The wimpy

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FEATURES -

stress­ful job run­ning a big ho­tel, my hus­band’s got a trau­matic brain in­jury, and one of my daugh­ters has sur­vived a hor­rific car ac­ci­dent. I be­come over­whelmed, and once it be­comes clear some­thing su­per­nat­u­ral’s go­ing on, it’s all I can do to main­tain my san­ity. As time goes on, I hit the bot­tle. In the show, that is – not in real life . . . .’’

In real life, Davis is a high achiever on mul­ti­ple fronts. She has won a Golden Globe (for 2005 TV se­ries Com­man­der In Chief) and an Acad­emy Award (1988’s The Ac­ci­den­tal Tourist), and de­spite that fact that Thelma & Louise is the movie ev­ery­one seems to re­mem­ber, she’s also fea­tured in a long line of other hits, in­clud­ing Toot­sie, Beetle­juice, A League Of Their Own, Stu­art Lit­tle, and The Long Kiss Good­night.

Six feet tall and a for­mer model, she’s a Mensa mem­ber with an IQ of 140, speaks flu­ent Swedish, and once made it into the Olympic semi­fi­nals as an archer.

She is a fem­i­nist ac­tivist of long stand­ing, ad­vo­cat­ing for more ac­cu­rate, di­verse, and in­clu­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in film and on TV via The Geena Davis In­sti­tute on Gen­der in Me­dia.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was in the news ear­lier this month af­ter de­sign­ing a new com­puter pro­gramme that analy­ses the gen­der bias of fea­ture films in just 15 min­utes, break­ing down ra­tios of male and fe­male di­a­logue and screen­time into a handy fig­ure called The Geena Davis In­clu­sion Quo­tient, or GD-IQ.

And there’s no short­age of core­cast fe­males in The Ex­or­cist, al­beit deeply dis­tressed and/or possessed ones who are seek­ing as­sis­tance from God-both­er­ing blokes.

‘‘Well, I’ve been ad­vo­cat­ing for more fe­male char­ac­ters on screen for over a decade, and dur­ing that time I’ve be­come more fussy about what roles I ac­cept my­self, so it was great to have some­thing as de­mand­ing as The Ex­or­cist come along where I could re­ally chal­lenge my­self. Rather than just be al­tru­is­tic as an ac­tivist, here’s a strong role that might ben­e­fit me as an ac­tor as well.’’

When the orig­i­nal Ex­or­cist came out in 1973, there were a host of lurid news sto­ries about pun­ters faint­ing dur­ing screen­ings, vom­it­ing in the aisles, and so on. This me­dia frenzy made even more peo­ple go to see it. Now, of course, peo­ple can watch hard­core hor­ror flicks 24 hours a day on­line if they want to. What does Davis make of the hu­man de­sire to be vol­un­tar­ily scared out of their minds?

‘‘I think peo­ple have al­ways had a keen ap­petite for hor­ror. The Ex­or­cist was the most im­pact­ful and trou­bling movie I saw grow­ing up, but I also loved The Omen, and in more con­tem­po­rary times, The Blair Witch Project ap­proached the genre in a bold new way. I guess the at­trac­tion is that th­ese sorts of movies give you a man­aged cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘You can watch some se­ri­ously scary things and know that you’ll live through them.

‘‘It’s like the thrill-seek­ing peo­ple do on amuse­ment park rides, where they will line up and pay to be ter­ri­fied. Dab­bling with fear is some­thing we like to do to our­selves, and there’s clearly some very deep psy­cho­log­i­cal un­der­pin­nings to that.’’

The Ex­or­cist screens Sun­days from tonight, at 9.40pm on TV2.

Ac­tress, ac­tivist, and archer Geena Davis plays An­gela Rance in new TV se­ries, The Ex­or­cist.

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