In 1973, William Friedkin brought us the William Blatty’s novel, THE EXORCIST, to the theaters and shocked us all.
The story of a young girl possessed by a demon, THE EXORCIST instilled terror in audiences. Taking on the subject of demonic possession and a very controversial Catholic ritual was sure to turn a few heads.
1- It is based off a real life event. William Blatty wrote his 1971 novel THE EXORCIST based on the real life exorcism of a boy known through the pseudonym as Roland Doe. Catholic Priests at Georgetown University Hospital performed the real life exorcism, but had to stop when the boy managed to get free from his restraints, pull a bed spring out of his mattress, and slash one of the priest’s arms. When Blatty wrote the novel, Roland’s family requested the character be changed to a girl in order to protect the boy’s identity. Roland went on to live a normal life with no memory of the incident retiring decades later from NASA.
2- Many believed that the actual film was cursed and that playing it through a projector was an invitation for demonic possession. Televangelist Billy Graham stated, “There is a power of evil in the film, in the fabric of the film itself.” When it was first released the film was banned in every Middle Eastern country but Lebanon (the re-releasewas banned in Lebanon).
During the Roman premiere, audiences had to fight their way through a torrential downpour accompanied by thunder and lightening, in order to get in to the theater. Many inside claimed to hear a horrific, almost demonic cry, coming from outside once the film started rolling.
At one showing, a woman was so frightened she passed out in the theater and broke her jaw when she fell. She later sued the filmmakers suggesting that subliminal messages caused the accident. Warner Brothers settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
3- During filming, actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Reagan’s mother, was actually injured when the possessed Reagan throws her to the ground. The take was actually used in the film, and the blood-curdling scream she lets out is completely genuine. The injury still bothers her to this day.
4- Chances are good that any film that takes over a year to complete will be associated with bad incidences, but THE EXORCIST has a few deaths. Actors Jack MacGowran, and Vasiliki Maliaros both died while the film was in post-production. What makes their deaths strange is that their characters died in the film as well. Other deaths that occurred during the filming of THE EXORCIST include Linda Blair’s grandfather and Max Von Sydow’s brother, who died on Max’s first day of shooting.
Also while filming, the son of Jason Miller who played Father Damien Karras, was nearly killed when a motorcycle hit him.
5- While filming one of the possession scenes, Linda was thrown out of bed when a piece of rigging broke, causing her to injure her back. Additionally, after the film’s release, Linda received so many death threats that the studio had to hire bodyguards to escort her for the next six month.
6- In 1987, actress Mercedes McCambridge, who played the demonic voice of Pazuzu, was the victim of a horrific tragedy when her son murdered his wife and children before taking his own life.
7- Shooting was delayed after the set caught fire destroying what was supposed to be the MacNeil’s home. Director William Friedkin, blamed the incident on a winged creature with talons- it seemed a pigeon had found it’s way into one of the circuit boxes which caused the fire. However, the fact that Regan’s room was unharmed by the fire is still pretty creepy.