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The Exorcist: Movie Fun Facts and Recap

In 1973, one of the scariest horror movies ever released came to screens (at least in some cities, but we'll get to that in fun facts) and immediately introduced society to exorcisms. While The Exorcist didn't faithfully reproduce what Catholic exorcisms are like throughout the movie, it did change our understanding of them and has been used as a template for exorcism movies that have followed.


See The Gang's recap (revisited) of The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin and screen written by William Peter Blatty (based on his 1971 novel of the same name). Starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller and Linda Blair.




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The Exorcist, original Horror Virgin episode 1, 2018.


 

FUN FACTS

Warning: Spoilers Ahead


  • There is a 10-code (the codes given to signify an even, such as mental health issues, by first responders) for Satanic Activity. It just hasn't been used in awhile.

  • Many of the ideas people have about exorcisms come from the movie The Exorcist.

  • There is a 2023 version being made. You can watch the trailer here.

  • Pazuzu is from the ancient Mesopotamian region. He is the personification of the southwestern winds and held kingship over wind demons. There are other statues of him (not necessarily with a snake dick --- that may have been added to the movie), but one of the statues used in the movie is nearly identical to an original carving, as it was used to create a replica.

  • The 1970s was when rules about human experimentation began, after Stanley Milgram's experiments where he conducted social psychology experiments regarding obedience to authority figures.

  • HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) became a law in 1996.

  • The placebo effect has become more effective over the last 23 years, but only in America.

  • Linda Blair was only 12 years old when she was in The Exorcist.

  • The producers and Friedkin wanted the part of Regan to be played by Jaime Lee Curtis, but her mother, Janet Leigh, wouldn't allow her to audition.

  • Audrey Hepburn, Anne Bancroft, and Shirley MacLaine were all considered for the role of Chris MacNeil, which eventually went to Ellen Burstyn. The role was written with MacLaine and her daughter in mind, but she instead turned it down to do another exorcism movie.

  • Blair received so many death threats for "glorifying Satan" after The Exorcist was released that she had bodyguards for at least 6 months following the movie's release.

  • The split pea soup used during the vomit scenes are from Andersen's. You can visit an Andersen's in California.

  • Max von Sydow was only 44 years old when he played Father Lankester Merrin. He spent 3 hours a day in makeup to age him.

  • Captain Howdy -- what Regan (played by Linda Blair) calls the spirit from the Ouijia board -- is a reference to the name of her character's father, Howard, who left her and her mom, Chris, prior to the movie's timeline.

  • Ellen Burstyn, who played Chris MacNeil, nearly fractured her back when a rig threw her into a wall. They use that scene in the movie as her reaction was authentic.

  • Linda Blair did fracture her back due to the rig and not being propertly secured during the scene where Regan is being thrown by the bed. The fracture later resulted in scoliosis.

  • The original shooting schedule was 85 days. It took them 224 days to shoot, partially because of the breaks needed after actors were injured.

  • The scene where Regan vomited the pea soup was done in one take. The vomit mixture was meant to hit Father Damien Karras (played by Jason Miller) in the chest, but it instead hit him in the face when the rig malfunctioned.

  • Linda Blair hated vegetables so much during filming that having split pea soup in and around her mouth made her actually vomit.

  • A body double was used for the vomit scenes. Eileen Dietz's face was rigged with a flange and tube for the vomit, which kept her mouth forcibly open for hours at a time. She wasn't able to swallow or close her mouth during filming.

  • Dietz wasn't credited for her part in The Exorcist. She later sued for credit.

  • Miller and Friedkin didn't get along. At one point, Friedkin fired a gun near Miller to get his authentic reaction.

  • The Exorcist was Jason Miller's first film. Before the movie, he worked as a stage actor. He received an Oscar nomination for his work in the movie as Father Karras.

  • Originally, the studio wanted Marlon Brando for the part of Father Merrin. Friedkin vetoed his involvement because then it would become a Brando film and not The Exorcist.

  • The exorcism scene was done on the very first day of filming. Blair's delivery of the foul-mouthed dialog upset von Sydow so much that he forgot his lines.

  • According to Friedkin, some of the subliminal shots of the demon were actually rejected makeup tests of Regan's posessed appearance. Some of these were of Dietz standing in for Blair.

