As I write this, Bill Malley [production designer] is in the Mosul Hospital (which has no shower, no bath, no towels, no toilet paper) with gastroenteritis; the clock (pendulum) which is supposed to stop ticking in SCENE 15 - INT. CURATOR’S OFFICE doesn’t work at all - period; the English crew is grumbling about the accommodation; the Iraqi government men are grumbling about everything; most of the crew, English and Iraqi, are exhausted, and so am I.
When you say “concentrate on the script,” and don’t shoot additional material, I find myself at a loss. Nobody, not you, not Frank Wells, nor Steve Ross, wants to wrap this picture sooner than I do - but nobody should be more aware than you, of the problems to be found in a location like Iraq as opposed to “what the script says.” The script was written in LA and NYC - it calls for an excavation site at Ninevah, a Chykhana scene in Erbil, a curator’s office in Mosul and back to a Ninevah excavation site.
On “Action!”, I had to leap from the chair, grab Storch’s testicles, rendering him helpless and in pain, then fall to the floor. At least, that’s how Friedkin had explained it to me. Now, nobody ever told me anything about an athletic supporter. Even if someone said, “Don’t worry, Arthur is wearing a cup,” I wouldn’t have known what that was. So I assumed I was going to grab the real thing. It seemed a bit awkward to me but I thought, oh well, Storch is a professional.
So, Friedkin calls “Action!” I jump from the chair, reach for Storch’s crotch and I grab onto something VERY hard. It shocked the hell out of me. I thought, what the hell did I just grab? I almost broke character. Also, I would be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that Storch was umm… “aroused.” After the first take, someone on the set had told me he was wearing a cup. When he explained to me what a cup was, it made a lot more sense. It also made things less weird when we shot the next take.
Excerpt from Eileen Dietz’s memoir, Exorcising My Demons: An Actress’ Journey to the Exorcist and Beyond.
Linda Blair tests the first and most extravagant of possession make-ups created by Dick Smith, which was ultimately rejected as director William Friedkin felt the changes to Regan’s appearance should be “organic,” caused by self-inflicted wounds; and that Blair needed to be recognizable under the make-up for audiences to take it seriously.
Marcel Vercoutere, the man behind the ground-breaking special effects in The Exorcist, has passed away at age 87.
Long before the use of CGI, Marcel had the challenge of bringing the visual effects required for The Exorcist to life - right in front of the camera. From shaking beds, demonic convulsions, and levitation; to the icy-cold atmosphere of Regan’s bedroom and shooting Jason Miller in the face with pea soup. There was no task too big or too small that Marcel wouldn’t tackle head-on, assisting in creating some of the most memorable and frightening scenes of all time.
Marcel was also responsible for the unforgettable head-spinning dummy double of Linda Blair which he built alongside make-up artist Dick Smith, and often recalled fond memories of the pair testing it out on unsuspecting victims whilst driving around New York City in a rented taxi.
"Whenever we pulled up to a red light, we’d wait until people looked and then I would start to turn the head. I’d take it all the way around and it would freak ‘em out, and the cab driver was laughing his head off. The cab driver wanted to do it all day. I mean, when is he gonna get another chance to do that? Drive around and have someone’s head spin around in the front seat!"
The LA Times report Marcel died on April 13 at his home in Burbank, due to complications with dementia. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time, and may he rest in peace.
Promotional flyer for The Exorcist, which gives a brief overview on the history of exorcism and information on the reported 1949 case of demonic possession which served as the inspiration behind William Peter Blatty’s novel. These flyers were handed out in cinemas during the film’s original theatrical run in 1973.
"Mom was always entertaining, and plenty of interesting house guests passed through our portals. One was a man with a dark mustache and an interest in the supernatural; his name was William Peter Blatty.
Mom and Mr. Blatty were kindred spirits, and he became a familiar face around the house. Much of the time, I found them engrossed in animated discussions of ghosts, paranormal experiences, the afterlife, and so forth. They liked to get out the Ouija board and ask questions of the infinite, and once or twice they even conducted a séance in the house.
Mr. Blatty decided to write a book that would prove to my mom, by the very power of its narrative, the existence of evil in our everyday world. Years later, when The Exorcist was published and became a national phenomenon, he conceded that he’d taken his inspiration for the actress mother, Chris MacNeil, from Mom. He even offered her the role of Chris in the movie, but she turned it down.
The unfortunate corollary, of course, was that if the mother character was based on Mom, the daughter, Regan, must have been based on me. Blatty did use me as a reference when he was sketching the basic outlines of the pre-possessed Regan character. But that was as far as it went. I don’t recall ever walking like a crab or spitting vomit from my revolving head, or doing anything untoward with a crucifix.
The photo of the little girl on the first edition of the Harper and Row hardcover book looked an awful lot like me. Mom was sure it was me, and she told Jason Miller, as much. When this was conveyed to Blatty, he denied it. “Shirley, how could I have gotten Sachi’s picture on the cover of the book?” Mom had the answer: “You could have broken into the house and stolen it.” The unsettling resemblance to me is creepy.”
Max Von Sydow and cinematographer Owen Roizman share a lighter moment while working within the refrigerated bedroom on the set of The Exorcist. Heavy coats were required for the crew as the temperature hovered below zero in order to make the actors’ breath show up under the glare of the hot lights.
New York based artist Paul Pfeiffer created this incredible miniature diorama of Regan’s bedroom from The Exorcist as part of his “Scenes of Horror” series, which also included miniature sets from The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist.
Pfeiffer spoke about the inspiration behind the piece, saying:
"One of the most compelling images at the time for me was the movie The Exorcist because I was a teenager when that movie came out and never saw it and was not allowed to see it. But at some point, it was almost all-consuming, in terms of the kind of terror that it inspired. It occurred to me that the bedroom is probably the architectural setting that I grew up with as the image of terror, and it’s something that I never even saw. It was something that I just recreated in my head. So, I literally watched the movie over and over again, memorizing the details of that room, until I could physically fabricate that room in miniature.”
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