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Think about any film genre – comedy, adventure, romance, science fiction, etc. At the head of each of these genres will be one film that most people will agree is a game changer for that category. Such is the case with William Friedkin’s ‘The Exorcist’ (1973). In its day, the movie was as controversial as it was terrifying. Due to the groundbreaking nature of this film and the hysteria around its release, The Exorcist has become a part of pop culture. Movies, books and now a TV series have all arisen from this 45-year old film. This has led us all to believe that we are familiar with William Friedkin’s controversial movie. But how much do you really know about ‘The Exorcist’? We’ve unearthed these fascinating facts about the movie.
- The movie is based on a true story: As hard as it may be to believe, the movie is based on a real life event. William Peter Blatty based a novel on events surrounding the supposed possession of a 13-year-boy. The event occurred in 1949 and was the subject of numerous newspaper reports.
- The Exorcist ‘curse’: Two actors in the movie – Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros – died during post-production. Moreover, their characters also died in the movie. All told, nine people associated with the movie died during or immediately after the movie’s making.
- When pigs squeal: The odd sounds emanating from actress Linda Blair are actually pig noises. The sound director remixed the sound of pigs being led to slaughter for Regan’s moans, grunts etc.
- Crisis of faith: Jason Miller, the actor who played Father Damien Karras – had once studied to become a priest. Ironically, he dropped out of American University in Washington due to a loss of faith similar to his character.
- Cold storage: Director William Friedkin wanted the audience to be able to see the actors’ breath as they breathed. To achieve this, he set up four powerful air conditioners to bring a chill to Regan’s bedroom. The actors struggled to keep warm between takes.
- Death threats: Thirteen-year-old Linda Blair was the victim of death threats from religious zealots. So worried for Blair’s safety was Warner Bros, that it hired bodyguards to protect her upon the film’s release.
- Sets ablaze: The set for the MacNeil house caught fire during the shoot. This caused delays in filming. However, the set that served as Regan’s room went completely undamaged by the fire.
- Banned: Released in the UK in 1974, The Exorcist received an X rating there. Eventually, several local authorities banned the movie altogether. The movie was not available for viewing in the UK again until 1998.
- Awards and accolades: The Exorcist is the first horror film to be nominated for a Best Picture award. Altogether, the movie received 10 Academy Award nominations. It took home awards for Best Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing. Moreover, the film ranks #1 in IMDb’s best Horror movies of all time list.
- Murder afoot: In 1979, actor Paul Bateson – who appeared as an x-ray tech in the movie – was convicted of the murder of Adisson Verrill. Authorities also believe that Bateson may have killed six other men in what is known as “the bag murders.” (During this time, the mutilated bodies of several men were found in plastic bags along the Hudson River.)
Yes, 45-years later the ‘The Exorcist’ continues to shock and even outrage some viewers. The movie was far ahead of its time even overshadowing and outdoing Roman Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. However, as we have shown, the facts surrounding its production and release are just as fascinating as the real life events that inspired the film.