The crucifix used in the movie is not the body and blood of Christ. It is a piece of wood and metal. Depicting a sacrilegious act is not the same as condoning it. You must show these things or you will have a cartoon caricature of the devil. You have to make people nauseous, create the inability to look at the screen, to cover your eyes, to turn away. You must say, ‘that’s evil - look at it!’ To mask it is the work of the devil. Brushing evil under the rug is the kind of religion I know nothing about.
I should add it was with great deliberation that I elected to use obscenities, not only with the demon, but with the other characters as well. But strip away those obscenities and you are in danger of falling into Transylvania or Never-Never Land. It is only in Never-Never Land that people don’t say ‘shit.’ If I didn’t put any of that language in the mouths of my characters, then the reader would have to conclude that my characters are fantastic and could never exist in real life.
Two crewmen take comfort in director William Friedkin and actress Ellen Burstyn’s chairs as others prepare to shoot exteriors at 3600 Prospect Street, Georgetown, aka ‘The MacNeil residence’, on the set of The Exorcist.
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.
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