Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots who believed the film "glorified Satan", Warner Bros. had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the film's release.
In an interview, Jason Miller stated that he had a major verbal confrontation with William Friedkin after the director fired a gun near his ear to get an authentic reaction from him. He told Friedkin that he is an actor, and that he didn't need a gun to act surprised or startled.
The scene where Regan projectile vomits at Father Karras only required one take. The vomit was intended to hit Jason Miller in the chest, but the plastic tubing misfired, hitting him in the face. His reaction of shock and disgust while wiping away the vomit is genuine, and Miller admitted in an interview that he was very angered by this mistake.
On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair's delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max von Sydow that he actually forgot his lines.
This is Warner Brothers' highest-grossing-film of all time when adjusted for inflation.
Actress Mercedes McCambridge, who provided the voice of the demon, insisted on swallowing raw eggs and chain smoking to alter her vocalizations. The actress, who had had problems with alcohol abuse in the past, furthermore wanted to drink whiskey as she knew alcohol would distort her voice even more, and create the crazed state of mind of the character. As she was giving up sobriety, she insisted that her priest be present to counsel her during the recording process. At William Friedkin's direction, McCambridge was also bound to a chair with pieces of a torn sheet at her neck, arms, wrists, legs and feet to get a more realistic sound of the demon struggling against its restraints. McCambridge later recalled the experience as one of horrific rage, while Friedkin admitted that her performance--as well as the extremes which the actress put herself through to gain authenticity--terrifies the director to this day.
Father Dyer is played by William O'Malley, an actual priest who until 2012 taught at Fordham Prep, a Jesuit high school.
The original teaser trailer, which consisted of nothing but images of the white-faced demon quickly flashing in and out of darkness, was banned in many theaters, as it was deemed "too frightening".
The bedroom set had to be refrigerated to capture the authentic icy breath of the actors in the exorcising scenes. Linda Blair, who was only in a flimsy nightgown, says to this day she cannot stand being cold.
Jack Nicholson was up for the part of Father Karras, before Jason Miller landed the role. William Friedkin thought he was too unholy to ever play a priest.
If adjusted for inflation, this would be the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.
Upon its initial theatrical release the film affected many audiences so strongly that at many theaters, paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics.
Linda Blair received her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination before it was widely known that previous Supporting Actress winner Mercedes McCambridge had actually provided the voice of the demon. By Academy rules once Blair was given the nomination it could not be withdrawn, but the controversy about Blair being given credit for another actress' work ruined her chances of winning the award.
The Exorcist is the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The only other one is Get Out (2017). Jaws (1975), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Sixth Sense (1999) were all nominated, and "The Silence of the Lambs" won, but, these films are not designated as horror films on IMDb.
When originally released in the UK a number of town councils imposed a complete ban on the showing of the film. This led to the bizarre spectacle of "Exorcist Bus Trips" where enterprising travel companies organised buses to take groups to the nearest town where the film was showing.
Author William Peter Blatty once won $10,000 on the Groucho Marx show You Bet Your Life (1950). When Groucho asked what he planned to do with the money, he said he planned to take some time off to "work on a novel." This was the result. Groucho is mentioned in the film by Lt. Kinderman in jest as playing Othello.
According to William Friedkin, the subliminal shots of the white faced demon are actually rejected makeup tests for Regan's possessed appearance.
One of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases was inspired by the 1953-1954 series of paintings "Empire of Light" ("L'Empire des lumières") by René Magritte. It is the scene where Fr. Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow.
The contortionist Linda R. Hager was hired to perform the famous "spider walk" scene, which was filmed on April 11, 1973. 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. William Friedkin deleted the scene before the film's December release. He felt it was "too much" of an effect because it appeared so early in the film. He later admitted that another reason for omitting the scene was that there was no way to hide the wires from view at the time. Almost 30 years later, Friedkin changed his mind and added the scene back for the extended 2000 version, with the wires digitally removed.
Mercedes McCambridge had to sue Warner Brothers for credit as the voice of the demon. William Friedkin, on the Diane Riehm Show (NPR, 29 April 2012) said that originally she didn't want a credit, saying that she wanted the audience to believe the voice was Regan's. However, after it was released she changed her mind, and was given the credit.
In the documentary included on the 25th Anniversary Edition, the actors reveal that in many shots it was not necessary to "act", as what was captured on film were genuine reactions. For example, Ellen Burstyn mentions that her scream and facial reaction after being slapped by Regan were due to being pulled too hard by a harness. Linda Blair's screaming was a reaction to being bounced around on her bed. William O'Malley recalled that William Friedkin slapped him prior to shooting and this caused his hand to tremble while blessing Father Karras.
In order to make Max von Sydow appear much older than his then age of 44, make-up maestro Dick Smith applied generous amounts of stipple to von Sydow's forehead, eyes and neck. His facial skin was then manually stretched as liquid latex was applied. When the latex dried, his taut skin was then released causing the film of rubber to corrugate. This daily make-up procedure lasted three hours and was apparently the cause of much anguish for von Sydow.
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.
The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Father Merrin. William Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating that with Brando in the film it would become a Brando movie instead of the important film he wanted to make.
The agency representing Linda Blair overlooked her, recommending at least 30 other clients for the part of Regan. Blair's mother brought her in herself to try out for the role.
Director William Friedkin eventually asked technical advisor 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.
The demon seen, but not named, throughout this movie is Pazuzu, a demon known in Assyrian and Babylonian mythology as the demon that brings famine during the dry seasons and locusts during the rainy seasons. He was the king of the demons of the wind.
Though often cited as one of the most shocking scenes in cinema, the crucifix masturbation scene was actually greatly toned down from that of the novel. In the source book, the scene is much longer, gorier and sexually explicit, with Regan suffering a broken nose, butchery of her genitals, and orgasming.
William Friedkin had to take an all-British crew to film in Iraq because the US had no diplomatic relations with Iraq at that time. They were allowed to film on conditions that included teaching Iraqi filmmakers advanced film techniques as well as how to make fake blood.
Before starting the exorcism, Father Merrin asks Chris whether her daughter has a middle name. In the Middle Ages Catholics used to give their children several names as they believed it would hinder Satan from finding out the child's real name and controlling one's soul.
The substance that the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) hurls at Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is thick pea soup. Specifically, it's Andersen's brand pea soup. The crew tried Campbell's but didn't like the "effect."
In The Fear of God: 25 Years of 'The Exorcist' (1998), William Friedkin states that the studio execs would come up on a weekly basis to have a look at the shooting progress. They shook their heads continuously, believing that the movie was total ridiculousness.
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.
In the scene where the words "help me" arise out of Regan's torso, the effect was achieved by constructing a foam latex replica of actress Linda Blair's belly, writing the words out with a paint brush and cleaning fluid, then filming the words as they formed from the chemical reaction. Special effects artist Dick Smith then heated the forming blisters with a blow dryer, causing them to deflate. When the film was run backwards, it appeared as though the words were rising out of young Regan's skin in an attempt to summon intervention.
There were originally many very brief "blink and you'll miss them" cutaway shots in the 1973 release film, intended to create unease in the viewer. For instance: when the priest is dreaming of his mother coming up out of the subway, there is a brief cutaway of a face (Eileen Dietz), painted black and white, grimacing. There are two other places where this image is displayed: when Regan, lying on the bed, turns to look at Father Merrin and Father Karras, and just after the head-turning scene. In the "The Version You've Never Seen", the same image is superimposed over other scenes in the film: the first can be seen on the hood of the stove when Chris MacNeil has just returned home from speaking with the doctors and the lights go out in the kitchen; the next image can be seen in the scene directly following the former, on the inside door of Regan's bedroom when Chris MacNeil goes to check on her after realizing that Sharon wasn't present in the house. The statue of "Pazuzu" (encountered by Father Merrin) can clearly been seen in the background during the exorcism in the original film. The face of the statue is also imposed onto Regan's bedroom door in "The Version You've Never Seen".
Audrey Hepburn was William Friedkin's first choice to play the role of Chris MacNeil, and Warner Brothers supported him because of her good critical/commercial reputation with the studio, but she 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.
During the session where Karras is recording his interactions with Regan, he asks the demon its name (in Latin) and the demon responds with what would could be considered a witticism on its part: "La plume de ma tante" (literally, "The pen of my aunt"). This is a attributed to elementary French language instruction and used in the early 20th century as an example of a grammatically correct phrase taught despite limited practical use. LIFE Magazine in 1958 described it as: "...the most idiotically useless phrase in a beginner's French textbook." In popular culture, the phrase can be used metaphorically to refer to something irrelevant. In this instance, it could be interpreted as the demon telling Karras in a roundabout way that its name is irrelevant - a common motif in stories of Godly agents fighting evil spirits.
Linda Blair injured her back when a piece of the rig broke as she was thrown about on the bed.
The most disturbing scene to the majority of viewers was that of Regan having an arteriogram (the first test she had in the hospital). William Friedkin, attributes this to the fact that the procedure itself looked very realistic, the man who played the doctor was an actual neurosurgeon in real life and that Linda Blair was as believable as a young, scared girl undergoing a scary, invasive procedure.
The refrigerated bedroom set was cooled with four air conditioners and temperatures would plunge below 30 degrees. It was so cold that perspiration would freeze on some of the cast and crew. On one occasion the air was saturated with moisture resulting in a thin layer of snow falling on the set before the crew arrived for filming.
During a 1984 reunion of the cast of The Exorcist on Good Morning America (1975), Ellen Burstyn told story of when she was in Tucson, Arizona filming Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) and The Exorcist was opening in that city while she was there so she went to see it. She stated that the scene where Regan has her arteriogram was the part where most people fainted (this is the scene where Regan gets an arterial catheter inserted into her neck). After that scene she saw a woman wobbling up the aisle so Ms. Burstyn followed her. When the woman finally fainted, Ms. Burstyn was at her aid, loosening her collar and talking to her. Then the woman began to come to and Ms. Burstyn realized that if this woman opened her eyes and saw her, this might cause the woman to panic. Ms. Burstyn's exact words were that she might think she was in the Twilight Zone or something. So, Ms. Burstyn asked assistance from another person to help the woman recover.
