William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece The Exorcist was released over 40 years ago at the time of this article being written. To be a little more precise, 43 years ago. How insane is that? Pretty insane if you ask me. Look, everyone knows that it’s one of the scariest movies of all time…and in my opinion, the scariest. But there’s a lot more to know about the film besides how scary it is. Let’s take a look at 15 facts about The Exorcist that you may not have known about.
And while they may not all be frightening…well, it just makes for a good article title. Lay off me!
1. Before Max von Sydow was a random old dude in Star Wars for all of five seconds, he played Father Merrin in The Exorcist. Duh. Everyone knows that. But did you know that on the first day in which Linda Blair as Regan started filming the scenes where she started spewing expletives left and right, Max von Sydow was so taken back by it that he forgot all of his lines? I suppose hearing those things come out of cute little Blair’s mouth would be hard for anyone to stomach…especially in the early ’70s.
2. Originally, Jamie Lee Curtis was first pick to play Regan. Unfortunately, she’d have to wait until Halloween to get her big break; her mother, Janet Leigh, who starred in Alred Hitchcock’s Psycho refused to let her do it. Personally, I’m thankful for that. The entire cosmos of the horror genre would have shifted! Would she still have been willing to play in a small little film such as Halloween? I don’t know! I don’t want to think about it! Shut up, go away! My head hurts now!
3. You probably know by now that the vomit used in the film was pea soup. Anderson’s Pea Soup, specifically. Campbell’s just didn’t look good enough. Poor Linda Blair though ironically hated vegetables and the pea soup almost made her vomit regardless. Ew.
4. Al Pacino was considered for the role of Father Karras. Scarface as Father Karras…hmm. Weird. There were a number of different men in the running for Karras, but for Merrin, Friedkin had always intended on using von Sydow. Alan Alda was also approached for a role in the movie but turned it down. Apparently, he didn’t like the book. Boo!
5. That terrifying demon face that just flashes for a matter of seconds in the movie? Yeah, that was a woman. Her name was Eileen Dietz. She starred in shows like General Hospital. I guess almost everybody is just down with Satan!
6. And speaking of that demon’s face, those shots are actually rejected makeup tests that were to be used on Regan when she became possessed. That would’ve been weird.
7. William Peter Blatty once won $10,000 on a game show called You Bet Your Life. He told the show hosts that he’d use this money to take time off and write a book. The book he eventually wrote was called Fifty Shades of Gray. Wait, no, sorry, it was The Exorcist. My bad.
8. “Wait,” you may ask, “How the hell was Max von Sydow in The Force Awakens? He was so old in The Exorcist. How is that possible?” Well, the answer is simple. He was not old during the filming of The Exorcist. In fact, he was only 44-years-old; they used makeup to have him appear as a 74-year-old. In one scene while Regan is possessed in full makeup, von Sydow was actually wearing more makeup than Linda Blair.
9. The original trailer was deemed too frightening and was therefore banned from theaters. You can see that trailer here. Holy shit, that trailer is unsettling.
10. The shot of von Sydow walking out of the taxi cab and looking up the house was used on movie posters, home media releases, and all sorts of merchandise. The look of that scene was inspired by not another movie, but a series of paintings in 1954 called “Empire of Lights”.
11. The scene where Regan vomits all over Karras was not meant to be so exaggerated; the vomit was supposed to hit Karras in the chest only. However, the gag encountered a problem when the tubing that shot the pea soup fired incorrectly and exploded everywhere, prompting a very real reaction from Jason Miller, who played Karras. While it worked wonders for the film, it caused Miller to become incredibly angry. Hey…art is pain, is it not?
12. The spider-walking scene was cut due to the fact that the wires which helped make the scene possible were all-too-visible in the shot. Friedkin must have had some conversations with George Lucas because he was able to use CGI to take the wires out and include it on the re-release.
13. The theme of the music actually has a name and was not composed specifically for the movie. Mike Oldfield wrote the song “Tubular Bells” for his debut album of the same name. Friedkin used the opening piano piece for the theme. Oldfield, at the time, was using heavy amounts of LSD and in an interview with The Guardian has stated that “we probably wouldn’t have Tubular Bells…without drugs.” Far out, man.
14. The film’s production was supposedly cursed; it took nearly a year to film, and throughout that year nine people died including two actors, Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros. Max von Sydow’s brother died on the first day of shooting. Mysterious fires broke out on set during one weekend. Numerous people were injured by the gags, including Linda Blair. Numerous people quit. Basically, if you thought watching the movie was scary, you should have tried making the movie.
15. Funnily enough, during the entire production of the film, studio executives would come on set and shake their heads at the film in disgust, claiming that the film was nonsense. Yeah, nonsense alright; if you take inflation into account, The Exorcist would be the highest-grossing rated R film of all time. Shake your heads at that, jerks.