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Trivia / Exorcist II: The Heretic

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  • Author Existence Failure: Originally, the script had a major role for Lt. Kinderman from the first film, but upon Lee J. Cobb's death the entire film was reworked.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Apparently, the initial script was fascinating enough to make Linda Blair sign up for it. The results were different, though.
  • B-Team Sequel: The original cast and crew were very much opposed to a sequel. William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty actually met to discuss ideas at one point, but when they failed to develop a suitable premise, they abandoned the project. Both Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn turned down repeated offers by the studio, though Blair eventually agreed to return when presented with what she considered a good script. However, according to Blair, due to various rewrites the script ended up a total mess. By that point, however, she was contractually bound to a sequel, and unable to drop out of the project.
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  • Big Name Fan: One of the film's few defenders were Quentin Tarantino (who used one of Ennio Morricone's tracks in The Hateful Eight) Martin Scorsese, who asserted:
    "The picture asks: Does great goodness bring upon itself great evil? This goes back to the Book of Job; it's God testing the good. In this sense, Regan (Linda Blair) is a modern-day saint — like Ingrid Bergman in Europa '51, and in a way, like Charlie in Mean Streets. I like the first Exorcist, because of the Catholic guilt I have, and because it scared the hell out of me; but The Heretic surpasses it. Maybe Boorman failed to execute the material, but the movie still deserved better than it got."
  • Cast the Runner-Up: Because of her resemblance to Ellen Burstyn, Louise Fletcher was originally cast as Chris MacNeil when Burstyn had refused to reprise her role. Fletcher was eventually re-cast as Dr. Gene Tuskin, a role originally written for a man, when a suitable male actor couldn't be found and as a result Kitty Winn was contacted to reprise her role as Regan's nanny Sharon Spencer to fill in for Regan's mother.
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  • Creator Backlash: Linda Blair thoroughly enjoyed William Goodhart's original script, and signed on to the film because of it. During production, Blair claims, the script was re-written five times or so, and she was very disappointed with the final results.
  • Cut Song: While "Magic and Ecstasy" is featured in the trailers, it wound out of the picture - re-edits put it as credits music.
  • Disowned Adaptation: William Peter Blatty has said that when he read the shooting script, his reaction was, "This is a gag. They're trying to torment me."
  • Enforced Method Acting: John Boorman filmed the scene on Regan's balcony, which isn't a set, knowing full well he had no way of catching her if she fell. Her screams of fear are real.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: Linda Blair agreed to reprise her role of Regan MacNeil under the condition that she wouldn't wear the demon make-up, so a double was used for the brief flashback scenes depicting a demonic Regan.
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  • Hire the Critic: As noted below, John Boorman openly detested the original Exorcist, and it's been argued that he did the exact opposite of everything that worked in the original or would have made sense as a continuation of the story. Ironically, even Boorman himself was disappointed with the resultant film.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The re-edited version was only available on VHS until both it and the original cut were released on Blu-Ray in 2018 by Shout! Factory.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Richard Burton openly admitted in interviews that this was a paycheck picture for him. "I had a divorce coming up (to Elizabeth Taylor). I needed money for that".
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: The crew tried everything to keep the locusts flying for the shots, including clipping their legs so they couldn't land. Hundreds died every day as a result of their inadaptation to the Californian climate, which rose costs as more had to be imported from abroad. Eventually, the studio resorted to using peanuts painted brown and shot from a snow cannon.
  • Old Shame: For both director John Boorman and Linda Blair, Blair even going as far as calling it "one of the big disappointments of my career."
  • One for the Money; One for the Art:
    • Richard Burton only agreed to make the film in return for Columbia casting him as Dr. Martin Dysart in Equus, which he had played on stage.
    • John Boorman agreed to make this film in order to get Excalibur made.
  • Troubled Production:
    • William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty were repeatedly asked for ideas for a sequel, but they turned the studio down on finding out that the producer assigned the project, Richard Lederer, wanted them to just make a quick-and-dirty sequel to exploit the first film's success. After their refusal, the studio commissioned a screenplay by William Goodhart, whose only other screenplay credit was the obscure 1969 film Generation. The exact contents of Goodhart's screenplay have never been made publicly known, but it apparently mixed in the first film's themes with a lot of odd metaphysical symbolism.
    • The studio then hired John Boorman to direct the film — an odd choice when you consider that he actually disliked the first film, and was more interested in the metaphysical aspects of Goodhart's script than any of the actual Christian themes. Boorman and co-writer Rospo Pallenberg then pretty much scrubbed all the remaining Christian elements from the script, leaving it barely recognisable as an Exorcist sequel. They then hard to perform further last-minute rewrites which swapped out Regan's mother Chris for Sharon, the nanny from the first film, after Ellen Burstyn refused any notion of appearing as Chris again.