The film received an 18 certification in Israel and was shown in Lebanon but banned in the rest of the Middle East. Lebanon banned the film when it was re-released.
Producers sought to have Jamie Lee Curtis audition for the role of Regan MacNeil but her mother Janet Leigh refused.
According to William Peter Blatty, Warner Bros. wanted to change the title of the film after taking a survey which found none of the participants knew what an exorcist was.
In A Decade Under the Influence (2003), William Friedkin talks about the original poster that the studio created for the film. It was a drawing of Regan's hand holding the bloody crucifix that she masturbates with. The original tag line was "God help this girl". Friedkin rejected the poster, stating that the word "God" should not be used in a movie tag line.
Vasiliki Maliaros had never acted in a movie before. She was discovered by William Friedkin in a Greek restaurant. Her only acting experience was in Greek stage dramas. Friedkin selected her because she bore an uncanny resemblance to his own mother and William Peter Blatty felt she resembled his mother, too.
Adjusted for inflation, this would be the ninth-highest-grossing movie of all time.
Linda Blair hated vegetables so much at the time that the use of the pea soup actually did make her vomit.
The archaeological dig site seen at the beginning of the movie is the actual site of ancient Nineveh in Hatra, Iraq.
The actual residence in Georgetown that is used for the exterior shots has a rather large yard between it and the infamous steps. The window that leads to Regan's room is at least 40 feet from the top of the steps. This distance would make it impossible for anyone "thrown" from the window to actually land on the steps. In the movie, set decorators added a false wing to the house, so that Regan's supposed window would in fact be close to the infamous steps.
William Friedkin was supposed to attend a dinner the night he received William Peter Blatty's screenplay. Out of curiosity, he started reading the first few pages and ended up missing his dinner engagement completely.
William Peter Blatty said that William Friedkin misinterpreted the head spinning scene. He said Regan's head was described as turning almost all the way around, not literally all the way around, rotating 360° the way it did.
The original shooting schedule was 85 days, but filming in America lasted for 224 days.
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 and Vasiliki Maliaros died before the film was released.
William Peter Blatty based his novel on a supposedly genuine exorcism from 1949, which was partially performed in both Cottage City, Maryland, and Saint Louis Missouri. Several area newspapers reported on a speech a minister gave to an amateur parapsychology society, in which he claimed to have exorcised a demon from a 13-year-old boy named Robbie, and that the ordeal lasted a little more than six weeks. Robbie was born June 1, 1935, resided at 3807 40th Avenue in Cottage City, MD, and was a member of St. James Parish. He entered the seventh grade at Bladensburg Junior High in the fall of 1947, and was removed in the middle of his eighth grade year on January 15, 1949. He had experiences that ended on April 19, 1949. He re-enrolled in the eighth grade at Bladensburg Junior High for the 1949-50 school year, then spent from the fall of 1950 until June 1954 at Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC.
A filmgoer who saw the movie in 1974 during its original release fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He then sued Warner Brothers and the filmmakers, claiming that the use of subliminal imagery in the film had caused him to pass out. The studio settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
In the arteriogram scene, the bearded man who assists the doctor is Paul Bateson. He was an x-ray technician at NYU Medical Center where that scene was shot and managed to get that small part. In 1979, he was convicted of the murder of a film critic and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, he bragged about and was a suspect in the murders of six men whom he said he picked up in gay bars, had sex with them and then murdered and dismembered their bodies and put them into plastic bags "for fun" in 1977 and 78. They were known as the "bag murders". Although investigators believed his story, he was never officially charged and those murders have technically never been solved. Bateson was released from prison in 2004. The whole story revolving the "bag murders" were later fictionalized in Cruising (1980), which is also directed by William Friedkin.
William O'Malley refers to this movie to students as the "pornographic horror film" he once did.
Lalo Schifrin's score was rejected (see also The Amityville Horror (1979)). William Friedkin later said that had he heard the music of Tangerine Dream (who scored his later film Sorcerer (1977)) earlier, he would have had them score this film (from the "Sorcerer" soundtrack liner notes). Friedkin actually hated the music so much that he yelled for the orchestra to stop playing, removed the reels that had been recording the music from the sound desk, and promptly threw the reels into the streets, all in front of Lalo and his wife.
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.
Film debut of Jason Miller. He received an Oscar nomination for his role as Father Karras in this film.
Shirley MacLaine turned down the role of Chris Macneill in order to make the similar, though much less successful, The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972). Ironically, the characters of Chris MacNeil and Regan were based on her and her daughter Sacchi, who Blatty knew. Maclaine is well aware of this and has talked about it in interviews.
In one scene, the Jesuit president of Georgetown University (Thomas Bermingham) mentions that Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is at "Woodstock". Audiences may think the reference is to the famous music festival that took place upstate New York in 1969. In fact, the Woodstock in the film is actually Woodstock College, a Jesuit seminary in Woodstock, Maryland. Opened in 1869, the seminary closed one year after "The Exorcist" was released. The Woodstock Theological Center, a nonprofit Catholic theological research institute on the Georgetown campus, succeeded the college and remains operational today.
To entertain and distract Linda Blair during the long makeup process she had to sit through, the crew set up a television near her makeup chair so she could watch The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
William Friedkin says in the making of documentary that he cast Jason Miller as Father Karras because he had seen him in a stage play and his performance "reeked of failed Catholicism".
According to Variety magazine, it was revealed that Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds were contenders for the roles of Regan and Chris MacNeil. Reynolds is mentioned in the film by Lt. Kinderman in jest as playing Desdemona in "Othello."
As advised by a studio executive, director William Friedkin made several cuts to the movie prior to the release, citing that the scenes were unnecessary. This offended William Peter Blatty, the author of the novel and screenplay whom he had befriended, who thought these scenes formed the heart of the movie. Blatty even refused to speak to Friedkin for some time, but they eventually made amends. Many years later, when the immense popularity of the movie warranted a re-release, Friedkin agreed to re-evaluate some of the deleted scenes and put several of them back as a favor to Blatty, creating an extended "Version You've Never Seen". By his own admission, Friedkin tends to see this extended version as his favorite.
Mercedes McCambridge regurgitated on a mixture of chewed, mushy apple and raw egg to produce the sound effect of Regan's projectile vomiting.
The "spider-walk" sequence, which was cut from the original version, was reworked for Ruby (1977) and other low-budget films.
Despite the studio's fears that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) would give the film an X rating, it got an R, with no cuts whatsoever. The MPAA's decision, according to William Friedkin, was that it was "a brilliant, intelligent film" that deserved to be seen by a wider audience. Regardless, many American cities such as Washington, D.C. and Boston chose to disregard the decision and gave it an X.
In a 2007 poll conducted by the UK's The Times for the Top 50 Scariest Movie Moments, this film topped the list.
Director George Cukor loudly blasted the film and threatened to resign from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences if it won the award for Best Picture. The Academy Awards given to the film were for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound.
For the vomiting sequences, Eileen Dietz doubled (uncredited) for Linda Blair, and later sued unsuccessfully for puking credit. Makeup veteran Dick Smith rigged Dietz's facial contours with sheets of heat-formed plexiglass that were secured at the corners of her mouth and behind her head. A camouflaged nozzle anchored in Dietz's oral cavity provided the apparatus through which the "vomit" could be forcefully discharged, fed by supply tubes discreetly embedded in the plexiglass on both sides of her face. Such was the complexity of the set-up that Dietz could barely swallow or close her mouth.
In the scene where Regan is masturbating with the crucifix, Eileen Dietz was used for the shot where Regan belts her mother across the face. William Friedkin felt they needed someone with more heft physically to perform the stunt, and the double was shot from the back. The crucifix scene was filmed with Dietz, according to an interview with her in the documentary Starz Inside: Fantastic Flesh (2008).
At one point the search for a young actress capable of playing Regan was so tiring that William Friedkin claims he even considered auditioning adult dwarf actors.
It is implied that Reagan was being molested by Burke, Chris' director and friend. This is more obvious in the novel.
In the scene in the language lab, a white banner is visible with the following letters TASUKETE written in red. TASUKETE means "Help me" in Japanese.
In the novel, the possessed Regan has diarrhea and frequently relieves herself. Because of this she has to wear diapers. It is also frequently mentioned in the book that her bedroom has an almost unbearable stench, like Winston's cage.
Alfred Hitchcock turned down the chance to acquire the screen rights to the novel and also turned down the chance to direct the film when another producer bought the rights to the property.
On the DVD-commentary, William Friedkin says that making this film made him believe in demonic possession.
Several scenes were filmed that director William Friedkin would have loved to include in the movie, such as a scene showing Chris and Regan actually visiting some historic landmarks (as Chris suggests they should do in the movie). However, the soundtrack for the scene had gone missing. Another scene showed a possessed Regan slithering over the floor and upsetting several house guests by making obscene gestures with her tongue. The original negative of the scene got lost, and Friedkin refused to use a qualitatively inferior workprint he had of the scene instead.
Stacy Keach had originally been hired by William Peter Blatty to play the role of Father Karras until William Friedkin spotted Jason Miller in a Broadway play. Despite Miller never having acted in a movie before, Keach's contract was bought out by Warner Bros. and Miller was cast in the role. Keach later starred in The Ninth Configuration, Blatty's film of his own novel Twinkle Twinkle, Killer Kane.
The infamous masturbation sequence was trimmed by 12 seconds & the shot of the desecrated statue of the virgin mary in the church was completely cut by the Irish film censor when first theatrically released in Ireland.
