Excerpt from an early screenplay of The Exorcist dated December 18, 1972.
Although it does not appear in the final shooting script, this particular scene was indeed shot, and confirmed by William Peter Blatty to have been present in the early workprint before ultimately being cut by William Friedkin.
Director William Friedkin takes a moment between takes to strike a pose for the camera as the statue of Pazuzu looms in the background, during filming of the exorcism sequence on the set of The Exorcist.
My typist had been working on the novel. She didn’t offer any editorial comment, so halfway through l asked for her reaction. She said, “They’re after him.” I said “Who?” She said, “You know, them. They’re after Father Karras.” Well, she picked up on what half the readers do not - that it is Karras, not the little girl. Karras was going to be lost forever or he was going to be saved. This is his crucible.
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.
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