I love movies from the 1970s, and The Exorcist is right at the top of the list. It has everything you could want in a horror film, or any film for that matter: Great writing, great acting, a convincingly spooky atmosphere. It really is a terrifying film.
Let’s take a look at 10 interesting facts about this iconic piece of Hollywood history.
1. A true story.
The film is based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 book of the same name, which is about a real exorcism case that took place in Maryland in 1949. A 13-year-old boy with ailments that no one could figure out was given roughly 30 exorcisms. He frequently broke free of his restraints during these ordeals and became violent.
The boy went on to live a normal life and had no recollection of his ‘possession’ or the exorcisms he endured.
2. The book was a flop when it was published.
William Peter Blatty’s book was a failure when it was originally published…until fate intervened. Blatty was added as a last-minute guest on The Dick Cavett Show, and after that appearance, the book hit the New York Times bestseller list.
3. A mysterious fire.
During filming, a fire broke out and damaged the entire set…except for the bedroom of the little girl in the film, Regan, played by Linda Blair. That sounds a little odd, doesn’t it…?
4. A real-life killer.
Now, this is really strange. A suspected serial killer in real life actually has a small role in The Exorcist. Paul Bateson appears in a scene when Regan is undergoing tests in the hospital. In 1979, Bateson was arrested for the murder of a film critic named Addison Verrill. Bateson boasted about killing other people and police suspected him of murdering multiple gay men in the late 1970s, though they could never get enough evidence to convict him of the string of murders.
Bateson served time in prison for the murder of Verrill and was released in 2004.
5. Big odds.
Linda Blair beat out 500 other actresses for the role of Regan MacNeil. Director William Friedkin even considered casting adult dwarfs because the process of casting the role of Regan took so long.
6. What might’ve been…
Ellen Burstyn plays the role of Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil. The role was turned down by Jane Fonda and Audrey Hepburn.
7. The real deal.
The role of Father Dyer was played by a real priest, Father William O’Malley. He also served as a technical advisor on the film.
8. Freezing cold.
The dramatic scene shot in Regan’s room with the priests was cold. Really cold. Friedkin chilled the room so the actors would actually be extremely cold and their breath could be seen.
9. The magic of the movies.
Max von Sydow without and after make up for The Exorcist. He was 43 during filming. from movies
Max von Sydow, who played Father Lankester Merrin, was only 43 years old at the time of filming, and his character was supposed to be an elderly man. He underwent five hours of work in the makeup chair each day before filming.
The Exorcist was so controversial and so unsettling that it was banned by some local authorities in the United Kingdom after it received an X-rating there. The sale of the film was banned in the UK in 1988, and it wasn’t until 1999 that The Exorcist was released in the UK again.