The Exorcist Facts
*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 miscarriage.
*Ellen Burstyn agreed to do 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 soup.
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 films.
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 time.
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 another principal filming was completed in the United States.
The Exorcist has been re-classified in the UK. The uncut version is now available in the UK.
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-grabbing, etc).
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.
Check out the Washington Post’s articles on The Exorcist, click here.
Nine people died during the making of “The Exorcist”. Most notably, Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings).
The set for The Exorcist burns down during production delaying the film for 6 weeks.
Check out The Exorcist statue in The Wishmaster.
The gross more than $240 Million, including $40 million during its’ re-release in 2003.
The Exorcist was shot from August 14th, 1972-July 20th, 1973
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