    • Filming was where things really started to go wrong. The production was refused permission to film at just about every location they asked for (including the house from the first film), leading to them having to recreate everything on the studio backlot and inflating the $9,000,000 budget all the way up to $14,000,000. Linda Blair was already in the midst of her drug habits and constantly turned up late to shooting, to the point where she actually considered it an achievement that she was only 20 minutes late one day. Co-star Richard Burton had his own substance issues, as he was constantly drunk on set and frequently lashed out at Boorman and his co-stars. Boorman was also laid low by a serious lung infection for a month, resulting in Pallenberg — who had never directed a film before — taking over as director for many key sequences. The crew also had no idea how to realize the swarms of locusts that were required for the climax, resulting in them using a combination of styrofoam "packing peanuts" fired from an air cannon and actual locusts with their legs clipped, with mixed results. On top of that, the locusts could only survive for a day or two in the American climes, so they had to be constantly replaced at considerable cost.
    • When the film was finally released, it was laughed off the screen during its premiere, leading to Boorman hastily producing a re-edited version, which was no better received. The studio had desperately granted Boorman to do the final cut of the movie without any kind of studio oversight, but the result was considered such a disaster that no major studio has allowed that since for any movie.
  • Uncredited Role: Dana Plato plays an uncredited role in this movie, Sandrah Phalor, the little girl at Dr Tuskin's parapsychology clinic that Regan counsels at the beginning. She
  • Wag the Director:
    • Richard Burton disliked Goodhart's script and was the first to demand rewrites. He (and Blair) also vetoed a scene where possessed Regan "seduced" Father Lamont, as they saw themselves (and their characters) as akin to father and sister.
    • Linda Blair conditioned her return to not wearing possession makeup and was always late on set. She also tried to get out of the film after the script was rewritten, but was bound to remain by her contract.
    • The scene where Regan's demon manifestation seduces Father Lamont was originally set to be much more sexually explicit, graphic, and offensively grotesque. When Blair and Burton found out about it, both refused to do it. Burton, who was 52 years old at the time and a notorious playboy, was not comfortable engaging in the scripted lewd acts with then 17-year-old Blair, as he viewed her as a daughter figure. Blair herself viewed Burton as a sort of mentor and father figure and expressed discomfort in having to sexually entice him in such a lascivious manner. John Borman eventually agreed to tone down the scene, but none the less it was still an uncomfortable experience for both the actors.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Chris was Put on a Bus and replaced with Sharon after Ellen Burstyn refused to return. Before Kitty Winn was secured, the studio planned to keep Chris' role by giving it to Burtstyn's lookalike and runner-up for the role, Louise Fletcher. When Winn returned, it was deemed wise to rewrite the role for Sharon, and the freed Fletcher was compensated with Dr. Tuskin's role, who had been written as a male.
    • Chris was planned to die in the final car crash, but not before surrendering custody of Regan to Father Lamont in her dying breath. The latter was obviously cut when the role was rewritten for Sharon. Sharon dies in the same scene in the first version released to theaters, but after poor reception Boorman recut it to make Sharon's fate ambiguous.
    • Inversely, Lamont's survival is also ambiguous in the final version, while in the first theatrical version he is seen emerging from the rubble.
    • While filming the destruction of the house, Blair accidentally slipped and fell into a crevasse, which was seen as a good death scene for Regan. Unfortunately (or not) a stagehand immediately jumped in to help Blair out and made the shot unusable.
    • William O'Malley was contacted to reprise his role as Father Joseph Dyer from the first film. However, O'Malley was busy and could not take up the part, and the character of Father Dyer was changed to Father Philip Lamont. David Carradine, Jack Nicholson, Jon Voight and Christopher Walken all were considered or offered the part of Father Lamont, who John Boorman initially conceived as a younger priest in awe of Father Merrin's writings. Eventually the choice was made to age the character, and Richard Burton was signed for the role.
    • Stanley Kubrick turned down the offer to direct. When John Boorman accepted, Kubrick warned him that the only way a sequel to The Exorcist would succeed is if it were to be more graphic and horrific than the original.
    • When the role of Dr. Tuskin was still written as male, Alan Arkin, Carradine, Richard Dreyfuss, Judd Hirsch, Chris Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Gene Wilder and Henry Winkler were considered.
    • Jane Fonda was considered for Dr. Tuskin.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: On two different levels. First, filming began without a written ending. Later, Boorman was forced to recut the film after it already hit theaters, in a failed attempt to stiff its poor reception.

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