“The Exorcism”'s David Hyde Pierce explains why it's 'tricky' to act possessed: 'Don't try this at home'

The "Frasier" alum also recalls his childhood fascination with monster makeup and his family history of playing priests.

It's never easy being possessed by demons, but it's also no picnic pretending to be either.

That's one of the lessons David Hyde Pierce took away from his new movie The Exorcism, in which he plays a priest with a mysterious history with demonic forces. The movie, a meta take on the exorcism genre, stars Russell Crowe as washed-up movie star Anthony Miller, who gets a chance at a comeback when he's cast as the priest in an Exorcist-like horror film. He lands the role after the director's first choice ominously dies on set, and sure enough, the movie-within-a-movie proves to be majorly cursed. Pierce plays an actual priest brought on board the production as a supervisor, and, without giving too much away, his prior experiences with possession end up coming in handy.

Related: David Hyde Pierce explains why he's not in the Frasier reboot: 'I never really wanted to go back'

"Possession is tricky," Pierce, a longtime horror fan, tells Entertainment Weekly. "Don't try this at home. Only because, and I think this is probably true for the whole movie, you're juggling; you're balancing stuff we've all seen before, and so, to a certain extent, you want to give some of that. You want to draw from that vocabulary. On the other hand, you also want it not to look like we've seen this all before. So I think that's the challenge: making it specific. And also, the fun of it, too, is — and this is true throughout the movie, regardless of who gets possessed by whom — there are a lot of really good actors in this movie. So what happens happens between us and comes from what the other person's doing."

<p>Vertical</p> David Hyde Pierce in 'The Exorcism'


David Hyde Pierce in 'The Exorcism'

Speaking of his costar, Pierce cites working with Crowe as a significant factor in his decision to join the cast. "I thought the script was really cool, and also I wanted to work with Russell. I think he's awesome," he says. "One of my favorite scenes of mine in the movie is just me and Russell talking in front of some makeup mirrors, and he's asking me questions about why I became a priest. It's a very simple scene, but it's a connected scene."

Crowe's presence as an actor made forming that connection "so easy," Pierce says. "He has such a strong sense of reality in a scene that you feel brought along with it. Sometimes, it can be hard to focus or hard to disregard the cameras in your eyeball. Not with him because he's all-encompassing. I really liked that."

Related: Russell Crowe doesn't like horror movies. Why the hell is he playing The Pope's Exorcist?

Besides getting the chance to work with Crowe, Pierce was excited to take on the role because it resonated with two somewhat paradoxical childhood interests: the church and horror movies. When he was a little boy, Pierce says, "I just went nuts for classic horror. In fact, one of the fun things I got to do in this movie was we had this great makeup team, and they did special effects makeup. As a kid, I was so obsessed with these horror movies, and there was an old book called Monster Makeup. [It's author] Dick Smith was a great, famous monster makeup artist, and he did all these sorts of easier versions of the classic characters, and I did all of them. I went as the Wolf Man for Halloween. I was huge into the classic Universal and Hammer horror films. Not so much sci-fi, and not the contemporary ones, but all the classics I just love. So that was another thing that drew me to this. It's like I had to bathe in those icy waters."

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

<p>Vertical</p> Russell Crowe in 'The Exorcism'


Russell Crowe in 'The Exorcism'

When he wasn't dressing up as classic horror monsters, Pierce spent a lot of time at his local Episcopal church as a kid. Asked if his Latin came back to him while preparing his lines for the film, Pierce says, "It's not bad. When I was a kid, I was very involved. The church that my family went to did a really sophisticated music program, and so they did a lot of Renaissance and baroque and all kinds of music in which there's a lot of Latin, so it was familiar to me. I had to learn whatever gobbledygook I speak in. We weren't doing a lot of Satan-raising in church, but I knew the territory."

In fact, Pierce took inspiration for his role from one of the church's leaders. "I had a minister of my church who I admired a lot, and I think that he would've been the most influential in conceptually thinking about it," he recalls. "But then a lot of it came from how the character was written, and I was cognisant that this was drawing inspiration from the original Exorcist. So, I went back and watched that and watched Max von Sydow and thought, well, I'm no Max von Sydow, so that didn't really help."

Related: Russell Crowe doesn't like horror movies. Why the hell is he playing The Pope's Exorcist?

There was another inspiration, though, that he kept close during the production. "My dad wanted to be an actor but ended up not being one, but he worked in community theater, and there was a thing where he played a bishop. And so, in my dressing room in my trailer, when I was doing The Exorcism, I had this double frame picture that my sister had given me of me playing a priest in a play many years ago at Williamstown and dad playing a priest back in the probably '50s. I love it."

See Pierce carry on the clerical family tradition in The Exorcism, in theaters now.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.