Frequently hailed as the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist has been the golden standard of horror since its release way back in 1973. With the iconic film’s 45th anniversary being celebrated on December 26th, we’re digging beneath the surface of this horrifying classic to bring you ten facts about the production that may have eluded you for four-and-a-half decades.
The power of facts compels you!
10. The Fear of God
It goes without saying that a cultural phenomenon such as The Exorcist would eventually earn documentary attention, and for the film’s 25th anniversary in 1998, it did just that. The Fear of God serves as a behind-the-scenes look at the film, loaded with facts that are both interesting and terrifying in their own right. A 35-minute version of the documentary appeared on VHS releases that coincided with the 25th anniversary, unless you purchased the widescreen edition, which came with a version that was an hour long. You can now find the full, 74-minute version of The Fear of God on DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Exorcist.
9. It Was Cursed (No, Really)
The Exorcist being a cursed production is a myth that has been tossed around for more than forty years, but not many fans buy into it. However, perhaps they should. That curse is mentioned throughout the aforementioned Fear of God documentary, stating that nine people died mysteriously during or shortly after The Exorcist finished filming. These deaths include Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros, both of whom played characters that died in the film. Spooky, isn’t it?
8. William Friedkin’s Gun
William Friedkin has directed many stellar films, but his methods as a filmmaker may be a little… unorthodox. To elicit the look of terror from the actors during their scenes, Friedkin would fire a gun without warning so that he could catch their natural reaction. Jason Miller, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Father Karras in the film, took issue with this, stating that he did not need artificial stimulants to do his job as an actor.
7. The Set Caught On Fire
Filming of The Exorcist was temporarily delayed when a pigeon flew into a circuit box and started an electrical fire. The set for the interior of the MacNeil house was severely damaged, but eerily, Regan’s room was completely unharmed. Could the curse be to blame? (The obvious answer is “yes”)
6. Mercedes McCambridge’s Voice Routine
While young Linda Blair physically played Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist, it was Mercedes McCambridge who actually voiced the possessed girl. Though she had been sober following her heavier drinking days, McCambridge drank heavily, chain-smoked, and swallowed raw eggs to achieve the iconic voice that we hear in the film. That’s dedication.
5. Father Dyer Was A Real Priest
Well, not exactly. The actor who PLAYED Father Dyer was, however. Reverend William O’Malley was a real Jesuit priest, which also led to work as the technical advisor for the film. O’Malley has since written nearly 40 books, and been a teacher of Theology and A.P. English.
4. William Friedkin Slapped Father O’Malley
To piggyback on the earlier fact about William Friedkin’s wild film-making antics, he actually assaulted William O’Malley to attain the proper response for the last rites scene. O’Malley, who wasn’t really an actor, couldn’t quite nail the scene, so Friedkin pulled him aside and slapped him across the face. Father Dyer’s hand is shaking during the scene, which is a direct result from the adrenaline of being hit.
3. Regan’s Room Was Refrigerated
It’s suggested throughout the movie that Regan’s room is freezing, and to get that point across, William Friedkin wanted audiences to see the breath of the characters. To achieve this, Friedkin had four massive air conditioners running throughout the night, which would cause the temperature to drop to -30 degrees!
2. The Exorcist Was The First Horror Film Nominated For Best Picture
This may be a more popular fact among film buffs, but it’s nevertheless impressive. The Exorcist garnered many nominations during awards season following its release, but none are more special or iconic as the film becoming the first-ever horror flick to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. When you consider just how many horror movies existed before The Exorcist, and how few have earned the same nomination since, it really puts the success of the film in perspective.
1. One Of The Most Iconic Scenes Wasn’t In The Original Release Of The Film
There are many standout scenes in The Exorcist, but one of the most iconic moments wasn’t even featured in the original release of the film. The “spider walk” scene, in which Regan terrifyingly crawls down the stairs like a spider, was cut from the original version because the wires that were used to achieve the effect could be seen. The wires were digitally removed and the scene was restored for the release of The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen, thankfully.
Do you have any personal favorite facts about The Exorcist that you’d like to share with us for the film’s anniversary? Do you believe in the curse? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook.