Exorcising My Demons: An Actress’ Journey to The Exorcist and Beyond (Book)
Published by AuthorMike Ink
Memoirs aren’t always an easy thing. I’m sure it’s often a cathartic process for the author or subject to expunge lifelong issues, but a lot of them tend to be too front-loaded with personal histories and backstories. Because of this, I’ve nearly abandoned reading them altogether. I understand the need to, ahem, exorcise one’s personal demons, but far too often that need comes at the sake of reader enjoyment, sacrificing entertainment for hedonism.
That is not the case with what Eileen Dietz and Daniel Loubier have done here, circumventing a lot of those pitfalls throughout Exorcising My Demons: An Actress’ Journey to The Exorcist and Beyond. This is most definitely a memoir, but it’s well-paced and serves as an enjoyable reflection for an actress who rightly deserves her place in Hollywood history. I’m not suggesting that Dietz avoids the kinds of stories I objected to at the beginning of this review, but they’re often framed around the actress’ work, giving the book a well-rounded structure that keeps the pages turning. Most importantly, Dietz knows how to tell a story. She’s not boring, and that’s a serious distinction among books of this ilk.
Things do get off to something of a slow start as Dietz covers her early life in great detail, from her relationship with her parents and sister to an early bite from the acting bug. The great thing about this stuff is that it’s all woven through the actress’ fascination/attraction to the entertainment industry, giving the book a nice focus. Exploring Dietz’s early and driving need to act reinforces the rest of the book with the kind of thematic foundation that can so often be missing from these things.
Another thing that works well is the book’s style. It took a few chapters to win me over, feeling at first like Dietz and Loubier (who I presume did the actual writing/shaping of the content) simply jotted this stuff down without regard for literary prose. And what seems like a poor stylistic choice at the outset becomes one of the book’s assets. The conversational style gives it a more personal flourish, and about halfway through I realized that the intimacy with which the stories are told is what kept me turning the pages.
Unsurprisingly, a considerable chunk of the book chronicles Dietz’s experiences on The Exorcist, and this stuff doesn’t disappoint. It’s not a dirt-laden tell-all, and instead Dietz recalls the initial excitement of working on a major Hollywood production and the really awful fallout over the controversy that erupted when it came out that it was Dietz – and not Linda Blair – who did the film’s most graphic moments.
It’s terrific because the text nicely charts her “arc” from total joy to complete horror, culminating in a moment where William Friedkin tells her she’ll never work in Hollywood ever again. Devastating. And the book nicely explores the impact this had on Dietz and how she continued onward in its wake.
Overall, Exorcising My Demons is quite good, if slightly uneven. But the actress’ fans are sure to enjoy it all the same, as will those who find themselves interested in any kind of showbiz memoir – there’s a lot to like here. There are a few minor errors throughout (Tom Holland is credited as having written Psycho III instead of Psycho II, for example), but it’s easy to overlook these things because the book is both breezy and enjoyable. An engaging little memoir that doesn’t overstay its welcome, it provides some welcome insight into a fascinating career.
3 1/2 out of 5