On the documentary "Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist" included with the 2010 Extended Director's Cut, author William Peter Blatty reminisces that the supernatural/demonic sequences did not inspire patrons to flee theater, nor were they responsible for nausea in the aisles. The scene in which Regan undergoes carotid angiography, using direct carotid puncture and pneumoencephalography was the moment in "The Exorcist" which upset theatergoers. This procedure entails cerebrospinal fluid being drained to a small amount from around the brain and replaced with air, oxygen, or helium to allow the structure of the brain to show up more clearly on an X-ray picture.
Christian evangelist Billy Graham claimed an actual demon was living in the celluloid reels of this movie.
After he had rejected Lalo Schifrin's score, William Friedkin was in the office of Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun, when he noticed a copy of Mike Oldfield's just released Tubular Bells and was intrigued by the album cover. He placed it on the turntable and after hearing the opening part decided there and then to use it as the theme for the movie.
Ellen Burstyn wore a bracelet in the film with a horseshoe on it, because she had the idea that she wanted her character Chris MacNeil to be "poorly armed" to fight the devil. On the last day of filming, she gave the bracelet to Linda Blair. Several years later they crossed paths on an airline flight to L.A. and Linda was wearing the bracelet that she had given her.
Stanley Kubrick wanted to direct the film, but only if he could produce it himself. As the studio was worried that he would go over budget and over schedule, it eventually settled on Mark Rydell, but William Peter Blatty insisted on William Friedkin instead. After a standoff with the studio, which initially refused to budge over Rydell, Blatty eventually got his way.
The Prospect Avenue apartment where the story takes place was once inhabited by the author, William Peter Blatty, while he was a student at Georgetown University. The house was owned by Ms. Florence Mahoney and is at the corner of 36th and Prospect. During shooting of the exterior scenes the crew had to build special sets to allow sunlight in to keep her garden plants from dying.
In order to bring some levity to the shoot, William Peter Blatty suggested shooting a scene (not for the movie, but to amuse everyone at the screening of the rushes) in which Father Merrin would enter the house, take off his hat, and reveal himself to be Groucho Marx, a friend of Blatty's. The parody would even go as far as featuring an appearance from the duck from You Bet Your Life (1950). Groucho was keen to do it, but William Friedkin got sick that day and the idea was abandoned.
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 States.
Brazilian composer Eumir Deodato (famous for his 2001-Also Sprach Zarathustra heard in the movie Being There (1979)) lived in New York City by the time this movie opened, and was informed by friends that a piece of music he composed could be heard on the movie's soundtrack. He initially dismissed the warning, as he believed they were mistakenly identifying Tubular Bells (also part of the movie's soundtrack) as a composition of his own. Eventually, to clear this matter, his lawyer attended the movie with a concealed tape recorder. He recorded the whole movie, and played it back to Eumir over the phone, who finally recognized a composition of his own: "Carly and Carole", heard briefly at the party scene. Eumir's lawyer arranged a meeting with Warner Brother's legal team and asked for the movie to be pulled from circulation, eventually a compromise was arranged after a non-disclosed sum was paid.
During the scene where Father Karras visits Chris MacNeil as she's ironing, the infamous Ivory Snow box featuring porn star Marilyn Chambers can be clearly seen in the background.
Linda Blair had it written into her contract that she would not wear any of the same demon makeup for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) since the experience of doing it in the first film was so harrowing. This is why the demon is beautiful and feminine in part 2, when in part 1 it was so monstrous.
There is an actual serial killer in The Exorcist?. Paul Bateson (an x-ray technician by profession) is one of the radiologists present during the carotid angiography scene, several years later he was convicted of murdering film critic Addison Verill, Bateson became the prime suspect in what were known as the "the bag murders" carried out from 1977-1978, in which six male victims were mutilated and dismembered, their remains wrapped in black plastic bags and dumped in the Hudson River. Some of the grisly fragments washed up on the New Jersey shore, others coming to ground near the World Trade Center. These murders were the inspiration for another of William Friedkins films, "Cruising" starring Al Pacino.
Gonzalo Gavira was called on to create many of the special sound effects after William Friedkin recalled his work from El Topo (1970). One of the more memorable sounds, the 360-degree turning of Regan's head, was actually made by taking his old, cracked leather wallet and twisting it back and forth against the microphone.
The ruins in the beginning of the movie are in Hatra, Iraq. These ruins have been preserved over the past 1400 years by various Islamic regimes. In 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) made threats to destroy this city stating that "graven images were not Islamic" and should not be allowed to exist. On March 7, 2015, Kurdish sources reported ISIS had begun the destruction of this ancient city.
The film's sound was notable for its bizarre sound effects and, in some instances, sequences were made more eerie by a complete lack of sound. According to a 1974 Rolling Stone article, the sound designers used a variety of recording techniques and realistic, as opposed to electronic, sounds. To create sound effects ranging from scratching in the house to the devilish noises, the sound effects crew recorded beagle dogs, pigs going to slaughter, a woman convulsing and a trapped bee. In one instance, a variable speed oscillator was used to "tune" the buzzing of the bee to various pitches to create a chord cluster spanning four octaves.
Heavy Metal band Pantera's 1992 album A Vulgar Display of Power was named after the Demon's reply when Father Karras asks him "Why cant you make the restraints disappear?" and the demon replies "That's much too vulgar a display of power".
William Peter Blatty based the character of Chris MacNeil on his good friend Shirley MacLaine. Prior to the 1973 production, MacLaine attempted to have a movie made of Blatty's novel and interested Lew Grade in backing the project, but the plans fell through.
Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), was considered for Regan, but the material troubled her parents too much, and they pulled her out of consideration.
The original "Spider Walk" scene showed Regan sticking out a long, snakelike tongue and trying to grab Sharon.
Despite playing the title role, Max von Sydow had less screen time than the rest of the main cast.
Although the song "Tubular Bells" is popularly referred to as the "Exorcist" theme, it is only played four times throughout the film. It's (arguably most famous) opening movement is played briefly as Chris walks home and while Regan is being examined and filmed at the psychiatric hospital. This is also heard during the end credits. Meanwhile, during the scene where Father Dyer consoles Father Karas after his mother's death, another of "Tubular Bells" movements is played as background music. It is easiest to hear as Father Dyer opens the door to leave.
John Boorman had been offered the chance to direct, but declined because he felt the storyline was "cruel towards children". He did, however, accept the offer to direct the sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).
The statue of "Pazuzu" was accidentally sent to Hong Kong, before arriving on location in Iraq.
Pazuzu is often depicted as a combination of animal and human parts with his right hand pointing upwards and his left hand downwards.
Father O'Malley said he kept getting crazy requests after the movie came out. "I am not jumping out of any window for anyone's cat!"
While he was writing the novel, William Peter Blatty was collecting unemployment benefits.
Merrin and Karras repeat the famous phase "The Power of Christ compels you!" together 14 times.
It was on this film that William Peter Blatty met his wife-to-be, professional tennis champ Linda Tuero (see Linda Blatty). She'd been hired as an extra.
The second medical test Regan has is a Pneumoencephalograph. A Pneumoencephalograph (sometimes referred to as an "air study") is a procedure in which the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is drained from around the brain by means of a lumbar puncture (puncturing the spinal column with a needle and removing CSF). The CSF is then replaced with oxygen or helium to allow the brain to show up more clearly on x-rays. This test was used in the 1970s to detect lesions in the brain. However, it was a very painful test with side effects such as severe headaches and vomiting due to the loss of CSF (which is replenished by the body in less than a day). The patient also had to be moved frequently while the x-rays were taken in order to displace the air which caused more discomfort to the patient. Furthermore, it relied on plain x-rays which do not clearly represent soft tissues such as the brain. While this test was used a lot before and during the early 1970s, it had limitations. The test did not show actual lesions unless they were on the edge of the structures that could be seen on the x-rays or large enough to displace tissue which could be seen on the x-rays. So, there could be a lesion there, but too small to be seen. Imaging contrast was not part of this test but used in a test that was often performed along with the Pneumoencephalograph called an Angiograph in which contrast was introduced into the vascular system and x-rayed. The Pneumoencephalograph was phased out in the late 1970s when more modern neuroimaging equipment became available.
Al Pacino was considered among other young leading men for the role of Father Karras.
William Friedkin originally intended to use Linda Blair's voice, electronically deepened and roughened, for the demon's dialogue. Although Friedkin felt this worked fine in some places, he felt scenes with the demon confronting the two priests lacked the dramatic power required.
The Exorcist is based on the exorcism of Roeland Doe, a case file from the Vatican involving the possession of a boy in 1949 and his exorcism by two Jesuit priests. The names were changed and the gender of the victim to protect the innocent.
The scenes showing Father Karras in his room at Georgetown were filmed in Fordham University's freshman residence, Hughes Hall, fourth floor. Hughes was once the site of Fordham Preparatory school. Since there was no elevator at the time, the windows had to be removed in order to accommodate the camera on a crane. Each year, William O'Malley talks about his experience with the movie after students watch it on the same floor where it was filmed.
Additional problems, recounted by William Friedkin, resulted because both Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow were out for weeks, Jason Miller's young son was critically injured during filming and shooting in Iraq was so hot that the some crew members grew ill and had to be replaced. In his interview at the 2006 AMPAS screening, Friedkin said that the two-story house set burned to the ground, causing a three-week delay as well.
Jane Fonda was offered the role of Chris MacNeil but declined it. This was during the Vietnam War, when she was notorious for her outspoken radical opinions, and it was rumored she had called the movie "a bunch of capitalist ripoff bulls***". However, in his book "William Peter Blatty on 'The Exorcist' ", the author reported that Fonda visited him personally to tell him the rumor was not true. She told him she had turned down the role because she didn't believe in fairy tales.