  • In order to get the frosty breath, they had to refrigerate the set for weeks at a time. Blair had to be in the refrigerated set the entire time in a flimsy nightgown. To this day, she can't stand the cold.

  • There were many reports of people passing out and fainting during the movie, but much of it is thought to be overblown for marketing. However, there were two true instances: When the cast appeared for a reunion on Good Morning America in 1984, Burstyn recounted that she went to see the movie in theatres while filming another movie on location in Arizona. She watched a woman wobble up the stairs and she followed. When the woman fainted, Burstyn caught her. However, Burstyn quickly realized that if the woman came-to and saw someone from the movie, it would upset her more, so she handed the woman off to someone else. In a second instance, a woman sued Warner Brothers and the film makers after fainting and breaking her jaw as she fell into the seat in front of her. She claimed the subliminal shots caused her to faint. They settled out of court.

  • Much of Regans dialog as the demon was done by Mercedes McCambridge. She swallowed raw eggs, drank whiskey and chain-smoked to make her voice raspy. However, she was previously sober, so she asked a priest be there when she consumed the alcohol.

  • McCambridge also insisted on being bound to a chair to make her voice acting more authentic. Friedkin has said that the extremes she went to has scared him to this day.

  • Originally, McCambridge wasn't credited, but she sued for credit. However, Linda Blair had already received an Oscar nomination that couldn't be recinded once it was made. The controversy over who should receive credit between Blair and McCambridge was part of the reason why Blair lost the award and McCambridge could not be nominated for the same part.

  • The famous scene where the priest gets out of the cab and stands in the fog is inspired by a painting from the 1950s called Empire of Light by René Magritte. The scene was stylized like a painting.

  • There is a deleted scene referred to as "the spider walk scene." It involved a controtionist performing on set with wires. However, the scene was deleted by Friedkin because they couldn't remove the wires to his satisfaction at the time. Almost 30 years later, the scene was readded after they were able to digitally remove the wires.

  • Other deleted scenes were readded as well. Most of these were scenes favored by writer William Peter Blatty.

  • Blatty won $10,000 on the Groucho Marx show You Bet Your Life in 1950. When asked what he would do with the money, Blatty said he planned to take some time off of work to a novel. That novel was The Exorcist.

  • They created the "help me" on the torso by creating a foam latex cast of her belly, then used a paint brush and cleaning fluid to create a chemical burn. It was then filmed in reverse.

  • The Exorcist is one of two horror films to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The second was Get Out, released in 2017. Jordan Peele, director of Get Out fought to keep the movie categorized as horror.

  • Initially, the film makers wanted to change the name of The Exorcist because they sent out a survey and no one knew what an exorcism was.

  • Burstyn wears a bracelet with a horseshoe charm throughout the movie. She thought it would be interesting for her character to have an idea of luck, but be ill-equiped to fight the devil. On the last day of filming, she gave it to Blair. Years later, they happened to be on the same flight to Los Angeles, and Blair was still wearing the charm.

  • The studio was worried it would get an X rating, but it got an R with no cuts. The reasoning by the board was stated as: it's a brilliant and intelligent film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. However, many American and European cities banned the film or rated it X.

  • Because the film was banned in some cities, The Exorcism bus tours began where people would bus to the closest theater playing the film.

  • There's a scene in the language lab where a banner in the background says "Tasukete" written in red. It means "help me" in Japanese.

  • Super Fun BONUS LISTENER FUN FACT: There's an actual murderer in the movie. One of the x-ray technicians was a real technician whose work setting up the machine was recorded for authenticity. In 1979, he was arrested and sent to jail for murdering someone, where he admitted to additional murders.

 

BUDGET & SCARY SCALE


The budget in 1973: $12 million (adjusted to $84 million today due to inflation).

Note: The book by Blatty was wildly famous, leading them to receive such a high budget.

The movie made $230 million domestically (including the re-release in 2000) and $197.8 million internationally. In all, it made $428.2 million total (adjusted to $3 billion due to inflation). It is the #2 best performing horror movie ever if you adjust for inflation. #1 is Jaws.


Scary Scale: Paige: 4

Todd: 2

Mikey: 1

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