Half century After, The Exorcist by William Friedkin returns to terrify the audience in a version restored during the course of the 80th International Film Festival which, for the tenth year, will assign the Venice Classics Award. The cornerstone of the horror genre passes to the Lagoon one month after the death of the great American director, who died last month at the age of 87. We recall that Friedkin is Out of Competition with his posthumous film, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Undisputed Hollywood masterpiece, The Exorcist hit the big screen on December 26, 1973 in the wake of mass hysteria. Today again, the story of little Regan (Linda Blair) who is possessed by the devil and desperately needs an exorcism continues to divide and give sleepless nights. The film is taken fromnovel of the same name by William Peter Blattyalso author of the screenplay, in turn inspired by a Washington Post article from 1949 which told of a shocking exorcism practiced on the 14-year-old Roland Doe in Maryland.
First horror movie to be Oscar nominee in the main category, he won two statuettes (for the best unoriginal screenplay and al best sound). Despite the censorship issues, The Exorcist it was a worldwide box office success with receipts of $440 million. The film spawned two sequels, parodies and a prequel series in 2016. The exorcist it is also one of the titles reissued by Warner for its centenary (from 18 to 20 September it will return to our cinemas). Next October 13, just in time for Halloween, it will hit theaters The exorcist – The believer. Reboot directed by David Gordon Green which will bring back Ellen Burstyn in the role of the mother of the young protagonist.
We celebrate 50 years of The Exorcistwith 10 curiosities about the cursed film par excellence.
Stanley Kubrick was supposed to direct it
In the beginning, Warner Bros proposed The Exorcist to Stanley Kubrick who refused because he didn’t want to direct a film that he hadn’t signed a script for. Eventually, the Studios signed William Friedkin, new Academy Award for The violent arm of the law.
Linda Blair audition
Finding a 12-year-old suitable for such a controversial role took a long time. However, when Elinore Blair without an appointment decided to rush with her young daughter Linda, who had already read Blatty’s book, to Friedkin’s office, the little girl managed to surprise the director, living up to her part. She stole the role of Regan MacNeil from the most famous, Pamelyn Ferdin and Denise Nickerson.
Breakfast at L’exorcist
The role of Chris MacNeal, Regan’s mother, was to be given to Audrey Hepburn. The star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s he would have accepted on one condition, that the film be shot in Rome. Eventually, the part was given to Ellen Burstyn, whose character in the novel was based on Shirley MacLaine.
Max von Sydow better than Brando
For the role of Father Lankester Merrin, Warners proposed Marlon Brando but Friedkin felt he was too famous and that his name would overshadow the other protagonists. Ultimately, the part went to the iconic 43-year-old Swedish actor who had to undergo hours of makeup before playing the elderly priest.
Jason Miller in place of Nicholson
Jack Nicholson had been chosen for the part of the young Jesuit Damien Karras but Friedkin rejected him, because he felt that the actor did not have the right face to play the priest. The role thus went to Miller.
The interiors of the MacNeil house were filmed in CECO Studios in Manhattan, while the exteriors in front of a real house in Georgetown. The famous poster of the film is inspired by The empire of lights by Magritte. The archaeological site seen at the beginning of the film is the actually existing Parthian site of Hatra.
Father Merrin’s shock
On the first day of shooting the exorcism sequence, young Linda Blair’s foul-mouthed monologue so shocked Max von Sydow that he forgot his lines.
The “spider walk”
Regan’s infamous spider-walking scene (only available in Director’s cut 2000) was filmed by contortionist Linda R. Hager.
The young protagonist’s disgusting rejection is a combination of Anderson’s pea soup and oatmeal. The mixture was pumped through a special device created by makeup artist Dick Smith. Regan in the «rotating head» version (photo) is an animatronic.
The chilling masterpiece is linked to the deaths of 9 people: among them, the brother of Max Von Sydow, the grandmother of Linda Blair, the newborn son of a technician, the employee of the refrigeration of the set and the actor Jack MacGowran. A mysterious short circuit also caused a fire destroying a large part of the set: it was then that the director appealed to a priest who acted as consultant, Thomas Bermingham, to perform a real exorcism. The man refused, limiting himself to blessing the place.
Source: Vanity Fair
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