Patrick Fabian is the star of “The Last Exorcism”. He plays Rev. Cotton Marcus, a preacher without faith himself, trying to expose an exorcism that goes totally wrong. Moviehole’s Mike Gencarelli had a chance to talk with Patrick to discuss his role on and how it was working on “The Last Exorcism”.
What drew you to the role of Cotton Marcus in “The Last Exorcism”?
As an actor, anytime you’re given a role that is automatically a larger than life character, who is a man of words and theatrics, anybody worth his salt would want to take that role on. Think Burt Lancaster in “Elmer Gantry”…all the bully pulpits you get to see great actors do. It’s usually something you can sink your teeth into, you can usually get away with going over the top. And when you’re the exorcist in an exorcism movie you’re going to get a lot of things to do. He’s somebody who’s at the end of his rope. He’s seen too much. He can’t function because he’s growing a conscience about what he does. By bringing a documentary crew along with him on an exorcism he’s trying to…maybe…make up for all of the wrong that he’s done. And by exposing exorcism as a sham he’s able to save other people from losing their money and pinning their hopes on something that is ultimately false.
Scariest scene to film?
Two of them come to mind. First was preaching. I’ve never preached before. When I was preaching in the Baptist church they filled the congregation with background artists who were local hires from New Orleans. And they were all good church-going folk. They can tell a good preacher from a bad preacher. So I was pretty nervous in front of them. And finally I just said to them “you know, it’s a movie, so I need you to pretend that I’m good. I need you to help me. If I’m saying something that doesn’t square with you, or if I’m doing a gesture that doesn’t seem right…if it appears false or a little bit hinky let me know. They were more than happy to let me know when I was wrong, there was no doubt about that. But the great thing about it was that even though I was pretending to preach, when I was preaching they got into the spirit of it. It’s just that weird thing that when you’re in a church and you’re talking about God and you’re talking about Jesus Christ and you’re talking about being saved…the fat ladies with their purses and their Sunday hats will start going “praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” There’s no acting there. It was just like a giant revival meeting. I was nervous going into it but it ended up being good. The other scene, obviously, that I was nervous about was when we performed the exorcism. You’re worried about coming off as a clown. You want to be authentic to the material that was written by the writers. And I think we got it. I think we got a really good tone. We straddled a line. You’ll see on August 27th.
How scary is the flick? Lets say on a scale from 1 to 10?
I really can’t give anything a 10, but I’ll give it an 8. Absolutely. (the phone connection breaks – after Mr. Fabian calls back – ) I guess that was God telling me to shut up! I gave it an 8 because, even having been in the movie and sort of knowing where it was going, at the premiere I had at least five or six really good jump out of your seat “Whoa!” moments. If I can get five or six good moments like that during a scary film I call it a goody! It’s a good take your date film…it’s a good go by yourself film. And I can proudly say that it’s not a “hack and slash.” It’s not a gore film. If that is what makes people squeamish you can safely say they don’t have to worry about that. However, the creepy factor…the skin crawl factor…is definitely pretty high. I know that sometimes people prefer seeing somebody’s head chopped off because they can go “aw, that’s totally fake,” as opposed to being totally creeped out.
So you’re a fan of horror?
Absolutely. I’m a suburban boy from Pennsylvania. I grew up waiting for the late night horror shows on Saturday. Movies like “The Omen.” “The Changeling.” “Burnt Offerings” with Oliver Reed is awesome. It’s really creepy. I don’t know if it stands up to the test of time but it creeped the shit out of me when I was 13 years old. Of course “Alien,” which was the first big one I got to see in the theatre. Even the old Hammer stuff that I used to watch on Saturday afternoons. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee…that’s the stuff that I really did.
You recently attended the LA Film Festival for the premiere, how was it watching the film with an audience? How was the reaction?
I thought everybody laughed at the right moments. There’s a lot of humor in the film as well. They really enjoyed those parts. Then at the end everything gets rolling. People got creeped out. They got scared and when the film was over the audience burst into spontaneous applause. I think they were very, very glad to have been one of the first ones to have seen it.
You’ve done quite a bit of TV, most recently, “Gigantic” and “Big Love”, how do you feel it differs from movies?
I’ve been around. I’ve got a lot of television under my belt. I really enjoyed doing “Big Love” on HBO. It’s really fun to work on. They’re good actors…it’s a good show. “Gigantic” is a new show where I play a dad. Plus I play a movie star so I get really good clothes and the best house. The only big difference between television and film is that television is more day to day. It’s sometimes a grind because you’re doing an entire show in seven or eight days. The work hours sometimes get long. On the film we worked equally as long. We worked six days a week, twelve hours a day for six weeks solid. It was like a slow punch. A big roundhouse of working together. We all start with this thing…we don’t really know what we’re doing…and by the end you get into a groove…you get an idea…you have a beginning, middle and end. In television you sort of have an idea of what world you’re entering. When I went to work on “Big Love” I knew what world I was entering. On “The Last Exorcism” we created the role as we went along, so it was a little more explorative.
After “Exorcism”, what do you have coming up next?
Right now the movie is the big thing…August 27th. I’m anchoring my first feature and I’m so happy that Lionsgate is behind it. They’re so excited about it. And having Eli Roth attached…he’s so enthusiastic it’s hard not to get excited. I have a seventeen year old nephew and the test of whether Uncle Pat is successful is when he and his friends come back and say “that was cool.”