William Friedkin traveled to England to meet with Bernard Herrmann about scoring the film. Herrmann insisted on doing the music in the UK and mailing the tracks to Friedkin. He was swiftly discounted after that. Lalo Schifrin was then appointed but he provided a full orchestral score which was the exact opposite of what William Friedkin had requested. (Friedkin wanted music that would inspire chills and a feeling of dread in the audience.)
According to Panorama magazine, William Friedkin didn't give Brooke Shields the part of Regan McNeil because "she was too young for the part". It is known that Shields at the time wasn't known as an actress prior to the controversy of a similar film: Pretty Baby (1978).
"Captain Howdy" is a play on Howard, which is Regan's father, and Chris' estranged husband's name. We learn from the shot of the tabloid magazine at the beginning, that Regan is looking at, which says "Howard Walks out on Chris and Daughter", that Mr. Macneil has just left them; and it logically follows that Regan is devestated by that and is looking for a substitute "father figure". The demon, after being contacted by Regan (inadvertently) through the Ouija Board, knows this, so he introduces himself as Howdy to emulate her father and become the father figure she is hungering for at this point in her life.
William Peter Blatty became friends with actress Tippi Hedren in the early 1970s, and she named one of her lions Billy after him. He gave her a copy of his unpublished novel "The Exorcist" and she was so absorbed reading it, that she woke up her then-husband, an agent Noel Marshall, in the middle of the night and told him that he should represent Blatty in publishing the novel and the film adaptation. She took the photo of the author for the first edition novel's back jacket. The 1971 novel became a bestseller and Marshall would be credited as 'Executive Producer' for the film adaptation, also titled "The Exorcist", where he was supposed to receive 15% of the profits. When the film became a blockbuster, Blatty refused to give the profits, since he never signed the written contract, but only initiated it. Marshall sued and the lawsuit dragged on for several years eventually reaching an out-of-court settlement. These were trying years for Hedren and Marshall since they needed the money to feed the big cats for their film Roar (1981), the financial stress would result in their divorce. Many years later, Blatty ran into Hedren at a party and said Hi. She walked away from him, without acknowledging him.
The film was plagued with problems that caused delays and raised the budget. William Friedkin blamed part of the budget problems on the continuous breakdown of a $50,000 air conditioning unit required to cool Regan's room to sub-zero temperatures for some scenes in which the actors' breath needed to appear chilled. In his interview at a 2006 AMPAS screening, Friedkin noted that when camera lights heated the room, shooting would be discontinued until the air returned to below freezing.
The Greek song playing on the radio when Father Karras leaves his mother's house is called "Paramythaki mou" (My Tale) and is sung by Yannis Kalatzis. Lyric writer Lefteris Papadopoulos has admitted that a few years later when he was in financial difficulties he asked some compensation for the intellectual rights of the song.
One of Lee J. Cobb's last roles before his death. His character, Lt. Kinderman, was brought back for the final film sequel, The Exorcist III (1990), written and directed by author William Peter Blatty himself. For that film, George C. Scott took over the role. Director William Friedkin appears to have approved the idea, as in 1997 he directed 12 Angry Men (1997), in which Scott played Juror #3, Cobb's role from 12 Angry Men (1957).
The scene wherein Father Merrin asks Chris the child's middle name was cut for the 1973 release, but there is still the scene where Merrin exorcises Regan and uses her first, middle, and last names.
This was the film in which makeup legend Dick Smith hired Rick Baker as his assistant.
Alan Alda was offered a role in this movie, but rejected it because he did not like the book.
In Islam, Dhimmi is a historical term referring to non-Muslims living in an Islamic state with legal protection. The word literally means "protected person".
When Lt. Kinderman and Father Karras begin their first conversation, says that Karras looks like John Garfield in the boxing movie, Body and Soul (1947). At the end of their conversation, not having gotten what he wanted, Kinderman jokingly says that he had lied and that Karras looks like Sal Mineo. The joke is that Garfield played rough, tough, hard-charging characters with hearts of gold, and he was immensely popular with female fans. In contrast, Mineo was slender, played less manly characters, and was far less popular with the ladies.
Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave "The Exorcist" four stars. This is amazing, considering Gene Siskel was notoriously prudish about horror movies; he gave a thumbs down to Poltergeist, Aliens (1986) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Siskel frequently complained about the terrorizing of children in movies; and complained about similar themes in Poltergeist (1982). But he said "The Exorcist" had such stunning professionalism at every level, and the ending was so moving with the priests heroically sacrificing themselves for the child, he said he loved it.
William Peter Blatty was friends with Shirley MacLaine, and had visited her at her estate, raising her daughter Sachi Parker by herself, surrounded by an entourage of nannies and tutors helping with the process, taking time out here and there to film a movie. This became the inspiration and prototype for Chris and Regan. ( "Maclaine" isn't that far off from " Macneal").
The language lab scene was filmed in a room in the basement of Keating Hall on Fordham University's Bronx campus. The same room was used as a Pentagon office in A Beautiful Mind (2001).
William Friedkin's attention to detail was so extensive than an early scene that simply involved breakfast being cooked took over a day to complete because the director wanted to use bacon that wouldn't smoke and sizzle, which in 1972 meant the production had to find very-hard-to-locate bacon that didn't have preservatives in the Washington, DC area.
According to William Friedkin, Paul Newman wanted to portray Father Karras. Newman is mentioned by name in the film.
A running gag in this movie involves Kinderman asking several people (including Father Dyer) if they would see some movie with him, but they tell him they have already seen the movie. This is somewhat continued in The Exorcist III (1990), as it is revealed that Kinderman and Father Dyer have struck up a friendship, and regularly go to watch It's a Wonderful Life (1946) together.
The first scene to be shot was of a distressed Karras pacing the corridors of Bellevue psychiatric hospital, agitatedly discussing with his uncle his mother's incarceration.
The original novel ended with Kinderman and Dyer talking about Casablanca (1942), whereas, in the extended cut they are talking about "Wuthering Heights."
There was an Exorcist TV show on Fox which ran for two years, from 2016 to 2018, and starred Gina Davis playing a grown up Regan Macneil, who is now dealing with the possession of her daughter; and the re-emergence of the demon within herself again; and Sharon Gless playing Chris Macneil; as well as a new Exorcist Father Marcus who roaming around Chicago battling demons. The show got great reviews from the critics; they said it was one of the best sci-fi series in years; but horrible ratings; and was cancelled in 2018.
Ellen Burstyn was cast after she phoned William Friedkin and emphatically stated she was going to play Chris.
With Mark Rydell in active talks to direct, William Peter Blatty urged Warner Brothers executives to watch the just released The French Connection (1971). Blatty had always pushed for William Friedkin to direct and this helped seal the deal.
When she was working as a model, Kim Basinger auditioned for the role of Regan McNeill.
In 1981 the film was released on video by Warner Home Video, as one of its first UK releases. At the time there was no requirement that videos should be classified by the BBFC, so the video was simply released on the strength of its existing "X" certificate. Contrary to popular opinion, the video version was never included on the Director of Public Prosecution's list of "video nasties" and was never prosecuted for obscenity, testament perhaps to the popularity of the film and the high regard in which it was held. After the Video Recordings Act (VRA) was introduced in 1984 it became necessary for the film to obtain a certificate for video release from the BBFC. The video release was continually delayed on the recommendation of chief censor James Ferman, who advised Warner Brothers against submitting the film for a UK video certificate. A possible 1988 release was also vetoed by Ferman, who cited recent cases of child abuse as the reason. It was finally released on video fully uncut in June 1999, five months after Ferman's retirement as UK censor.
One "conventional wisdom" explanation of possession phenomena is that it is something called "unconscious fraud", where a suggestible person knows the behavior expected in a circumstance where possession could result and then performs it out of the demands of social compliance. The social compliance includes deliberately forgetting the pretense.
The song playing in the background while Karras and another priest are having a beer is "Ramblin' Man" by The Allman Brothers Band.
Stanley Kubrick was considered by the studio to direct the picture. He later noted that he was very impressed by the film.
Pazuzu was a real god from Mesopotamian times; a demon god as he is presented in "The Exorcist". The following wiki quote describes the fearsome God that was really worshiped and feared in ancient times; and how he was often conflated with Beezelbub and Satan in later times. (Which would explain why he is conflated with Satan in this movie): "In ancient Mesopotamian religion, Pazuzu was the king of the demons of the wind, brother of Humbaba and son of the god Hanbi. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought. Pazuzu is often depicted as a combination of diverse animal and human parts. He has the body of a man, the head of a lion or dog, talons of an eagle, two pairs of wings, and a scorpion's tail. He has his right hand up and left hand down. Pazuzu is the demon of the southwest wind known for bringing famine during dry seasons, and locusts during rainy seasons. Pazuzu was invoked in apotropaic amulets, which combat the powers of his rival, the malicious goddess Lamashtu, who was believed to cause harm to mother and child during childbirth. Although Pazuzu is, himself, considered to be an evil spirit, he drives and frightens away other evil spirits, therefore protecting humans against plagues and misfortunes. Therefore, Pazuzu can be identified with Beelzebub, the devil, "prince of the demons" in the New Testament (for example in Mark 3:22 or in Matthew 12:24,27) who helped Jesus driving out demons according to the accusations by Pharisees." This quote shows how fearsome the original God was (in conception) and why Blatty chose him to be the villain of the story. This also explains his relationship to Christ and the more modern and Christian concept of the Devil, and how this is woven into the story.
The song that plays on the radio when father Karras enters his mom's house is "Istoria mou, amartia mou" (My Story, My Sin) by Rita Sakellariou.
Dana Plato claimed that she had been offered the role of Regan but her mother Kay had turned it down. In the book "Former Child Stars: The Story of America's Least Wanted" William Peter Blatty later said that he had "no such recollection" of this actually happening, and that Plato herself may have been the source for this rumor.
