The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror movie adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name, directed by William Friedkin, and starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller. The book, inspired by the 1949, exorcism of Roland Doe, follows the demonic possession of a 12 year old girl and her mother’s attempts to win her back through an exorcism conducted by two priests. Take a look below for 30 more scary and interesting facts about The Exorcist.
1. The movie experienced a troubled production, even in the beginning, as several prestigious film directors including Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Penn turned it down.
2. Incidents such as the son of one of the main actors being hit by a motorbike and hospitalized attracted claims that the set was cursed.
3. The Exorcist was initially booked in only 26 theaters across the United States, although it soon became a major commercial success.
4. The movie earned 10 Academy Award nominations, winning Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay.
5. It became one of the highest grossing movies in history, grossing over $441 worldwide in the aftermath of various re-releases, and was the first horror movie to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
6. The Exorcist has been named the scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly in 1999, Movies.com in 2010, viewers of AMC in 2006, and the editors of Time Out in 2014.
7. Father Dyer is played by William O’Malley, an actual priest who until 2012 taught at Fordham Prep, a Jesuit high school.
8. 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’s an actor, and that he didn’t need a gun to act surprised or startled.
9. 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 if genuine, and Miller admitted in an interview that he was very angered by this mistake.
10. Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots who believed the movie glorified Satan, Warner Bros. had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the movie’s release.
11. On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair’s delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue disturbed Max von Sydow so much that he actually forgot his lines.
12. When the movie was released in theaters, it affected many audiences so strongly that paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics.
13. The bedroom set had to be refrigerated to capture the authentic icy breath of the actors in the exorcising scene. Linda Blair, who was only in a flimsy nightgown, says to this day that she can’t stand being cold.
14. The Exorcist is Warner Brothers’ highest grossing movie of all time when adjusted for inflation.
15. 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.”
16. Jack Nicholson was up for the part of Father Karras, before Jason Miller landed the role. William Friedkin thought that he was too unholy to ever play a priest.
17. 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.
18. The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Father Merrin. William Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating that with Brando in the movie, it would become a Brando movie instead of the important movie he wanted to make.
19. According to William Friedkin, the subliminal shots of the white faced demon are actually rejected makeup tests for Regan’s possessed appearance.
20. The Exorcists received an 18 certification in Israel and was shown in Lebanon but banned in the rest of the Middle East. Lebanon banned the movie when it was re-released.
21. 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 line.
22. Director William Friedkin eventually asked technical advisor Thomas Bermingham to exorcise the set. He refused, saying an exorcism might increase anxiety. Reverend Bermingham wound up visiting the set and gave a blessing and talk to reassure the cast and crew.
23. 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.
24. Producers sought to have Jamie Lee Curtis audition for the role of Regan MacNeil but her mother Janet Leigh refused.
25. The archaeological dig site seen at the beginning of the movie is the actual site of ancient Nineveh in Hatra, Iraq.
26. 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.
27. Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury during filming. In the sequence where she’s thrown away from her possessed daughter, a harness jerked her hard away from the bed. She fell on her coccyx and screamed in pain.
28. William O’Malley refers to The Exorcist to students as the “pornographic horror movie” he once did.
29. Mercedes McCambridge regurgitated on a mixture of chewed, mushy apple and raw egg to produce the sound effect of Regan’s projectile vomiting.
30. According to William Peter Blatty, Warner Brothers wanted to change the title of the movie after taking a survey which found that none of the participants knew what an exorcist was.