If you’re a priest charged with negligent homicide for failing to enlist medical assistance for a possibly possessed girl, who better to hire as your defense counsel than Laura Linney? Sporting don’t-mess-with-me power suits and the best legally blond hair since Reese Witherspoon, Linney, 41, represents Tom Wilkinson’s man of the cloth in the new box office chart-topper The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
You recently shot four films back-to-back, including next month’s The Squid and the Whale and Exorcism. Why tackle demonic possession?
[Laughs] I’d never seen a movie that combined courtroom drama with the supernatural. I was skeptical — I didn’t know if it would work. But I liked [director] Scott Derrickson, and I knew that they were going to cast it with great actors, so I thought, Why not?
Some people might be surprised that you and a fellow Oscar nominee (Wilkinson) would even consider horror. Why do scary movies have such a bad rap?
Because a lot of horror’s pretty bad! [Laughs] It’s slapped together, and it’s just not very good.
So are you a fan?
I loved them as a kid. Good scary movies are fun: The Shining, The Exorcist, Dracula, and Frankenstein. I love that creature-feature stuff. And I’ve always loved courtroom drama: To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind, which is one of the greatest movies. But they’re hard to act — just the challenge of keeping it interesting [without getting] stupid and hokey.
Creepy things happen to your character. Did anything weird occur while filming?
The TV in my hotel room would turn on by itself. It happened three or four times. But it wouldn’t scare me. It just made me laugh.
So you don’t believe in demonic possession?
Uh… [Laughs] I tend not to, but I am open to the possibility.