According to William Peter Blatty, director William Friedkin also considered Gene Hackman for the role of Father Karras.
Popular belief and parodies give the false impression that Regan throws up on the priests during the exorcism, but she only throws up on Karras once when he first meets her alone. She does, however, vomit during the exorcism: once at Merrin's face covering his glasses and later slowly onto the bed and Merrin's stole.
The two priests - Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Father Karras (Jason Miller) - do not meet until 1 hour and 41 minutes into the film (director's cut).
The closing theme, "Fantasia for Strings" by Hans Werner Henze, was previously used as incidental music by the composer in his score for Young Törless (1966).
Originally there was a line from Karras and Merrin about the Devil terrorizing Reagan just to instill fear in the people of earth and shake their faith in God. While William Peter Blatty felt that was necessary; Friedkin thought that was superfluous; he felt that was very obvious and self-evident to anyone who watched the movie; so he edited it from the original cut, (much to Blatty's chagrin). Later when Friedkin did the re-cut, he put it in as a favor for Blatty; since Blatty wrote the book and gave him one of the biggest hits of his career. THE SCENE: KARRAS: Father, what's going on in there? What is it? If that's the Devil, why this girl? It makes no sense. MERRIN: I think the point is to make us despair, Damien-to see ourselves as animal, and ugly-to reject our own humanity-to reject the possibility that God could ever love us.
Pauline Kael, like a lot of critics, was horrified and appalled by "The Exorcist". In her column in New Yorker following the film's release she wrote:"(The Exorcist is about) The demonic possession of a child, treated with shallow seriousness. The picture is designed to scare people, and it does so by mechanical means: levitations, swivelling heads, vomit being spewed in people's faces. A viewer can become glumly anesthetized by the brackish color and the senseless ugliness of the conception. Neither the producer- writer, William Peter Blatty, nor the director, William Friedkin, shows any feeling for the little girl's helplessness and suffering, or for her mother's." Kael goes on to slam the movie even further in her column: ""Somewhere in the publicity for the film is an item about William Friedkin's having looked at five hundred little girls before he chose his Regan, and indeed, Linda Blair is a sparkling, snub-nosed, happy-looking little girl, who matches up perfectly with Ellen Burstyn. I wonder about those four hundred and ninety-nine mothers of the rejected little girls, or about the hundred and ninety-nine, if that's a more reasonable figure. They must have read the novel; they must have known what they were having their beautiful little daughters tested for. When they see The Exorcist and watch Linda Blair urinating on the fancy carpet and screaming and jabbing at herself with a crucifix, are they envious? Do they feel, 'That might have been my little Susie-famous forever?"
It seems fairly clear (at least by the end of the story) that the demon's target is Karras. The following exchange comes as close as anything to stating this explicitly: Demon: What an excellent day for an exorcism. Father Damien Karras: You would like that? Demon: Intensely. Father Damien Karras: But wouldn't that drive you out of Regan? Demon: It would bring us together. Father Damien Karras: You and Regan? Demon: You and us.
Ironically Chris also has a temper; uses colorful language and has a tendency to drop the "F" bomb. Except when she does this it is seen as making the character colorful and strong; and it is meant to illustrate the tragedy of the situation. When Regan does this it is just seen as monstrous.
Though he played a Catholic priest in the film, in real life Max Von Sydow was raised as a Lutheran.
Bernard Herrmann didn't want to compose the music score for this film, because he felt that Director William Friedkin interfered with him too much. In Susan King's 2011 with Dorothy Herrmann (Bernard Herrmann's daughter), she revealed that William Friedkin had told her father (Bernard Herrmann) that he wanted to see the music every day. Dorothy was looking forward to having a dinner at Hotel Carlyle at that time. When she arrived at the hotel suite, and Herrmann said to not touch anything. Herrmann packed everything in his suitcase, told Friedkin where he could go and then went out to stay with his brother in Washington Heights.
The first medical test Regan has is an arteriogram. The second medical test is a pneumoencephalograph.
Other directors that Warner had approached included Arthur Penn (who was teaching at Yale), Peter Bogdanovich (who wanted to pursue other projects, subsequently regretting the decision) and Mike Nichols (who didn't want to shoot a film so dependent on a child's performance). The studio actually hired Mark Rydell but William Peter Blatty insisted on William Friedkin.
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Ellen Burstyn, Mercedes McCambridge and William Peter Blatty (cameo uncredited role) and four Oscar nominees: Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and Lee J. Cobb
Pazuzu keeps referring to himself as an "us"; like a colony of souls all grouped together. (Not dissimilar from the colony being the Borg in the Star Trek series). It's as if he absorbs other people and they become part of him. Regan/Pazuzu tells Damien his mother "is here...with us." And the mother keeps coming to the surface, crying out to Damien. Later the demon says he would like to be joined together with Damien: "You can be part of us." This makes more sense if we see Pazuzu in the conventional sense of how Satan is depicted in the Bible; the ruler of Hell, and all lost souls become part of him; become his property.
Before The Exorcist the most famous Regan in academia, literature and the world of western culture was Shakespeare's Regan in King Lear. She is one of Lear's evil daughters who plots against him to have him murdered. Cliffnotes describes Regan in very evil terms:" Regan is Lear's second daughter. Regan is as villainous as Goneril. Regan's plucking of Gloucester's beard reinforces the point that she has no respect for age or rank." This might have been why Blatty chose the name Regan for the demon possessed child in this story; it is the name of a villainous and murderous daughter in Shakespeare.
We learn in Exorcist 3 that Father Damien does not die at the end of Exorcist, after jumping out the Macneil's window and falling down the stairs, he survives! The part is played by the same actor in part 3 that he is in part 1; Jason Miller. But he has resurfaced as a mental patient now whose personality has split. Karras actually has an exorcism done on him in part 3. Half the time he's played by Miller, who plays Karras, and half the time he splits into a demonic serial killer, played by Brad Dourif. This is not because Director Blatty thought Miller was too limited to play the demonic side of Karras. It's because the studio insisted Blatty insert the exorcism scenes after the film was finished shooting. And although Miller performed fine during the early days of shooting, by the time they get to the exorcism scenes later into the shoot, his alcoholism got the best of him. He fell off the wagon in a relapse, and Brad Dourif had to finish for him, playing the demonic Gemini, Damien's demonic ID.
William Friedkin considered Roy Scheider for the role of Father Karras, but for some reason, William Peter Blatty vetoed him.
William Peter Blatty had filed suit against Warner Bros. and William Friedkin over credits and for being barred from production. Friedkin claimed that Blatty was only barred from post-production and that Blatty wanted the credit line, which was added prior to the picture's release: "William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist." Executive producer Noel Marshall stated that Blatty had dropped the suit against the studio but still had plans to bring a suit against Friedkin over credits and being barred from post-production.
Some details from the book that were left out of the movie: Fr Lankester Merrin, AKA Max Von Sydow, the eponymous Exorcist, is at an archaeological excavation for the ancient deities and artifacts from Mesopotamia (now Iran) at the beginning; and he uncovers two ancient statues dedicated to the Mesopotamian demon god Pazuzu. It is implied that he and the archaeologists might have inadvertently unleashed or resurrected Pazuzu during this dig. It is also made clear in the book that Regan's use of the Ouija Board is how Pazuzu found her in the first place; and how he gained entry into her world (as Captain Howdy). Also the book makes it clear that it was Regan who likely desecrated the church at the beginning; as they find remnants of the clay that was used to make the obscene decorations in the Macneil's basement and in her room. The book also makes it clear the demon is Pazuzu; that's why the prologue is in Iran, or ancient Mesopotamia, where the demon god was worshiped. In the first Excorcist movie they just keep calling him "the Devil"; it's not until the sequel they call him Pazuzu. (Pazuzu is an actual ancient Mesopotamian deity; William Peter Blatty did not make this up).
In one scene, Lt. Kinderman makes a comment that Father Karras looks like Sal Mineo and a little earlier Karras said he confused Kinderman with Paul Newman. Lee J. Cobb, who plays Kinderman, previously appeared with Newman and Mineo in Exodus (1960).
Regan was one of the wicked daughters who betrays the title character in William Shakespeare's "King Lear".
According to DP Owen Roizman, all of the spectacular visual effects in the film were created in-camera.
When Father Karras is listening to the tape of Pazuzu's voice in his dorm room, you can clearly hear the voice say "Merrin" twice. This is Max Von Sydow's character's name and suggests that the two have met before.
Ken Nordine was considered for the demon's voice, but William Friedkin thought it would be best not to use a man's voice.
Kay Lenz turned down the role of Regan McNeil because she didn't like the script. William Friedkin decided she was too old.
In the Novel Reagan's nickname is "Rags"; this is left out of the movie. They also left out a big confrontation scene where the exorcist asks Pazzuzzu what Reagan's middle name is. (It is Theresa)
Linda Blair was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress for her work in "The Exorcist" in 1974. Linda was only 12 when she was nominated. Ironically another child actor beat her out that year: Tatum O'Neal who was only 10; who became the youngest Oscar winner in the history of the Oscars. Also ironically, Tatum beat the foul mouthed tough as nails Regan playing another foul-mouthed tough as nails girl; Addie Loggins.
Just like Linda Blair was traumatized by the demon makeup she had to be subjected to, Max Von Show was traumatized by the old age makeup he had to be subjected to every day to become sexogenarian Lankester Merrin.
The song playing at the bar where Karras is at the beginning is "Ramblin Man" by the Allman brothers, which was released in August of 1973; (and shot to number two on the Hot 100 Billboard Charts) while Friedkin was still filming the movie. The song reflects Karras' wandering soul; feeling betwixt and between.
