aliens that were multiplied to be seven thousand aliens. There were only seven us that played those characters, then we were digitally multiplied. But when it came time for Men in Black 3, they were shooting exclusively in New York and they weren't bringing any monsters over.
What are some of your favorite roles that you have played?
Well, not movie-wise, but stage-wise, Puck [from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream] is probably my favorite.
From movies though, I loved doing Samara in The Ring 2. By the time The Ring 2 came along, we knew what The Ring movies were doing, so that was just so exciting. That was a grueling makeup process. It was five hours in and three hours out.
It doesn't seem like that would require that much makeup.
It was arms and legs and head. I've done a lot of heavy prosthetic pieces. They have to do a whole paint job under the appliance, then they apply the appliances, then they have to do a paint job over the appliance. Then they are coating you, head to toe, in what is basically tinted KY Jelly. You've got the green stuff, you've got the black stuff that looks like oil slick, then you've got the blue stuff, and the kind of yellowy pus stuff. They stick you in the water, you put your arms out in the water, and they start coating you. The guys were really nice and kept it warm for me.
So let's talk about The Devil Inside.
The Devil Inside was such an opportunity. We had no idea what would happen with it. We shot it in Romania in December, and there were just a few of us. Big budget movies are awesome - the food is awesome - but when you are working on a shoestring budget, everyone is working for the greater good, and it is just awesome. You're not worried about what you can say or the rating or any of the little things you might otherwise be concerned with.
Were you given a lot of creative freedom in how you were able to contort?
A whole lot. I don't think they were looking for contortionists when they first cast me. When I went in [to audition], they had some really lovely, very Italian girls there - then there is me. I have very red hair, blue eyes, and the complexion of a good Irish girl. So I went and bought a brown wig and brown contact lenses, and I had a dear friend translate the sides into Italian for me. So I went in there, with the Italian and everything, and then I started dislocating things. I can see the casting director look at the monitor, then look at me, then look closer at the monitor, then back to me, and go "Oh, ew. Oh wow. Oh ew." And she is kind of backing away from the camera. That's always a really good thing or a really bad thing. By the time I got in the room with Brent [Bell, the director] and Morris [Paulson, the producer] and Matt [Peterman, the writer], they were really excited about the contortions, and they wanted to know what else they could get out of me.
When did you first realize you could contort like that?
Nope. That's a terrible joke, but it is so delicious when they walk into it! Seriously though, I was about eight years old and I was in the pool with my older sister, who was trying to get me off the diving board. As big sisters do, she was trying to wrench me off of the diving board by grabbing my feet and dragging them as far behind my head as they could go. They kept going, and I thought that was pretty awesome. I happened to have been born into a circus and stunt family, so when they saw what was going on, my dad said, "Wow! You can make a buck with that - keep it up!" It was highly encouraged. My grandmother was more or less a contortionist - she was an acrobat in vaudeville. She opened for Frank Sinatra in 1942. So when she saw what I could do [she started coaching me]. By the time I was 14 I was doing a live contortion act with my dad and my sister.
Is contortion the kind of thing you can limber into, or is one of those things where you can either do it or you can't?
A little of both. A lot of people can either do it or they can't, but as they get older and hit puberty and discover other interests, and it really is a "use it or lose it" thing. There are certain moves that I absolutely have to stretch into and keep up. There are other things, like my shoulder dislocating, that have been doing it since I was nine - they are pretty loose. It actually limited my gymnastic ability because I kept dislocating my elbows when I would do high-impact tumbling. [The joints] seem like they really want to do that, so I'm not really sure if I stopped [dislocating them on purpose] if they would stop or if they just are what they are. But I'm not really willing to give them the option of stiffening up.
Has there ever been a contortion you haven't been able to do?
Oh sure. Contortionists are all built different. There are the split-benders, who can do side splits, front splits, every which way splits. Then there are the back-benders. They are the ones you mostly see in Cirque du Soleil: the ones who bend back and sit on their heads. A lot of them are also split-benders. That has a lot to do with hip placement. Then there are the dislocators like me. All of my ball-and-socket joints pop right out. Although I have a fairly limber back and a good split, I would never call myself a back-bender because I don't have that bendy-splitty-holy-gosh back.
So you've never gotten to set and the director wanted you to do something and you have to tell them you don't bend that way?
Thankfully that is usually discussed before I get to set. A couple of times I was asked to do something and I said, "I can give you this instead." They are usually fairly pleased. For example, in The Devil Inside, there was a stunt double for Fernanda Andrade [who plays Isabella] for the back-bending part. That was not me.
Did you do much research on exorcisms for the role?
Absolutely. Actually, for a couple other roles. I get called in to be "demon-possessed girl" a lot, so I had a big backlog of spooky information. Of course, everyone goes to ground zero, The Exorcist. Linda Blair is always the touchstone of "what we have to do." But of course, there is a lot of other stuff you can look up. Some real, some fake. For the most part - and most people will agree - what comes out of your head is far more scary than anything in real life. That goes for special effects makeup, too. Rick Baker, when he did the girl in the closet in The Ring 2, the girl with the slack jaw... there is a great interview where he says he doesn't like to look at terrible things like corpses bloated and rotting because they are very sad and because if you put that on screen, no one would believe it was real. The body does strange things, so what comes out of his mind is not what you would find in [police photos]. As far as demon possession goes, I've never seen anyone actually dislocate the way I did, or make some of the sounds I did. If you listen to the Annalise tapes, they are frightening. There are some amazing sounds that came out of that girl. So you take that and you tweak it a little farther.
When did you first realize that not everyone was born into a circus family? Some people might ask it "When did you realize your family is not normal," but to you, that was your normal.
That's an excellent question. My sister and I would actually go over to other people's houses and ask them where there goat was. I grew up with a goat, a monkey, and an emu. So I really thought that other people had a trapeze in the yard. After a while, you start to notice that they just don't. Then you go to school and you realize this might not be the place for you. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I convinced my mom to home school me. I pretty much said to her, "Mom, I'm not gonna survive this. This is not going well for me!" I was too strange for the common good. My parents let me wear what I wanted and encouraged my unique sensibilities. Then I went to school. After about two days of people chanting "Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!" at me because I liked to wear stripes... when you are eight that is not quite the compliment it is when you are 18. So then you start conforming. Then you realize you are miserable over conforming - conforming doesn't make them like you any1 more than your weirdness did. so you go back to weird - and then they hate you! I didn't realize how abnormal we were until I realized how strange everyone else was.
The Devil Inside is available on DVD and blu-ray May 15th.