Nominated for 10 Academy Awards
(Won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound) and 4 Golden
Globes (Won Best Director, Best Film, Best Sound, and Best
Supporting Actress (Linda Blair).
Opened on December 26th, 1973.
It caused widespread hysteria when released. Reports of
fainting, people being institutionalized, and at least one
Ellen Burstyn agreed to doing the movie only if her character
didn't have to say the scripted line: "I believe in the
devil!" The producers agreed to eliminate the utterance.
John Boorman had been offered the chance to direct "The
Exorcist" but declined because he felt the storyline was
"cruel towards children". He did, however, accept the offer to
direct Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).
Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine were approached to play the
role of Chris MacNeil. Audrey Hepburn was also approached and
only agreed to do it if it was filmed in Rome. Anne Bancroft
was another choice but she was in her first month of pregnancy
and was dropped.
The studio initially wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct the
film, but he turned it down. He later directed The Shining
(1980). Following the success of The French Connection (1971)
the studio finally agreed to go for Friedkin and signed him
for the film.
Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury during
filming. In the sequence where she is thrown away from her
possessed daughter, a harness jerked her hard away from the
bed. She fell on her coccyx and screamed in pain, which was
filmed for the movie.
The archaeological dig site seen at the beginning of the movie
is the actual site of ancient Nineveh in Hatra, Iraq.
Director William Friedkin went to some extraordinary lengths
to abuse the cast. He fired off guns behind the actors to get
the required startled effect. He was said to have slapped one
actor across the face before rolling the camera. He even went
as far as to put Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn in harnesses
and have crew members yank them violently.
The substance that the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) hurls at
Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is actually thick pea
Director Friedkin eventually asked technical advisor Rev.
Thomas Bermingham to exorcise the set. He refused, saying an
exorcism might increase anxiety. Rev. Bermingham wound up
visiting the set and gave a blessing and talk to reassure the
cast and crew.
There are tales about ominous events surrounding the year-long
shoot, including the deaths of nine people associated with the
production and stories about a mysterious fire that destroyed
the set one weekend. Actors Jack MacGowran & Vasiliki Maliaros
died before the film was released.
The network TV version was edited by William Friedkin who shot
a replacement insert of the Virgin Mary Statue showing her
face painted like a harlot (instead of the more obscene
version in the theatrical film). The looping of the Demon
voice to remove the profanity was also done by Friedkin
himself because of his unwillingness to work with Mercedes
McCambridge again. Lines like "Your mother sucks cocks in
hell, Karras" and "Shove it up your ass you faggot" were
re-dubbed by Friedkin to be "Your mother still rots in hell"
and "Shut your face you faggot." By and large, this network TV
version is not used for TV and cable showings today.
Christian evangelist Billy Graham claimed an actual demon was
living in the celluloid reels of this movie.
The "spider-walk" sequence, which was cut from the original
version, was reworked for Ruby (1977) and other low-budget
Contortionist Linda R. Hager was hired to perform the famous
"spider walk" scene, filmed on April 11, 1973, but deleted by
William Friedkin before the film's December release. He felt
it was "too much" of an effect because it appeared too early
in the film before the possession was fully established by the
end of the first hour of the movie. Almost 30 years later,
Friedkin changed his mind and added the scene back for the
special edition. Ms. Hager was able to perform the scene by
use of a harness and flying wires hung above the staircase
used in the set; she would advise Friedkin when she was just
barely touching the stairs with her hands and feet, and then
she maintained that light touch as she was moved down the
staircase by the harness and wires.
Entertainment Weekly voted this the Scariest Movie of all
The inspiration for the book (published 1971) on which the
movie was based dates back to a real episode of exorcism that
occurred in 1949. Writer William Blatty was at Georgetown
University and had read a Washington Post (20 August 1949)
account by Bill Brinkley ("Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy
Reported Held In Devil's Grip") of an exorcism, involving a 13
year-old boy in Mount Rainer, Maryland. The exorcism of
"Roland Doe" (pseudonym) took place between January and April
1949 by Father E. Albert Hughes and Father William Bowdern.
The sound of the demon leaving Linda's body is actually the
sound of pigs being herded for slaughter.
The demon mask used in the movie Onibaba (1964) inspired
William Friedkin to use a similar design for the makeup in
subliminal shots of a white-faced demon.
This was the film in which makeup legend Dick Smith hired Rick
Baker as his assistant.
Father Dyer is played by Reverend William O'Malley, an actual
priest who still teaches to this day at Fordham University.
The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Father Merrin.
Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating that with Brando
in the film it would become a Brando movie instead of the
important film he was going to make.
The last scenes of the movie to be filmed were the first you
see in the movie. The opening sequences in Iraq were shot
after other principal filming was completed in the United
The Exorcist has been
re-classified in the UK. The uncut version is now available in
Jack Nicholson was up for the part of Father Karras, before
Jason Miller landed the role.
Dana Plato (from Different Strokes) was supposedly offered the
role of Regan.
Mercedes McCambridge sued Warner Bros. because she didn't
receive credit in the film for the demonic voice.
Eileen Dietz played Linda Blair's double. She did all the
controversial sexual scenes (i.e. Lick me, Let Jesus, crotch
The flying puke was actually animated in the film. Dick Smith
had made a device to use for the scene, but Friedkin didn't
think it looked real enough. This device was used in one scene
where the puke oozes out on Father Merrin's collar
Grossed over $165M in the theaters in the US and $90M on
video. One of the most successful horror films of all time.
The Exorcist is supposedly based on a true story. The
Discovery Channel had an excellent documentary on it called In
the Grip of Evil.
Checkout the Washington Post's articles on The Exorcist,
Nine people died during the making of "The Exorcist". Most
notably, Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings).
The set for The Exorcist burn down during production delaying
the film for 6 weeks.
Checkout The Exorcist statue in The Wishmaster.
The gross more that $240 Million ,
including $40 million during its' re-release in 2003.
The Exorcist was shot from August
14th, 1972-July 20th, 1973