The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, is a cinematic version of William Peter Blatty’s best-selling book of the same name, which was inspired by a real-life exorcism in 1949.
The Exorcist is a 1973 horror film that chronicles the tale of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, whose abnormally unpredictable and aggressive behavior causes anxiety.
Her mother, portrayed by Ellen Burnstyn, seeks medical help, and when that fails, she seeks the help of Father Damien Karras, played by Jason Miller, a Jesuit priest who verifies that Regan is possessed by an evil spirit. Karras begs the Catholic Church to execute an exorcism in order to liberate Regan from the hold of the demons.
Despite its controversial content, The Exorcist was a box office success, earning multiple awards, including Oscars for Best Sound and Best Screenplay, as well as four Golden Globe Awards. The supernatural horror film remains the second highest-earning R-rated horror film of all time.
Blair’s first big film role catapulted her to prominence with her terrifying performance. Blair began her modeling career as a child model, appearing in print advertising and TV commercials for brands such as Ivory Soap, Welch’s Grape Jelly, and Carefree Gum before the age of five.
Blair pondered quitting acting as a teen to pursue a job with animals.
But the lure of a leading role in The Exorcist was too much to bear.
Friedkin saw the newbie as the right match throughout the audition process and chose her above hundreds of others to portray Regan.
Despite the fact that it was her first big part, Blair was never coddled and was made to execute physically hard and frequently dangerous jobs.
Individuals were obliged to play demanding roles in the 1970s, when special effects were not powered by technology, leaving them exposed to injury and sickness.
When a possessed Father Karras falls down the iconic steep stairs to his death in the exorcism sequence, a stunt guy really flung himself down the 97-steps that are depicted at the conclusion of the film.
Blair didn’t have to throw herself down any steps, but the straps that held her to the bed, where she was thrashed around, dug into her back, and her bedroom, which was built on wheels and allowed the room to shake, was kept at a temperature of 30 degrees below zero so the cameras could pick up the cloud of ice when an actor breathed.
Blair was dressed in a nightgown, while the rest of the team was dressed correctly.
Everyone on the set was aware of the difficulties.
The Exorcist set seemed cursed, with a long record of disasters and fatalities associated with production.
The guy who made Blair’s head spin, special effects creator Marcel Vercoutere, claimed in the book “The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist” that there was certainly a feeling something bad could happen. He felt like he was messing with something he shouldn’t be messing with.
One of the strangest incidences occurred when a bird flew into a lightbox, igniting a big fire that destroyed the whole set where Regan’s exorcism was to take place. Six weeks of production were lost while the set was renovated.
Friedkin requested technical advisor Thomas Bermingham—a Jesuit priest who advised Blatty on his book—to exorcise the set the day before the fire. He blessed the whole cast and crew instead, stating that there was insufficient proof to execute a true exorcism.
Production was nevertheless plagued by catastrophe. In the film, Jack MacGowran, who portrayed Regan’s first victim, Burke Dennings, died of influenza. Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Father Karras’ mother, died before the film was released. The fact that both of their characters die in The Exorcist is quite frightening.
Other performers lost family members, including Blair, whose grandpa died on set.
During the course of the film’s production, nine people perished.
Blair, who was too young to completely comprehend the concept’s complexities and sensitivity, was unfazed by the unexplained circumstances surrounding the film’s production.
She stated that The Exorcist was a work of fiction. She had no idea it dealt with anything real at the time.
While Blair’s premise was fictitious, the theological overtones were very genuine to some spectators, and Blair became the focus of some who thought the film was to blame for their religious crises.
She was even accused of worshipping Satan by portraying Regan and was threatened with death.
Speaking to the press was also intimidating for the 14-year-old, who was pelted with questions from curious journalists searching for her thoughts on the film’s premise at press conferences. The amount of pressure that came down on her wasn’t anything she was prepared for, Blair said, particularly with all of the press pressure on her. They assumed she knew all there was to know about religion and Catholicism. It was most likely the worst thing one could imagine.
Her performance as Regan, which she repeated in 1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, haunted Blair, who struggled to find parts that didn’t portray her as a weak, hapless child.
She starred as a young girl fleeing her terrible home in the 1974 TV drama Born Innocent and as the protagonist in Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic a year later.
She appeared naked in the October 1982 edition of Oui magazine, determined to change industry attitudes—a decision that backfired, sending her career plummeting into exploitation-type jobs.
Before The Exorcist, she formed the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of mistreated and neglected animals.
Despite her activism efforts and animal protection efforts, the part she performed five decades ago continues to cast a gloomy shadow over her life.
What’s extremely disappointing at times is the media’s inability to look at what she is trying to do, Blair expressed. She is sorry, but not angry with them.
We can all agree that “The Exorcist” is one of the scariest films of all time. Even though it was shot in the 1970s, it still stands up. We’d love to hear your opinions if you’ve viewed the film!