This Day in Horror: THE EXORCIST Premiered
Released on this day in 1973: The Exorcist
One of the greatest films of all time, The Exorcist was based on the novel of the same title by William Peter Blatty and tells the tale of a young girl’s demonic possession, and the attempts to exorcise the demon.
Director William Friedkin’s production was troubled from the beginning. A fire burned down most of the set at the start of filming, causing a six week delay. When they return, a problem with the sprinkler system caused another two week delay. Shooting ended up taking over nine months to complete, and the budget allegedly doubled over the course of filming.
Virtually every actor and crew member involved in the production suffered injury or tragedy. Linda Blair (Regan) and Ellen Burstyn (Chris) both sustained serious back injuries due to faulty harnesses during some of the effects shots. Max Von Sydow’s (Father Marrin) brother died unexpectedly in Sweden the day Von Sydow was supposed to begin shooting. He later fell ill, further pushing back his schedule. Jack MacGowran (Burke) died suddenly only a week after he wrapped; Vasiliki Maliaros (Karras’s mother) died shortly after her part as well. A janitor and a set tech both died (seemingly unrelated to the filming, but during production nonetheless). A set carpenter lost his finger and a lighting tech lost a toe in on-set accidents. Jason Miller’s (Father Karras) son was nearly killed on a beach by a motorcyclist who “appeared out of nowhere.” Ten days in the hospital, and the boy made a sudden, “miraculous” recovery. Burstyn has been quoted as saying nine deaths occurred during the course of production. While shooting on location in Iraq, half of the 18-man crew fell ill with sunstroke and dysentery, and lost props resulted in another two-week shooting delay.
Friedkin finally asked Father Bermingham, a Jesuit priest and technical advisor on the film, to exorcise the set. He refused, stating there was not enough proof of a demonic possession, but he did bless the set and all cast and crew. There were no other reported incidents after that.