Here Are 20 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About The Exorcist

The Exorcist is one of the most famous supernatural horror films out there and I’m sure you’ve all seen it like a million times by now. But there are some hidden facts and anecdotes that have just recently been made public. So check out these 20 amazing facts of The Exorcist, and make sure you don’t miss #15, #10 and #8!

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#20. The Book

The movie was based on a book, which was in turn inspired by a real exorcism. The Exorcist, written by William Peter Blatty, was first published in 1971. The novel was based on the 1949 Maryland case of a teenage boy who was suffering from an inexplicable disease after playing with an Ouija board.

Photo: Courtesy of Tele Madrid

After witnessing obvious signs of demonic possession, the boy’s family sought help from a Jesuit institution. The first exorcism had to be stopped when the boy broke free from his constraints and hurt the priest. After 30 unsuccessful violent exorcisms, the boy went on to have a normal life.

#19. The Author

The original novel was a failure when initially published. Luckily, the author was invited as a last-minute guest on The Dick Cavett Show and turned things around. From that point, the book went on to hit the New York Times best-seller list.

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Believe it or not, the film’s screenplay was rejected by countless Hollywood studios. But once the book became a success, Warner Bros bought the rights to the film and Blatty accepted to produce the movie.

#18. The Demon´s Name

Ever noticed that the film never mentions the demon’s name? Nonetheless, we can figure it out. Father Merrin is shown standing in front of a statute in an archaeological site at the beginning of the movie, but at that moment he is actually in the ancient Nineveh.

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And the statute he is standing next to is no other than that of Pazuzu. Pazuzu is an ancient Assyrian and Babylonian demon. He was an evil force but he actually protected pregnant women and babies.

#17. Cursed

The Macneil house caught fire during the shoot. What’s strange is that even though the whole set was damaged, Regan’s room was left unharmed. Coincidence?

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The cast and crew actually believed the set was cursed so they had a priest come in and bless the place. After the film was released, people also claimed that the film was cursed and that it invited demonic possessions!

#16. The Priest´s arrival

The iconic scene where the priest steps out of the car and in front of the Macneil home was inspired by a series of three oil paintings.

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Empire of light by René Magritte depicts an intriguing and paradoxical image of a nighttime street lit by the interior lights of a house and surrounded by darkness

#15. Serial Killer

The film has a strange cameo, let’s see if you noticed it! A real-life serial killer and X-ray technician played the role of the radiologist’s assistant, the one who helps him when Regan is having a carotid angiography. Paul Bateson was arrested for homicide in 1979 after killing film critic Addison Verrill.

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Bateson boasted about killing many other men for fun and dumping their bodies in the Hudson River. He was suspected of being a serial killer that had targeted gay men in 1977 and 1978. However, none of this was ever proved, so he was sentenced to 20 years and was set free in 2004.

#14. Regan Macneil

The role of Regan Macneil was so difficult to cast that the director even considered auditioning adult dwarfs. In the end, Linda Blair defeated 500 other actresses and got the role.

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Denise Nickerson almost played Regan, but the actress from Willy Wonka was denied the role by her parent. They found the script to be so disturbing that they pulled her out of the auditions. We can’t blame them.

#13. The Cast

Did you know that Jane Fonda and Audrey Hepburn both turned down the role of Chris Macneil? Eventually, the part went to Ellen Burstyn, and we’re glad she took it!

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As regards the director, Stanley Kubrick was first approached by the studio, but he rejected the offer. Arthur Penn and Mike Nichols also rejected the film because they all thought they would never find a 12-year-old for the role of Regan!

#12. The Director

The director went to great lengths to get the cast to look frightened. In fact, some say the measures he took were very abusive. He even fired guns without warning behind the actors to scare them. Quite controversial, to say the least.

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Director William Friedkin once slapped Father O’Malley across the face to get footage of his shocked reaction, and it made it to the film. Also, Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair were put in harnesses and yanked violently for the film.

