1. The young priest who gave Father Karras confession at the end of the film was (and still is) a Catholic priest (Reverend William O’Malley). In order to make him visibly shocked in the final scene, the director (William Peter Blatty) slapped him across the face unexpectedly and yelled “action!” Father O’Malley still teaches to this day at Fordham University.
2. On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair’s
delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max
von Sydow that he forgot his lines.
3. Very brief cutaways appear in the film in order to make the
audience uneasy. The most famous is the demon face (seen above) – the
face was that of Eileen Dietz who also starred in Happy Days and General
Hospital. The face is, to me, the most memorable scene from the film
and it still gives me a fright when I see it.
4. In the disturbing scene where Regan is masturbating with the
crucifix, Eileen Dietz (as mentioned in number 3) was used for the shot
where Regan belts her mother across the face. William Friedkin felt they
needed someone with more heft physically to perform the stunt, and the
double was shot from the back. The crucifix scene was filmed with Linda
Blair, who says she wasn’t totally aware of what she was doing or the
implications of the vulgar acts.
5. The scream of the demon being thrown out of Linda Blair was
actually created by recording squealing pigs being driven into
6. Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury during filming.
In the sequence where she is thrown away from her possessed daughter, a
harness jerked her hard away from the bed. She fell on her coccyx and
screamed in pain – this was caught on film and adds to the realism of
7. The refrigerated bedroom set was cooled with four air conditioners
and temperatures would plunge to around 30 to 40 below zero. It was so
cold that perspiration would freeze on some of the cast and crew. On one
occasion the air was saturated with moisture resulting in a thin layer
of snow falling on the set before the crew arrived for filming. This
obviously negated the need for fake breath mist which is prevalent in
many modern movies.
8. When originally released in the UK a number of town councils
imposed a complete ban on the showing of the film. This led to the
bizarre spectacle of “Exorcist Bus Trips” where enterprising travel
companies organized buses to take groups to the nearest town where the
film was showing.
9. A filmgoer who saw the movie in 1974 during its original release
fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He then sued
Warner Brothers and the filmmakers, claiming that the use of subliminal
imagery in the film had caused him to pass out. The studio settled out
of court for an undisclosed sum. The film affected many audiences so
strongly that at many theaters, paramedics were called to treat people
who fainted and others who went into hysterics.
10. If adjusted for inflation, the Exorcist would be the top grossing R-rated film of all time.
11. Due to its controversial material, this movie was not available
on video in the UK until 1999 when the British Board of Film Censors
(BBFC) approved an uncut version.
12. The substance that the possessed Regan hurls at Father Damien
Karras (Jason Miller) is thick pea soup. Specifically, it’s Andersen’s
brand pea soup. The crew tried Campbell’s but didn’t like the “effect.”
13. Director William Friedkin asked technical advisor Reverend Thomas
Bermingham to exorcise the set. He refused, saying an exorcism might
increase anxiety. Rev. Bermingham wound up visiting the set and gave a
blessing and talk to reassure the cast and crew.
14. Gonzalo Gavira was called on to create many of the special sound
effects after William Friedkin recalled his work from El topo (1970).
One of the more memorable sounds, the 360-degree turning of Regan’s
head, was actually made by twisting a sound crew member’s old leather
wallet in front of a mike.
15. William Peter Blatty based his novel on a supposedly genuine
exorcism from 1949, which was partially performed in both Cottage City,
Maryland, and Bel-Nor, Missouri. Several area newspapers reported on a
speech a minister gave to an amateur parapsychology society, in which he
claimed to have exorcised a demon from a 13-year-old boy named Robbie,
and that the ordeal lasted a little more than six weeks.
One of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the
posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases was inspired by the 1954
painting “Empire of Light” (“L’Empire des lumières”) by René Magritte.
It is the scene where Fr. Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front
of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow.
17. Linda Blair injured her back when a piece of the rig broke as she was thrown about on the bed
18. Linda Blair received her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination
before it was widely known that previous Supporting Actress winner
Mercedes McCambridge had actually provided the voice of the demon. By
Academy rules once Blair was given the nomination it could not be
withdrawn, but the controversy about Blair being given credit for
another actress’ work ruined her chances of winning the award.
19. For the vomiting sequences, Eileen Dietz doubled (uncredited) for
Linda Blair, and later sued unsuccessfully for puking credit. Makeup
veteran Dick Smith rigged Dietz’s facial contours with sheets of
heat-formed plexiglass that were secured at the corners of her mouth and
behind her head. A camouflaged nozzle anchored in Dietz’s oral cavity
provided the apparatus through which the “vomit” could be forcefully
discharged, fed by supply tubes discreetly embedded in the plexiglass on
both sides of her face. Such was the complexity of the set-up that
Dietz could barely swallow or close her mouth.
20. The “Exorcist steps”, 75 (or 74 – one is very small) stone steps
at the end of M Street in Georgetown, were padded with 1/2″-thick rubber
to film the death of Father Karras. The stuntman tumbled down the
stairs twice. Georgetown University students charged people around $5
each to watch the stunt from the rooftops.
21. Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots
who believed the film “glorified Satan”, Warner Bros. had bodyguards
protecting her for six months after the film’s release.
22. The demon that possesses Regan MacNeil is actually named Pazuzu,
however the demon’s name is never mentioned in any way in either version
of ‘The Exorcist’ (or ‘The Exorcist: The Restored Version’). During the
film Pazuzu lies to Father Damien Karras claiming to be the actual
Devil. Conversations with Father Lankester Merrin show this claim to be
23. Mercedes McCambridge regurgitated on a mixture of chewed, mushy
apple and raw egg to produce the sound effect of Regan’s projectile
24. At one point the search for a young actress capable of playing
Regan was so trying that William Friedkin claims he even considered
auditioning adult dwarf actors.
25. There are tales about ominous events surrounding the year-long
shoot, including the deaths of nine people associated with the
production and stories about a mysterious fire that destroyed the set
one weekend. Actors Jack MacGowran (who played Burke Dennings) and
Vasiliki Maliaros (Father Karras’ Mother) died before the film was