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Hollywood History: ‘The Exorcist’

October 11, 2019

Loosely based on a real-life exorcism that happened in the 1940’s, The Exorcist remains one of the scariest horror films ever. Much of the appeal is due to the subject matter – Satan and demon possession.  In the film a 12 year old innocent girl is possessed by a powerful demon that forcers her to do outrageous acts including cursing God, a 360 degrees head turn, levitation, and an unspeakable act with a crucifix.

The Exorcist had roadblocks from the very beginning causing many to speculate that the movie was cursed and never should have been made.  These events were so shocking that even the cast and crew started to believe in the curse. At one point a real priest was brought in to do an exorcism on the set.

Why people thought (and some still do think) this movie is cursed:

  • Actress Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal cord injury while filming.
  • Actress Linda Blair received a back injury when her harness broke while filming a thrashing scene.
  • Nine production workers died during the 12 months of filming.
  • A mysterious fire destroyed the set causing production costs to double.
  • A film viewer fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him.
  • An extra, Paul Bateson, was later convicted of murder. He is a suspect in 6 other murders but has never been charged due to lack of evidence.
  • Christian evangelists Billy Graham said that an actual demon is embodied in the celluloid reels.

This negative publicity only fueled the public’s interest and people flocked to the movie when it opened. It is one of the highest grossing films of all time with over a billion dollars in revenue (adjusted for inflation.)  

The Exorcist was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1974. It won two; Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing.

The Exorcist was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and won four; Best Motion Picture (Drama), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Director (William Friedkin) and Best Screenplay (William Peter Blatty).

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