Trivia / The Exorcist

The Exorcist (novel)
  • Background Music: Fans of Greek rebetika music love the scene where Fr. Karras visits his mom. True to the book, she's got the radio on, tuned to a Greek-language station (possibly WNYE). As Karras comes in, we hear Rita Sakellariou's "Istoria Mou, Amartia Mou" (My Story, My Sin). Later as he leaves his mother sleeping in her chair, the radio is still playing softly, Yannis Kalartsis' "Paramythaki Mou" (My Tale). The lyrics to this one are by Lefteris Papadopoulos, an award-winning journalist as well as composer, who requested compensation some years later as he was destitute.
  • Shown Their Work: Boy howdy. William Blatty dug really deep, finding literature about supposed epidemics of possession in the past as well as writings pro and con Psychic Powers and evidence for and against supernatural occurrence. He based much of the details on the legend of the "Devils of Loudon", where nuns lifted up their skirts and yelled "Fuck me!", and a priest who did exorcisms was said to have become possessed himself. The exorcisms at Loudon were a public spectacle, held in the town square! The stories told by Mary, the Jeane Dixon Expy at Chris' party are all real. The medium who faked out the French empress was D.D. Home; the Bavarian family who tried to burn all their worldly goodsnote  are mentioned in Montague Summers' Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology which is probably the book Mary lends Chris. The tale Fr. Karras tells Kinderman about the man who was convinced he was a werewolf is also true. However, that last one was mostly made up by the Church to rationalize the brutal torture and execution of a man and his daughter for becoming Protestants. Loudon had similar political motivations.
  • Write What You Know: Chris MacNeil is based on William Peter Blatty's friend Shirley MacLaine, and her marital situation on MacLaine's then-husband having left for Europe determined to not live in his wife's shadow. What's weird, is that nobody even cares to try and contact him because of his daughter's worsening health to the risk of DEATH. This caused Sachiko MacLaine a bit of trouble, as numerous people had heard Blatty had based Chris on Shirley and assumed that Sachiko had been sick or possessed. Shirley is pretty sure that the original cover photo on the first edition of the book is Sachiko, although officially it's the daughter of Blatty's editor.

The Exorcist Film Series in General
  • I Am Not Spock: Linda Blair. Of course, this inevitably leads to a case of I Am Not Leonard Nimoy.
  • The Production Curse: All the films in the series have been dogged by bad luck, misfortune, accident, illness, injury and death beyond what appears to be the bounds of the statistically normal (although the deaths of two of the actors weren't that unusual).
  • Referenced by...: On the Cooking Show (yes, you read that correctly) Good Eats, a child psychologist is unable to get a child named Stevie to finish his peas. (Stevie has been sitting at the table for days, because his parents told him that he couldn't leave until he finished them.) Alton is called in (complete with a "Tubular Bells"-like rendition of the show's theme song) to help out, and shows Stevie that peas can be delicious if properly prepared (which his parents have failed to do, because the only way they know how to cook them is to boil the living heck out of them, just as their parents did before them). Alton makes split-pea soup, a burger made of pressed split-pea paste, and a pea salad with cheese cubes. Stevie expresses his approval by turning his head 180 degrees. (His parents don't find this unusual.)
    • Also, the theme music for Death Note's L Lawliet sounds an awful lot like "Tubular Bells".

