Playing a boy possessed by the devil is no easy task. But 12-year-old Peter DeSouza-Feighoney easily wowed the producers during his audition for the role of Henry, the boy Father Gabriele Amorth, played by Oscar® winner Russell Crowe, is tasked to exorcise in The Pope’s Exorcist. The horror thriller opens in cinemas April 19.
During the audition, DeSouza-Feighoney mimicked the voice of the Pope, incorporating German and Italian dialects, before transitioning into the unholy growls of a demon. “We weren’t quite prepared for the fact Peter had developed a demon voice,” says producer Doug Belgrad. “In the audition, he gave a performance that is not too different from the final performance he gives in the movie. He exceeded our expectations at every turn.”
Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, The Pope’s Exorcist, directed by Julius Avery, follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
“I love horror films and I’ve always wanted to star in one,” says DeSouza-Feighoney. The young actor explains that he was able to empathize with his character’s experiences. “Henry’s father died in a car accident, and he’s traumatized – that’s why the demon is able to go into him – and Father Amorth is trying to get the demon out. There are parts of the film when Henry is aware that Father Amorth is helping him – and he wants the priest to help him – but these moments don’t last very long because the demon soon takes over.”
Playing a boy possessed by a demon did not just require acting the part; DeSouza-Feighoney had to look the part too. Practical effects and prosthetics required the young actor to spend three hours in the makeup chair, giving the young actor a crooked nose, a prosthetic forehead with no eyebrows, and a jaw glued to his neck. “I also had an evil grin prosthetic, which made me look constantly smiling,” recalls DeSouza-Feighoney, who found the whole process quite awesome. “I loved getting the prosthetics done, because the finished product was really cool.”
“His favorite thing is playing the demon,” shares Alex Essoe, who plays Henry’s mother Julia. “He played an excellent little boy, but he just wanted to get on the prosthetics and talk like the demon.”