Before director William Friedkin settled on Michael Oldfield's music to be the theme for "The Exorcist", he had originally commissioned a score from Lalo Schifrin, who had famously done soundtrack work for Cool Hand Luke (1967), Dirty Harry (1971), and the instantly recognizable Mission: Impossible (1966) TV show theme. Schifrin's atonal Exorcist score was very much in the vein of Krzysztof Penderecki (whose "Cello Concerto No. 1" of Polymorphia was used in the film's final edit) with the addition of Bernard Herrmann-esque "fright stabs. Shifrin spoke of the incident recently to Score Magazine and how traumatizing it was to him: "The truth is that it was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, but I have recently read that in order to triumph in your life, you may previously have some fails. What happened is that the director, William Friedkin, hired me to write the music for the trailer, six minutes were recorded for the Warner's edition of the trailer. The people who saw the trailer reacted against the film, because the scenes were heavy and frightening, so most of them went to the toilet to vomit. The trailer was terrific, but the mix of those frightening scenes and my music, which was also a very difficult and heavy score, scared the audiences away. So, the Warner Brothers executives said Friedkin to tell me that I must write less dramatic and softer score. I could easily and perfectly do what they wanted because it was way too simple in relevance to what I have previously written, but Friedkin didn't tell me what they said. I'm sure he did it deliberately" Friedkin, who was a notoriously mean and crazy puppetmaster, did not tell Schifrin to rework the old score, which is what the Studio executives told him to do. Instead he commissioned Michael Oldfield to write a new score behind his back.
In an interview "Exorcist" director William Friedkin revealed how he originally hired famed film composer Bernard Hermann; who composed the brilliant scores to Psycho and Citizen Kane. To his extreme shock, Bernard Hermann said yes; but the meeting did not go well. The article describes the meeting at the outcome:"William Friedkin's horror film, The Exorcist, has been scaring the pants off of moviegoers-as well as making viewers nauseous-since its 1973 release. Even with all of its terrifying and stomach-churning imagery, the picture wouldn't have been nearly as intense if it weren't for the hair-raising soundtrack. It's surprising, then, that director Friedkin hadn't intended to use the music that ended up as the score for The Exorcist. Friedkin had first turned to Bernard Herrmann-perhaps the greatest composer in the history of film-to see if he might be up for scoring The Exorcist. To Friedkin's delight, Hermann was interested, so the director set up a screening. But it did not go well. At all. Recently, Friedkin wrote about the experience: When he [Herrmann] came out of the screening room he said, "I might be able to help you with this piece of s---, but you'll have to leave it with me, and I'll see if I can come up with something." I had heard he was an abrasive, no-b.s. guy, outspoken to the point of insult. Still, I was stunned at his reaction." Hermann went on to relentlessly criticize the movie; and the various ways he could "save" it. (For example he called the dessert scene at beginning a piece of "s---"; and said it would have to be edited out; or he would not score the movie). The conversation left Friedkin understandably very offended; and he ended up firing the legendary composer as a result of this.
After hearing and reading various accounts during his studies at Georgetown of the Roleand Doe case, the real story of the boy who was actually (allegedly) possessed in 1949, and then exorcised by two Jesuit priests from Georgetown, William Peter Blatty decided to write an actual true crime style account (ala Truman Capote's In Cold Blood) of the incident. But when he reached out to the Georgetown administrators and the Jesuit priests about this, they actively lied about the event, and were very closed-mouth and evasive about it, to throw Blatty off. Blatty believes they were embarrassed about it, and that the Catholic Church has actively been downplaying it's use of exorcism as a response to crisis in the parish. (This is where the "Exorcism has been a dirty little secret the Catholic Church has kept hidden in the closet over the years" line came from; it was a reflection of Blatty's real experiences!) Blatty then decided to write a full out pulp fiction style approach to the subject; a horror story as opposed to a true-life account; so that fiction could convey the heart of the matter where a real life account could not. Hence, the names were changed, the time period the events took place in were changed, the gender of the possessed child was changed. The only thing that was left intact from the real incident of the Roeland Doe case was that a child was possessed, the said child engaged in swearing, violence and antisocial activity, 2 Jesuit priests were involved in the Exorcism, and it did happen in Georgetown. That was all true. The rest of the story is all embellished. According to William Friedkin, Roeland Doe, the original child who was actually possessed, survived the ordeal and went on to live a happy life, and is successful; he does some undisclosed work for the government. (Ironically he was not affected by the legendary Exorcist curse!) He was even alive when the fictional horror story that was based on his experience was published to great acclaim and success, and became one of the most acclaimed horror movies in the history of cinema. But instead of trying to cash in on his experiences, Doe has opted to put the experience behind him, and has kept a low profile.
In an interview on the January 12, 2007 broadcast of the Mr. KABC radio program it was revealed that actress/comedienne April Winchell was being seriously considered for the part of Regan MacNeil; however, she had developed a serious kidney infection which caused her to be hospitalized and ultimately taken out of consideration.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The sound effect for Regan's infamous head turning scene was accomplished by Gonzalo Gaviria, The sound editor on EL TOPO (1970) by holding an old leather wallet up to a microphone and twisting and turning it in his hands.
Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Ryan O'Neal, Peter Fonda, Al Pacino, Jon Voight, Robert Blake, Christopher Walken, Alain Delon, James Caan, Roy Scheider, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Elliott Gould, Alan Alda, and George Hamilton were considered for the role of Father Karras.
Jason Miller's Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominated performance was the only one in the category in a Best Picture nominee that year.
Parapsychologist and Occult/Supernatural Expert Christopher Chacon was utilized by Warner Brothers to promote the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition.
Though veteran cinematographer Owen Roizman (The French Connection (1971), Network (1976)) is credited as the sole cinematographer of this film (and, furthermore, was the sole cinematographer nominated for the Academy Award for the film), William Friedkin has revealed that, owing to international relations with the British, Billy Williams, who shot Women in Love (1969) for Ken Russell, was actually the cinematographer who traveled to Mosul to shoot the opening Iraq prologue sequence of this film.
In the novel, the MacNeils are not Catholic. It's not explicitly stated they're Catholic in the movie either. A doctor turns Chris on to the radical religious ceremony, and when he first mentions it, she says it's like going to a witch doctor. We never learn what the Macneils' religious affiliations are as a matter of fact, although Chris is friends with Father O'Malley, one of the Jesuit priests and teachers at Georgetown who is in the same order and Parrish that Damien is, and who delivers Damien's last rites at the ending. Chris and Fr. O'Malley are friends before Karras is brought in as an Exorcist, as a matter of fact, and he attends the party Chris throws at the beginning of the movie; and this does point to her maybe being Catholic, but we're not sure.
The Bad Seed (1956), Village of the Damned (1960), The Innocents (1961) and Rosemary's Baby (1968) are all precursors to the film in the development of the whole demon child genre.
Early in the film, a man is seen wearing a Montreal Canadiens hat. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in June 1973, six months before the release of the film.
Pamelyn Ferdin, a veteran of science fiction and supernatural drama, was a candidate for the role of Regan, but was ultimately turned down because her career thus far had made her too familiar to the public.
Among the myriad television spoofs of this movie was an episode of The Odd Couple which featured Felix and Oscar battling a possessed air conditioner. It was called The Exorcists.
William Peter Blatty the original author of the book is also one of the film's producers. He also plays the producer of the movie Chris MacNeil is starring in; and you can see him in the scene where she (Ellen Burnstyn) is on set confronting the students. This is a very Meta touch, (movie-wthin-a-movie).
In a behind-the-scenes documentary, William Peter Blatty addressed the extreme reaction of some audience members: "I will tell you about what I believe is the sole cause of all those stories about people getting nauseous, people fainting, people screaming, people running out of the theatre and all that. It was not any of the horror that was taking place. It was, in fact, the medical science that was taking place." This was a reference to the scene in which Reagan undergoes an arteriogram, which involves a needle being inserted into her neck.
Chris Macneil in the book is about 32; the character in the movie is supposed to be thirtysomething. Ellen Burnstyn was actually 41 at the time. Fr Merrin is supposed to be 72 in the book; in the movie he is 60 or 70 something. Although in real life Max Von Sydow was 44; only 3 years older than the Chris Macneil character.
Friedkin and Mercedes McCambridge got into a huge fight after the premiere, because she was not mentioned in the credits. It turned into a big he said/she said situation; him claiming she told him not to mention her; her claiming this is not true, and they screwed her over. She wound up suing Friedkin and the studio. While all this was happening the studio was putting together the network presentation of The Exorcist. Without Mccambridge on hand to provide the voice of the demon, Friedkin wound up providing it himself. "I did my best Pazuzu growl and read the lines myself"; he said in a recent interview.
Mercedes Mccambridge was already a well established actress before she starred as the voice of the demon in The Exorcist. According to Wikipedia, " Orson Welles called her "the world's greatest living radio actress." She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for All the King's Men (1949) and was nominated in the same category for Giant (1956)"
Lt. Kinderman pops up again in Exorcist 3; although it's not Lee Cobb who plays him; it's George C Scott.
Writing in Rolling Stone, Jon Landau felt the film was, "[N]othing more than a religious porn film, the gaudiest piece of shlock this side of Cecil B. DeMille (minus that gentleman's wit and ability to tell a story)
Vincent Canby, writing in the New York Times, dismissed The Exorcist as "a chunk of elegant occultist claptrap...[A] practically impossible film to sit through...it establishes a new low for grotesque special effects..."
Three sitcom stars were up for the role of Regan: Anissa Jones (AKA Buffy on Family Affair); Dana Plato (Kimberly on Diffrent Strokes); and Eve Plumb (Jan on the Brady Bunch). Ironically, two of these actresses, Anyssa Jones and Dana Plato, would die at a very young age of drug addiction.