The Exorcist (film)
  • Actor-Inspired Element: Ellen Burstyn wore a bracelet in the film with a horseshoe on it, because she had the idea that she wanted her character to be "poorly armed" to fight the devil.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Award Category Fraud: Oddly, Jason Miller, the actor with the most face time, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: "Your Mother Sucks Cocks In Hell!" But in truth, the actual quote didn't end there with exclamation. The full quote is "Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime!"
  • Billing Displacement: Max von Sydow only appears in the movie during the prologue and the last twenty minutes, but is billed second, despite Jason Miller and Linda Blair's characters being the main focus of the film. The reason for this error is likely because von Sydow was already well known, and Miller and Blair were screen newcomers.
  • Cast the Expert: Father Dyer is played by William O'Malley, an actual priest who until 2012 taught at Fordham Prep, a Jesuit high school.
  • Deleted Scene: Several scenes were filmed that William Friedkin would have loved to include in the movie, such as a scene showing Chris and Regan actually visiting some historic landmarks (as Chris suggests they should do in the movie). However, the soundtrack for the scene had gone missing. Another scene showed a possessed Regan slithering over the floor and upsetting several house guests by making obscene gestures with her tongue. The original negative of the scene got lost, and Friedkin refused to use a qualitatively inferior workprint he had of the scene instead.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Many times. The director was kind of a wingnut about that.
    • Special mention must go to the shot where Ellen Burstyn is "thrown" by Regan across the room and her back hits the tallboy. Burstyn was forcibly thrown and dragged with a wire harness, giving her a spinal injury that's plagued her her whole life. Her scream of pain is real. Needless to say, she refused to return for the sequel.
    • The real reason Father Dyer is shaking while he's administering last rites to Father Karras is because William Friedkin slapped his actor just before the take.
    • Linda Blair had to endure the freezing cold bedroom set wearing only thin nightgowns.
  • Old Shame: Father William O'Malley refers to this movie to students as the "pornographic horror film" he once did.
  • Playing Gertrude: Max von Sydow was only 44 at the time and had to be made up to look older.
  • Feelies: The US theatrical release of the film gave free barf bags to audience members.
  • Prima Donna Director: William Friedkin went to extreme lengths to get the performances he wanted.
  • Real-Life Relative: The nurse who comes into Dr. Taney's office after the arteriogram is Linda Blair's mother.
  • Romance on the Set: It was on this film that William Peter Blatty met his wife-to-be, professional tennis champ Linda Tuero. She'd been hired as an extra.
  • Throw It In: When Regan first spits pea-soup vomit over Fr. Karras, the mechanism they had rigged up malfunctioned. The gunk was supposed to hit him in the chest. Instead, he got it right in the face. Jason Miller's disgust and anger are real, and perfect. There have been some reports that they actually adjusted the tube at the last second so it hit him in the face. Either way, it makes a great scene.
  • Troubled Production: William Friedkin was on full Prima Donna Director mode, abusing the cast and crew (see also Enforced Method Acting above) and leading the film over budget and past schedule. To make it worse, incidents such as a fire and the deaths of two actors led people to believe the set was cursed (although one of the actors, Vasiliki Maliaros (Karras' mother), was 89 years old, while the other, Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings), was a victim of the 1973 English 'flu epidemic).
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Audrey Hepburn was William Friedkin's first choice to play Chris MacNeil, and Warner Brothers supported him because of her good critical/commercial reputation with the studio, but she only agreed to do it if it was filmed in Rome. Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine were also approached. Fonda turned it down because she didn't believe in 'fairy tales' and MacLaine opted to do a similar, but less successful film. Anne Bancroft was another choice but she was in her first month of pregnancy and was dropped.
    • According to Variety magazine, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds were contenders for Regan and Chris MacNeil.
    • Alan Alda was offered a role in this movie, but rejected it because he didn't like the book.
    • John Boorman had been offered the chance to direct, but declined because he felt the storyline was "cruel towards children". He did, however, accept the offer to direct the sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic. Other directors that Warner had approached included Arthur Penn (who was teaching at Yale), Peter Bogdanovich (who wanted to pursue other projects, subsequently regretting the decision) and Mike Nichols (who didn't want to shoot a film so dependent on a child's performance). Stanley Kubrick was interested, but only if he could produce it himself. As the studio was worried that he would go over budget and over schedule, this never happened.
    • Alfred Hitchcock turned down the chance to acquire the screen rights to the novel and also turned down the chance to direct the film when another producer bought the rights to the property.
    • The studio wanted Marlon Brando for Father Merrin. William Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating that with Brando in the film it would become a Brando movie instead of the important film he wanted to make.
    • Gene Hackman, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino were all up for Father Karras.
    • The producers sought to have Jamie Lee Curtis audition for Regan MacNeil but her mother Janet Leigh refused.
    • William Friedkin traveled to England to meet with Bernard Herrmann about scoring the film. Herrmann insisted on doing the music in the UK and mailing the tracks to Friedkin. He was swiftly discounted after that.
    • Denise Nickerson, best known for her role as Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, was one of three actresses short-listed to play Regan. Her Catholic mother forced her to turn it down after reading the script.
    • Fans of the book speculated that Pamelyn Ferdin, well known for her appearance on the Star Trek episode "And The Children Shall Lead" and in the 1969 film Daughter of the Mind, along with many guest appearances in popular shows of the period, would be cast as Regan. She nearly was, but the producers decided they wanted a relative unknown. Early screen tests of Linda Blair do look like Pamelyn's familiar image from that period.

Exorcist: The Beginning
  • Executive Meddling: Took place to a savage degree with Paul Schrader's original cut, which was entirely junked by the studio and refilmed from scratch by Renny Harlin.

Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist

The Exorcist (Series)