A movie that left viewers gasping for breath. A series that has resonated deeply with horror enthusiasts across the globe. You think you’re well-versed with “The Exorcist”? Dive into these 14 chilling truths that might just make your spine tingle.
What you need to know about “The Exorcist”
Without a doubt, “The Exorcist” stands tall in the pantheon of horror masterpieces. Debuting in 1973, it struck a haunting chord with audiences. Whispered tales spoke of viewers passing out during showings, yet that’s merely scratching the surface. Whispers about a cursed set and startling methods, like unexpectedly shooting a gun to unnerve actors, were rampant. And there’s more where that came from.
“The Exorcist: Confessor” is currently in cinemas, it’s intriguing to look back at the mysterious roots of a series that has spellbound horror enthusiasts everywhere. Here are 15 uncanny and little-known tidbits about “The Exorcist” you may have missed.
Fascinating and terrifying facts about “The Exorcist” that you’ve never heard of
- William Friedkin, the man behind the camera, is said to have unpredictably shot firearms on set to elicit real fear from the cast. Jason Miller recounted in a chat with Film Buff Online that the director was unpredictable and lacked understanding and respect for his actors.
- Friedkin aimed to visualize the actors’ breaths on screen. As disclosed in “Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist,” they used four gigantic air coolers overnight in Regan’s room. This rendered the room bitterly cold, a challenge especially for Linda Blair in her nightdress. The crew had to hustle as the lights and crew warmed the room.
- During production, the MacNeil residence set ignited when a bird met an electrical mishap, leading to a delay. Oddly, Regan’s room, the main site of the exorcism scenes, stayed impeccable.
- As hinted earlier, Friedkin employed unusual tactics. In a particular scene, unsatisfied with William O’Malley’s act, he slapped him post a brief conversation and then cued “action”. That take found its way into the film.
- Multiple cast and crew met their untimely demise either while working on “The Exorcist” or shortly thereafter. Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros were among them. Ellen Burstyn, in “The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist”, stated that there were up to nine such instances.
- The film employed an array of practical effects. But one led to a grievous accident. Ellen Burstyn got thrown back in a contentious sequence, and due to equipment failure, sustained a lifelong back injury. The agony she portrayed on screen was real.
The narrative draws from William Peter Blatty’s novel “The Exorcist”, which took cues from an actual exorcism event.
- Mercedes McCambridge went above and beyond to attain a demonic timbre, resorting to smoking, ingesting raw eggs, and alcohol. The latter was even more startling given her past struggles with addiction.
- Friedkin recalled how, after harrowing scenes, she often found consolation with the clergy on set.
- Contrary to assumptions, the Church wasn’t necessarily against such a movie. Father Dyer’s character was enacted by a real priest, and many in the religious community had no qualms about it, citing exorcism’s biblical references. Some even told Friedkin that the movie resulted in more people pursuing religious vocations.
- Finding the right young talent for Regan seemed impossible to Friedkin. After rejecting close to 2000 aspirants, Linda Blair stepped in. Her candidness about the book’s graphic scenes convinced him of her suitability.
- While Linda Blair’s Oscar nod at 15 for Best Supporting Actress was commendable, she faced backlash too. Some perceived her role as promoting dark forces, leading to several threats to her life. Warner Bros. even assigned personal guards for her for half a year.
- Per Dick Smith, renowned makeup artist, authentic images of burn and gangrene sufferers inspired Regan’s unsettling makeup.
- Rumors floated that “The Exorcist” location was plagued by spirits. The team even approached Jesuit priest Thomas Bermingham, who was assisting with the movie, for an exorcism. He chose to offer a cast blessing instead.