The demons in Exorcist 1, 2 and 3 are all voiced by females. (Mercedes Mccambridge in Exorcist 1, Linda Blair in Part 2 and Colleen Dewhurst in Part 3).
Much has been made of the book's debate weather the demon is Pazuzu, an ancient Assyrian demon god of fertility and the harvest; or the Devil himself. At the beginning of the novel the demon tells Miller that he is The Devil himself. Merrin seems to suggest later that this claim is a lie; and the demon is a lesser spirit; some carryover from the ancient worlds of the middle east; namely Pazuzu. Later evidence further shows that this spirit is probably Pazuzu; the demonic entity Merrin seems to be facing off with as he looks at the ancient Assyrian ruins; and the implication is that if the demon is in Iran/ancient Assyria, as opposed to Jerusalem or some site traditionally associated with Christianity; then the demon must be the ancient spirit of Assyrian Legend; not the Judeo Christian Satan; whose relics are usually found in another part of the world and associated with a different time period. But this is also thrown into question at the beginning when Merrin finds the Christian artifacts near buried near the Pazuzu statue; at the beginning of the movie in the Iran archeological dig scene; he comments that it is odd that there would be Christian iconography, which is from a later era, buried with the ancient Assyrian Pazuzu statues; in the same level of ground. As Merrin ponders this mixture of Christian and Pagan icons we are left to ponder the implications of the scene itself; that perhaps Pazuzu is in fact the Devil; or one of his minions. The story suggests that maybe these creatures are all one and the same. Further evidence to suggest that Pazuzu is in fact the Devil, or one of the minions of Satan; are that the spirit shouts at Damien and says "your mother s---- c---- in hell!" Hell is a Christian concept; not an Assyrian one. Also the demon shrinks away from the crucifix; a christian symbol; it's questionable if an Assyrian demon would even know what a crucifix was. The demon also desecrates a Christian church; why would he do this if he was a spirit from ancient Assyria; it makes more sense if that spirit were in league somehow with the Devil himself. All of this points to the demon of the story being both an ancient Assyrian spirit; and also either the Devil or one of his minions as well; all at the same time; and that these evil entities are all intermixed in one being. Particularly in the scene where the demon says to Damien; "Your mother is in here with us"; and invites Damien to "join us". "Us" appears to be some unified evil entity; all the fallen angels of earth, the Devil, his minions, and ancient spirits like Pazuzu; all mixed together in one larger spiritual entity; much in the same way modern Judeo Christian faith preaches that God is one with us; and all the good spirits of earth and the universe are united as well.
William Peter Blatty has said he meant to describe Regan's head as turning around rapidly, not doing a full 180° or a full 360° (which is an impossibility unless you are an owl). Friedkin embellished this. Twice actually, once in the crucifix scene, and once in the exorcism scene. But Blatty wound up admitting this invention on Friedkins part was effective.
The Exorcist draws on many influences, most notably Rosemary's Baby; but also Henry James' classic horror story about childhood possession, The Turn of the Screw. At the end of that novella, in a scene very similar to the exorcism scene in "The Exorcist", the governess (who is called Miss Giddens in the movie) shouts at Miles, the possessed boy in the story, to be released from the evil spirit that has been possessing him. At that point some sort of evil presence appears, and then Miles collapses and dies. This is very similar to the scene when Karras shouts at the demon to leave Regan, Pazuzu then enters Karras, and then Karras commits suicide and dies. Also, the scenes where we see Pazuzu's face appearing are similar to the scenes in Turn of the Screw where we see the face of the evil spirit appearing. (This happens in a very dramatic scene in the film version of Turn of the Screw, 1961's The Innocents, with Deborah Kerr, where Miss Giddens sees the demonic face of the spirit suddenly peering through a window, looking at her from the outside.) These scenes had a huge influence on The Exorcist.
Karras's character returns for Exorcist 3; and he has been effectively split into two MPD halves; Miller plays the human Karras; and Brad Douriff plays the possessed Karras; the Gemini killer Karras.
Linda Blair, Jason Miller and Kitty Wynn are the only actors who turned up for any of the sequels. (Max Von Sydow's Fr. Merrin character does show up part 2 in flashbacks). Kitty Wynn and Linda Blair turn up for part 2, and Jason Miller turns up for part 3. (Ellen Burnstyn flat out refused to do the sequel, wisely. Kitty Wynn takes her place as Linda's/Regan's caretaker).
Gene Siskel talked to Peter Benchley; who wrote Jaws, right after the Exorcist came out :"In an April interview, Peter Benchley told me the film of his novel, "Jaws," had been made with one overriding intention: to scare the hell out of its audience the same way "The Exorcist" had done.Benchley went on to say that portions of the book had been changed in order to accomplish that goal. For example, the romance between the police chief's wife and the ichthyologist sent to investigate the shark attacks was eliminated so the horror story could develop. . . ."
Veronica Cartwright and James Woods played Chris MacNeil and Fr. Merrin in the Scary movie franchise. In the Saturday Night Live version Richard Pryor played Karras, Thalmus Rusalala played Merrin, Lorraine Newman played Regan and Jane Curtin played Chris. Linda Blair spoofed the Regan role herself in the Exorcist movie satire Repossessed. In the Carol Burnett version Bernadette Peters played Regan, Carol played Chris and Tim Conway played Merrin. There was even a Looney Tunes version called the Duxorcist where Daffy played the Merrin/Exorcist character! (Melissa Duck played the Regan/Chris character, called Mary Duck in this version).
The end of the Exorcist is very similar to the end of a much older movie, the Innocents, which in turn was based on a very old novella which takes place in the 19th century, The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James, also about the possession of a child by an evil spirit, and the attempts of an adult authority figure to save that child. Miles' possession by the evil spirit Quint in that movie is similar to Regan's possession by the Devil/Pazzuzzu. The final scene where Deborah Kerr, the governess Miss Gideon, shouts at Miles to admit he's Quint, and then the boy dies, is all very similar to Merrin shouting at Regan about Christ, and then him and Karras dying in the struggle. Blatty was definitely affected by this early 19th century story of possession when he crafted the Exorcist.
All the giants of horror have been spun off into merchandising and toy products, and the Exorcist is no exception. There have been many Pazazu Regan Dolls, Fr. Merrin toys and dolls, even Exorcist plush toys. There's even a Barbiexorcist, which is a video version of the Exorcist using Barbie dolls as Regan, Fr. Merrin, etc!
Louise Fletcher plays Dr. Gene Tusk in Exorcist 2. This is interesting because she was up for the Chris MacNeil part in Exorcist 1 and was passed over; the role went to Ellen Burnstyn; but Fletcher graciously decided to come back to do Exorcist 2 anyway. Similarly, Richard Burton was being considered for the Merrin part in Exorcist, and was rejected for the part in favor of Max Von Sydow who got the role, and then Burton came back to appear in part 2 anyway playing the title role "Heretic" of that movie. Also similarly, Dana Plato was being considered for the Regan role in the Exorcist, and was passed over, and wound up appearing in Exorcist 2 anyway. And also similarly John Boorman was offered the role of director for part 1, turned it down, and then came back to direct part 2. In this way Exorcist 2 can be seen as kind of the road company version of Exorcist 1's original Broadway cast.
There was supposed to be a turning of the tables in part 1 of this series and part 3. Part 1 was about a little girl, Regan, who was possessed by a demon, and is confronted by the priest Miller, (father Karras), and who winds up performing an Exorcist on the girl to save her. In part 3 the Miller/Fr. Karras character is supposed to come back, having survived the jump from the Macneil's balcony, and is now possessed himself by Pazazu (apparently Pazazu can inhabit more than one person at a time, since he is also in Regan in part 2, so he obviously never left her body!). And in part 3 instead of Karras performing the exorcism, he is having the exorcism performed on him. (Although the actor playing the character in those scenes is played not by Miller but by Brad Dourif, his demonic alternate identity).
A stunt double named Elien Dietz played both Regan in certain scenes, as well as Pazazu. She played Regan in the vomiting scene, and she played Pazazu when we saw the white faced demon superimposed around the house, and when it popped up in the possession scene in the background. Although Dietz looks hideous in these scenes, she is actually a beautiful model in real life.
Audrey Hepburn was offered the role of Chris, but insisted they shoot her scenes in Rome because that is where she was living at the time, but Friedkin refused. Jane Fonda was offered the role, and an urban legend has her angrily calling back Friedkin and calling the script a "capitalist piece of shit". Fonda denies this, countering that she denied the producers politely. Shirley Maclaine, who was actually a good friend of William Peter Blatty and was the prototype and inspiration for the Chris character, (and her daughter Sacchi was the inspiration for Regan), was offered the role of Chris, and she too turned it down. She said she was uncomfortable with the "demonization and terrorization" of children in the script, but she was also very flattered that Blatty based her heroine on her. Ellen Burnstyn was the first actress who aggressively campaigned for the role, going so far as to call up Friedkin directly and tell him she "had to play this role". Her aggressiveness paid off and she won the role.
Ironically both Mercedes Mcambridge, who dubbed the voice of Regan in the possession scenes, and Jason Miller, the actor who played Fr. Karras, the priest who exorcised her, were hardcore alcoholics. Mcambridge deliberately started drinking again during the shoot, because she wanted her voice to have the coarseness which came out when she drank whiskey, and she wanted her performance to have an out of control quality which also came across when she drank. Miller stayed sober for Exorcist 1, but when he came back for Exorcist 3 he fell off the wagon, and Brad Dourif had to be hired to play his possession scenes since Miller could no longer function. (This is the real reason why there's two actors playing that character in this movie.)
