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.