#11. Injuries

Ellen Burstyn permanently injured her spine during the shooting of the scene where Regan slaps her and throws her to the floor. In fact, the screams are actually genuine recordings of the scene.

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Linda Blair also suffered an injury while filming. During the shooting of one of the possession scenes, one of the riggings broke and injured her back.

#10. Freezing

The director wanted Regan’s room to be freezing to make the scenes look genuine. So when the actors’ breath steams, it’s because the room was ice-cold to achieve this effect.

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To get the chilling effect, the whole room was refrigerated -35 degrees. But the AC was too loud so they constantly had to shut it down to shoot, only to then turn it back on once the camera stopped rolling.

#9. Voice Actress

Mercedes McCambridge took her job of voicing the demon really seriously. To get that perfectly distorted voice, she went so far as to giving up her sobriety. She achieved the demon’s voice by chain-smoking cigarettes, drinking heavily and even eating raw eggs.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDB

She was also tied to a chair with torn sheets by her arms and ankles. She really wanted it to sound like a true victim possessed by a demon, and let’s give her some credit: she nailed it!

#8. Casting

The role of Father Merrin almost went to Marlon Brando, but the director thought his involvement would overshadow the film. Good call, cause that’s what probably would’ve happened.

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So instead, the part was played by Max von Sydow, who was only 43 years old at the time. He had to sit through 5 hours of makeup before shooting, how dull!

#7. Lawsuits

Eileen Dietz, Linda Blair´s double, sued Warner Bros because she didn’t appear in the credits. She played Regan in the vomiting scenes, which were actually very complex. The staff came up with a vomiting apparatus with a tiny hose that was placed in her face and mouth and she couldn’t close her mouth when she had it on!

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McCambridge, who was the voice of the demon, also faced a lot of hard work without credit. In the end, she also sued Warner Bros because they failed to credit her for her work!

#6. Priests

Here’s another fun fact you probably didn’t know. Father Dyer is played by William O’Malley, a real-life priest who also served as a technical advisor. What are the chances?

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Jason Miller, who played Father Karras, had actually studied to become a priest, but he dropped out. Did you know the part almost went to Jack Nicholson? He too would have overshadowed the rest of the crew, as he always does.

#5. Banned

The film was released with an X rating and later banned in the UK. Even the sale of the film was banned in 1988, under the Video Recordings Act. It took years until it was finally available in 1999.

Photo: Courtesy of Forbes

It was also banned in every Middle Eastern country, except Lebanon. I guess they were lucky, but just for a while. The re-release was banned in Lebanon too.

#4. Death Threats

Linda Blair received endless death threats from religious zealots that believed she was the voice and helper of Satan. So much so, that things got out of hand. She had two bodyguards hired by Warner Bros.

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Her bodyguards were with her 24 hours a day for six months. However, this didn’t make things better, as the death threats continued even after the movie was released. It was only after two years that these people left poor Linda alone!

#3. From Real Life

The women who appeared in the scene where Father Karras visits his mother were real mental patients in an institution. The director filmed part of the scene with hidden cameras.

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But do you know what’s even creepier? The sound in the scene when the demon leaves Regan’s body is a recording of pigs being led to the slaughter. And the sound you hear when Regan turns her head is actually an old leather wallet with some credit cards being twisted. They came up with this last idea on the spot!

#2. Deaths Among Cast Members

Jack MacGowan died from the flu after shooting the movie, while Vasiliki Maliaros died during post-production, from natural causes. What’s strange is that both of their characters died in the film, too!

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But this is not all! During shooting, Linda Blair’s grandfather and Max von Sydow’s brother died. Also, Mercedes McCambridge’s son murdered his wife and two daughters in 1987.

#1. The Public

A woman sued Warner Bros because she was so frightened while watching the movie that she passed out and broke her jaw. They later settled for an undisclosed amount.

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But other people suffered accidents while watching the movie too. Some people were so nauseous during some scenes that theatres started giving out bags to vomit together with the movie tickets.

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