The viewers were totally terrified when Linda Blair played Regan MacNeil, who was possessed by a demon, in the scary movie The Exorcist when she was only 13. After her award-winning performance left her feeling like her head was spinning, Blair stepped out of the spotlight.
Along with its religious theme, which shook the church, The Exorcist‘s horrifying storyline, which was emphasized by bone-chilling images of demons, also shook the cast and crew, who were hurt and killed even though a Jesuit priest had prayed for them.
The Exorcist is a movie based on the best-selling book of the same name by William Peter Blatty. The story was inspired by a real exorcism that happened in 1949. The movie is directed by William Friedkin.
The 1973 horror movie The Exorcist is about a 12-year-old boy named Regan MacNeil, whose strange and violent behavior makes people worry.
Her mother, played by Ellen Burnstyn, goes to the doctor, but when that doesn’t work, she goes to Father Damien Karras, played by Jason Miller, a Jesuit priest, who confirms that Regan is being possessed by a bad spirit. Karras asks the Catholic Church to do an exorcism on Regan so that the demons will let her go.
Even though the movie had some controversial parts, it was a big hit at the box office and won many awards, including Oscars for Best Sound and Best Screenplay and four Golden Globes. It is still the second-highest-earning R-rated horror movie of all time.
It was Linda Blair’s first major role in a movie, and her creepy performance made her a star. Linda Blair began her career as a child model. By the time she was five, she had already done ads for Ivory Soap, Welch’s Grape Jelly, and Carefree Gum, among others.
As a young teenager, Linda Blair thought about giving up acting to work with animals.
But the chance to be the main character in The Exorcist was too hard to pass up.
Friedkin knew right away that the newcomer was the best choice for the part. He chose her over thousands of other people to play Regan.
Even though it was Linda Blair’s first big role, she was not coddled and had to do hard, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous physical work.
In the 1970s, when movies were made, special effects weren’t powered by technology, so people had to play hard roles that put them at risk of getting hurt or sick.
In the scene of the exorcism, when Father Karras is possessed and falls down the famously steep steps to his death, a stuntman actually threw himself down the 97 steps at the end of the movie.
Linda Blair didn’t have to throw herself down any steps, but the straps that held her to the bed while she was tossed around hurt her back. Also, her bedroom, which was built on wheels so it could shake, was kept at 30 degrees below zero so the cameras could pick up the cloud of ice when an actor breathed.
While everyone else was dressed properly, Linda Blair was only wearing a nightgown.
Everyone on the set felt the challenges.
There were a lot of accidents and deaths on the set of The Exorcist, making it seem like it was cursed.
In the book “The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist,” Marcel Vercoutere, who did the special effects that made Linda Blair’s head spin, says,
There was definitely a feeling it (something bad) could happen. I felt I was playing around with something I shouldn’t be playing around with.
One of the strangest things that happened was that a bird flew into a lightbox, which started a huge fire that burned down the whole set where Regan’s exorcism was supposed to happen. Six weeks were lost while the set was being rebuilt.
The day before the fire, Friedkin asked his technical advisor, a Jesuit priest named Thomas Bermingham, who had helped Blatty with his book, to exorcise the set. He said there wasn’t enough proof to do a real exorcism, so he blessed the whole cast and crew instead.
Even so, bad things kept happening in production. In the movie, Jack MacGowran played Regan’s first victim, Burke Dennings. He died of the flu. The actress who played Father Karras’s mother, Vasiliki Maliaros, also died before the movie came out. What’s really scary is that in The Exorcist, both of their characters die.
Other actors lost family members, like Linda Blair, whose grandfather died while the movie was being made.
During the making of the movie, nine people who were associated with it passed away.
Linda Blair was too young to fully understand how hard and sensitive the idea was, so the strange things that happened during the making of the movie didn’t bother her.
The Exorcist was a work of fiction. I didn’t realize then that it dealt with anything in reality.
Even though Blair thought the idea was made up, the religious themes were very real to some people who saw the movie, and they blamed Blair for their religious crises.
She was even told that playing Regan made Satan look good, and she was threatened with death.
The 14-year-old also found it scary to talk to the press. During press conferences, she was asked a lot of questions by reporters who wanted to know what she thought about the movie’s idea. As Blair told Dread Central,
The amount of pressure that came down on me wasn’t anything I was prepared for. Especially all the pressure the press put on me. They thought I had all the answers about faith and Catholicism. … It was probably the most awful thing you could imagine.
Linda Blair’s role as Regan, which she played again in Exorcist II: The Heretic in 1977, continued to haunt her. She had a hard time finding roles that didn’t make her look like a helpless girl.
She played a young girl who ran away from her abusive family in the 1974 TV show Born Innocent. The next year, she was the main character in the film Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.
In an attempt to change how the industry saw her, she appeared naked in the October 1982 issue of Oui magazine. This backfired, sending her career into roles that were more like exploitation.
She went back to what she was passionate about before The Exorcist and started the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, a non-profit group that helps abused and neglected animals.
Even though she works as an activist and speaks up for animals, the role she played 50 years ago still haunts her.
Blair told The Sydney Morning Herald,
What’s very discouraging at times is the inability (of the media) to look at what I’m trying to do…I’m sad, but I’m not mad at them.
We at Hiptoro agree that The Exorcist is one of the scariest films ever made. Even though it was made in the 1970s, it’s still a good movie. We’d love to know your thoughts about the movie if you have watched it.