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The Actress Who Plays The Nun Is Unrecognizable In Real Life

Upon its original release in 2013, "The Conjuring" was simply a stand-alone supernatural horror movie loosely based on a true story, and thus untethered to any of the iconic horror properties of decades past. In the years since, however, the film has spawned its own cinematic universe, with myriad spin-off flicks focused on some of its more iconic villains — including a certain evil nun.

In 2016's "The Conjuring 2," the investigators from the first film, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, return to investigate a suspected possession in a borough of London. During their investigation, they find out that the evil spirit responsible for the possession is not acting alone, but working at the behest of a demonic nun known as Valak. Despite the nun's importance to the story, her total on-screen presence in her original appearance is minimal due to her role as a shadowy figure behind the film's supernatural events. That changed when the prequel movie "The Nun" was released in 2018, giving an origin story of sorts for Valak's murderous nun incarnation.

With how much of a staple Valak has become in the horror movie scene, fans of the character may be curious about the actor who plays her and what she looks like in real life. Behind all the makeup is none other than Bonnie Aarons, an actor who is no stranger to playing inhuman characters.

Bonnie Aarons is an experienced movie monster actress

Due to how monstrous some of the roles across her filmography have been, there's a solid chance fans have seen Bonnie Aarons outside of her role as the Nun without even recognizing her. The list of projects featuring Aarons as a supernatural creature of some sort is sizable, including an appearance as a demonic mother in the 2011 short film "The Closet" and the vampiric Master from the 2021 flick "Jakob's Wife." However, arguably her most notable credit on this front is her role in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive."

In "Mulholland Drive," Aarons portrays a character credited simply as "The Bum." The character is arguably insignificant to the film's story, but nevertheless acts as the focal point of one of the film's most iconic scenes. Some fans consider that scene to be one of the scariest in film history. In a 2014 interview with Vulture, Aarons described the role as her absolute favorite from her career. She also noted that she rarely gets recognized for the role. "I'm very chameleonlike," she said. "Put a little makeup on me, I look completely different."

All that said, Aarons' filmography likewise includes a number of wholly human roles in movies with no such paranormal elements. Those include "The Princess Diaries," "Shallow Hal," and "The Fighter."

Aarons' casting as The Nun was a turning point

Bonnie Aarons' Nun may be an icon of mainstream horror cinema these days, but things weren't always so rosy for the actor when it comes to the screen. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Aarons recalled that she had trouble booking roles early on in her career, and comments from casting directors didn't help her motivation. "Everybody has a different way of getting somewhere and it's not the same formula for everyone," the actor said. "I can say I've had a difficult time. I've literally been told, 'Oh, no one is interested in seeing you. No one wants to see somebody that looks like you on TV.'"

Nonetheless, Aarons persisted in pursuing her dream, until she caught the eye of a certain esteemed horror director who happened to developing "The Conjuring 2." "If you really want to do something, you keep doing it," she explained. "It didn't make me stop. Umpteen years later, hey, James Wan thinks I'm beautiful enough."

Snagging the role of the Nun proved to be a life-changing win for Aarons, but she also believes it to be a success story for women in monster movie roles. "I am so thrilled to show the industry that a woman can do this type of role that has been dominated by men throughout history, and I definitely hope it opens more doors," Aarons told We Got This Covered in an interview.