If you are into horror movies, there are very less chances that you have not watched classic horror, The Exorcist, and if not, it’s close to impossible that you haven’t heard about it unless you are not into horror at all.
People fainted, some even got injured inside the theater when the movie opened in 1973 and it very well deserved the notoriety, but there wasn’t just onscreen horror but things that happened behind the scene you probably never knew about.
Set of The Exorcist was cursed
When the shooting of the movie began in 1972, there were actual eerie incidents that happened with the crew on the set, this includes the fire at the studio, in which no one was injured, fortunately. But strange enough, the only room that was left intact of fire was the one used for filming the actual exorcism scenes.
The set had to be rebuilt after the incident and Father King, a priest was brought to bless the cast, crew, and others associated with the movie.
There were a number of people directly or indirectly related to the movie that died while the movie was shot. Actors Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros whose characters die in the movie, both died in real shortly after the shoot was finished.
That was not all, son of Jason Miller, who played Father Damien Karras was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident.
There were a total of nine people associated with the movie who died until the movie shoot was finished.
Death threats were given to Linda Blair
It was very obvious that many were triggered after the movie was released, religious people were especially upset with the content of the film. Then 13-year-old Linda Blair who played the role of Regan in the movie started receiving a number of death threats from the zealots due to the belief that she had glorified Satan in the movie.
To be on the safe side, Warner Bros. hired bodyguards for the protection of Linda Blair for at least six months, but the threats didn’t stop for almost a year. Thus her parents had to send her to a family friend in Vermont, New Jersey.
Not only death threats that Linda received, but Warner Bros. faced a multiple lawsuits against all sort of things that happened after the movie was release. This included a man who fainted during the movie in the cinemas, breaking his jaw on the seat in front of him.
It some other cases, paramedics were called into theaters when people started fainting and going into hysterics. One woman even claimed that she started having horrific visions of death and destruction after she had seen the movie, and she was actually admitted to a mental asylum later for a period of time.
Max Von make up was so good that it seized his career for a while
This classic horror is known for its skillful cast and crew which overall earned the success of the movie. In fact, the makeup artists in the movie did so well that Max von didn’t get any roles for some years ahead.
Sydow was 44 years old then but played the role of an elderly priest in the movie. To achieve perfection, he had to look much older than he appeared, and this required a heavy makeup session taking around 4 hours each day before Sydow was ready for the shoot.
They did such a good job that Sydow had trouble finding any work for several years after the movie finished because everyone believed he was too old. Max von Sydow died recently on March 8, 2020 at the age of 90.
The famous vomiting scene was a one-take shot
The famous scene in the movie where Regan had a projectile vomits at in movie Father Karras only required one take. For the scene, the team first tried Campbell’s soup but unsatisfied with the result, they switched it with pea soup and oatmeal mix.
The vomit was intended to hit Jason Miller in the chest, but the device (a plastic tubing) which was used to fire the mixture misfired, hitting him in the face, resulting in a genuine reaction of shock and disgust while wiping away the vomit by him.
It was also later revealed that the main reason behind his shock wasn’t it hitting him in the face, but someone was tasked to warm up the soup, and he heated it up to a soup temperature, so his reaction was actually a painful reaction rather than just shocking.
Permanent spine injury
While shooting one of the scenes, Ellen Burstyn who played the role of Chris in the movie got severely injured due to a malfunctioning of the equipment used for the stunt.
In the scene, she got pulled so quickly and landed herself on the coccyx with a great impact, that the harness gave her the permanent spinal injury. The scream and screech you can hear in the scene were real.
The set had a freezing temperature
Four giant air conditioners were used to bring the temperature of the set to freezing -30°C to -40°C which is colder than that inside a freezer. In fact, it was so cold that if anyone being sweating from outside entered the set, the sweat would freeze to their bodies.
The purpose of this? The sole reason to bring the temperature down this low was that director William Friedkin wanted to see the actor’s breath mist effect that many other movies digitally did after the shoot, but for it to look very genuine, Friedkin decided to go with this practically extreme approach in the movie.
Paul Bateson, real-life Serial Killer appeared in the movie
While many believe the set of The Exorcist was cursed, some also believed that the curse was passed on to the cast and crew as well after the movie was released.
There was an infamous “serial killer” featured in The Exorcist, in one of the scenes.
Impressed by a former radiographer watching him perform a cerebral angiography, director Friedkin decided to give him a role as a radiological technologist in the movie itself.
One of the scariest scenes where Regan, grimaces while the blood spurts from her neck, included Paul Bateson who can be seen as a male assistant in the shot.
After the movie was finished and released, Bateson was convicted of the murder of famous movie journalist Addison Verrill, whom he killed while being completely intoxicated.
He claimed that he was going through a financial crisis and needed money, which led to anger when Verrill rejected his proposal to continue the relationship followed by the night they spent together.
Prior to his trials, Bateson was implicated in a series of unsolved murders of gay men in Manhattan, murders that he had boasted about while in jail, bringing it up at his sentencing.
William Friedkin hid a gun all the time to fire shots randomly on set
Friedkin just went extra miles while shooting the movie scenes. You know how he decided to use the freezing temperature just for the effect of breathe mist, but as if that was not enough, he carried a gun with him that he would use to fire shots without warning, to startle the actors, and the reason behind ? He just wanted to get the best reaction out of the actors for the scenes in the movie.
“Friedkin is a lunatic, he would fire shot behind the actor’s head to get the surprise out of them, he is not very respectful to them, he doesn’t understand the process.” as told by Actor Jason Miller in an interview to Film Buff Online.
Egg Yolks and Booze helped achieve the demonic voice
It wasn’t just director Friedkin who went extra miles for the movie. Mercedes McCambridge was behind the demonic voice of possessed Regan and she gave up her sobriety to achieve the best vocal possible.
She swallowed raw eggs and started smoking again to have the ‘demonic’ voice. She also required guzzle booze to achieve perfection. Since she was falling off the wagon doing all of it, she asked Friedkin to allow two of his Priest friends on the set to council her.
The Exorcist book was written based on a real exorcism, which the movie is based on
The movie was marketed as “based on a true story”, but many just believed it to be a marketing gimmick, which in fact, was not true. William Blatty, the writer of the book was actually inspired by exorcisms that happened in real life.
William Blatty came to know about a secret journal kept by the assistant to a Priest who performed exorcisms. He set out to track it down and obtain it.
He had a hard time obtaining it as the Priest who held the journal denied accessing it from anyone else. Eventually, he was able to obtain and read it. It wowed him when he went through the journal, as it told about the real story of a young boy from Maryland and his battle with what his parents believed to be demonic possession. Although Blatty changed several aspects in his novel, such as the age and gender of the child who was possessed.
Now that you have read about some frightening facts of The Exorcist, you might like reading about the true story behind the movie – The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, and how a girl received 67 exorcisms resulting in her death.