Both Eileen Dietz and Mercedes Mcambridge, who both contributed to the Regan/Pazazu role; Mercedes Mcambridge providing Pazuzu's voice, and Eileen Dietz doing many of the stunts, including the vomiting scene, for the demon, said Friedkin tried to cover up their participation in the movie; trying to give Linda Blair sole credit; perhaps hoping this would bolster her chances in an Oscar bid; and get the movie one acting award. The plan backfired, for although Blair got a well deserved nomination, the mini scandal that ensued from the other two actresses participation wound up, in many people's minds, putting a bad taste in people's mouth, and might have wound up costing Blair the Oscar.
The little cabin in which William Peter Blatty wrote The Exorcist novel, used to belong to Angela Lansbury.
Father Merrin, played by Max Von Sydow was based on the real-life Jesuit paleontologist, geologist, and philosopher Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, to whom Sydow's character in old-age make-up bears a physical resemblance, and whose philosophical ideas are synopsized in Blatty's novel and its sequel. Fr. Teilhard was among the discoverers of the Peking Man fossils and his philosophical ideas, which were controversial within the Catholic Church and were even considered by some to be heretical, have been quoted approvingly by later Popes, including Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. In film, Fr. Teilhard was also the inspiration for the character of Fr. Jean Telemond, played by Oskar Werner in the 1968 film "The Shoes of the Fisherman", adapted from Morris West's novel and starring Anthony Quinn.
In a way; this movie can be seen as the flip side of OH GOD BOOK TWO. The Exorcist is a movie about a little girl overtaken by the Devil; or a demon; with the purpose to spread the word that Satan is gaining power; will be destroying the world soon; and to make people despair; etc. In Oh God Book Two the little girl is overtaken by the presence of God to spread his message of hope, to inspire people. In Oh God Book Two George Burns even says to the girl, Tracie, (Played by LuANNE), "I don't like to mess with kids. There are so many movies about kids going through so much trouble, having so much stuff happen to them... Terrible things. I figure kids have enough to worry about; I don't need to mess with them to spread my word." This is a direct reference to how the demon terrorizes Linda Blair in The Exorcist; and how the Oh God movies are a response to that; in a sense.
Linda Blair said in a recent interview that her spine was fractured in the "mother make it stop! it's burning! It's burning" scene where Regan's upper body is ricocheting up and down off the bed. The contraption that was supposed to lift her up and down broke loose, and her spine was permanently injured. Ironically, Ellen Burnstyn's back was also permanently injured in another scene. All of this plays into the "Exorcist Curse" mythology surrounding the movie.
Max Von Sydow's next big role after this was as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon.
Regan was a character from Norse mythology. He was described both as a diabolical and evil king, and also a magical dwarf skilled in the dark arts, in the Volsung Saga, which was kind of the Bible of the ancient Scandanavian religions. It's likely Blatty chose this name, both because of it's pagan and magical implications, as well as it's association with Regan, the evil, murderous daughter in Shakespeare's King Lear.
Weirdly enough, this is the movie that inspired Jaws. When Exorcist came out as a novel in 1971, and then was such a box office smash when they translated it to the screen in 1973; and since it told such a viscerally terrifying story; Benchley was inspired to create another horror sensation himself; viscerally terrifying everyone in a similar way. And, as a matter of fact; he did exactly that. After Exorcist became the highest grossing horror film in 1973; Jaws became the highest grossing horror film of 1975. They created back to back horror sensations of the 70s. Although ironically they are also two very different kinds of movies. Exorcist is an R rated movie strictly for adults; described by many as "pornographic"; one of the edgiest movies ever made; which really pushes the limits of a studio sanctioned, R rated and acceptable mainstream movie. And Jaws is a PG rated family friendly film. Both terrifying; both undeniably very effective; they are in fact two of the best movies ever made. But one works with mostly suggested shocks and gore; the other is trying to be explicitly as shocking as possible.
In the soundtrack liner notes for Sorcerer (1977), William Friedkin said had he heard the music of Tangerine Dream earlier, he would have had them score this film.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Goblin's tubular bell with a rock backdrop theme song to Suspiria (1977) owes more than a small debt to the "Exorcist" theme song.
Primarily in the infamous scene where Regans bed is shaking a Charlie Brown figure can be seen with a blue baseball cap sitting on Regans right bedside table, and can also be seen on one Lobby card that came in The Exorcist 25th anniversary Widescreen VHS box set that came out in 1998.
For a long time the critical community was saying this was the scariest movie ever made; then it was the Shining; now they've moved on to 1982's The Thing. Before the Exorcist it was Psycho and Jaws for awhile, it was also Night of the Living Dead for awhile, before that it it was the Fly and War of the Worlds, before that Frankenstein, Nosferatu, and Dracula.
Pamelyn Ferdin, a veteran of science fiction and supernatural drama, was a candidate for the role of Regan.
The only film that year to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress Oscars.
The movie does not resolve the murder investigation as far as Regan is concerned. She is still suspected for killing Burke Dennings. (She did in fact kill Burke Dennings). The fact that they (believe they) have exorcized Pazuzu; does not change that Regan's still in legal trouble, and neither the book nor the movie resolve this. (Using the "Devil Made Me Do It" defense would obviously not work in this case; it's not like other defendants have not tried to use this defense in the past for murder; and obviously that never works!) Amazingly Lt Kinderman does not seem to be worried that Chris and Regan are essentially fleeing the scene of the crime at the ending. He actually seems to be buying their version of the events; that Satan/Pazuzu took over Regan; made her act against her will; and now that he's gone she's off the hook. This is interesting because Karl Engstrom, Chris Macneil's caretaker, does not get the same consideration; in fact he is detained earlier in the film because they suspect him of killing Dennings.
Both Exorcist 2 The Heretic and Brainstorm feature scenes where Louise Lasser goes under hypnosis with a brain trancing device and winds up dying.
The mother in The Exorcist, Ellen Burnstyn, hesitated in performing an action stunt where her onscreen child was wounding her; she wound up telling Friedkin she would do the stunt where she was thrown across the room to the wall; but asked him not to have the production coordinator pull the rope she was tied to too hard. She wound up doing the stunt and getting wounded; infact she blames Friedkin for permanently wounding her spine, an injury she still struggles with today. (Friedkin never denied this; and infact the stunt coordinators concur in interviews they were pulling the rope as hard as possible, against her wishes). Because of this; and perhaps as a result of this; when a similar scene happens in Omen, where Kathy, the mother, played by Lee Remick, gets knocked off the balcony of her home by the malevolent bicycle riding Damien; Remick adamantly refused to do the stunt. Finally the director Richard Donner (who was less of a maniac than Friedkin) re-staged the stunt; so that Remick being pushed off the balcony was an optical illusion. Luckily this time no one was hurt.
The mother in The Exorcist, Ellen Burnstyn, hesitated in performing an action stunt where her onscreen child Regan was wounding her; she wound up telling Wiliam Friedkin the director she would do the stunt where she was thrown across the room to the wall; but asked him not to have the production coordinator pull the rope she was tied to too hard. She wound up doing the stunt and getting wounded; infact she blames Friedkin for permanently wounding her spine, an injury she still struggles with today. (Friedkin never denied this; and infact the stunt coordinators concur in interviews they were pulling the rope as hard as possible, against her wishes). Because of this; and perhaps as a result of this; when a similar scene happens in Omen, where Kathy, the mother, played by Lee Remick, gets knocked off the balcony of her home by the malevolent bicycle riding Damien; Remick adamantly refused to do the stunt. Finally the director Richard Donner (who was less of a maniac than Friedkin) re-staged the stunt; so that Remick being pushed off the balcony was an optical illusion. Luckily this time no one was hurt.
There are two Exorcist movies that have serial killers in them. In the original Exorcist one of the actors that played a medical assistant at the hospital where Regan was undergoing tests turned out to be a serial killer in real life! This is ironic because then part 3 has an actual serial killer character in the movie; Jason Miller's Karras, who survived after jumping out the Macneil's window at the end of part 1 , was still possessed by a demon himself, and his alternate identity, known as the Gemini Killer, was played by Brad Dourif, and was a serial killer. So life imitates art.
According to Christian doctrine, Father Karras could not have become possessed at the end of the movie because no demon or the devil can dwell where the Holy Spirit (God) is. In this case the priest was a saved child of God and therefore had the Holy Spirit within him.
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee of the year to be also nominated for Adapted Screenplay.
Kadrolsha Ona Carole created and produced the footage presented and buy by to Warner Brothers for the 40th Anniversary Edition of the exorcist on Blue ray DVD on the directors cut. Kadrolsha confirms Billy Graham there was a demon living in the celluloid reels. While putting the footage together for a paranormal presentation her computer from and crashed. Her assistant started to sweat slime and nearly had a heat attack. Her car went off the run on the way to the paranormal presentation.
In 2015, the Massachusetts-based wrestling promotion Beyond Wrestling's top heel faction was called Team Pazuzu.
The Exorcist is the opposite of the movie Insidious, with an evil female spirit inhabiting a male (Michelle possessing Josh Lambert).
It's amazing to consider that this was based on an alleged story of a boy being possessed; and William Peter Blatty was considering writing a story about a boy being possessed; and then changed the gender of the lead character to protect the innocent. This story would have been entirely different about a little boy being possessed; than a little girl being possessed; the entire nature of the story would have completely altered. (Since so much of the horror in the story plays on damsel in distress gender roles, and the horror of an older male character raping a young girl character. A male demon raping another male would not have had the same visceral punch.)
Regan is both the damsel in distress and the villain in this story. In a weird way she is victimizing herself throughout the movie.
One thing everybody misses: part of the story takes place during Halloween! At the beginning; when we see Chris walking home from the film shoot; she cross paths with a gang of young witches and goblins running up the street; trick or treating. Although Friedkin doesn't hit you over the head with it; this subtle but demonic Halloween imagery is meant to be prophetic.
William Peter Blatty: The writer of the novel can be seen in the film during the filming scene, standing next to Burke Dennings with a large moustache and wearing a moleskin jacket.