"The Exorcist" is a classic horror film that was released in 1973 and directed by William Friedkin. It is based on the 1971 novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty. The film received numerous Academy Award nominations and was a huge box-office success. In 2006, AMC ranked it as the scariest movie of all time.
Background and Plot
Blatty based his novel on the last known exorcism sanctioned by the Catholics in the United States, which was performed on a little boy in 1949. Blatty changed his protagonist to a little girl: 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, who was played by Linda Blair. As Regan's mother (Ellen Burstyn) notices disturbing changes in her daughter's behavior, she calls in Father Karras (Jason Miller) after she exhausts all of her other options. Karras, convinced that Regan has been possessed by the Devil, solicits the help of exorcist Father Merrin (Max von Sydow).
"The Exorcist" was instantly popular when it was released, but it also met with some resistance. Some towns in the United Kingdom banned the film from being shown, leading some bus companies to organize trips to nearby towns so people could see it. Many people got sick or fainted from fear during the movie, including one man who sued Warner Brothers for breaking his jaw on the seat in front of him after he passed out. If its gross was adjusted for inflation, "The Exorcist" would be one of the highest-grossing "Rated R" films of all time.
The first time Linda Blair delivered her obscenity-laden rant, von Sydow was so shocked that he forgot his lines. In the scene where Regan spews green vomit on Father Karras, the filmmakers used thick pea soup as the demonic vomit. Both Linda Blair and Ellen Bursytn were injured on the set. Blair hurt her back when a rig broke and she was hurled from the bed, while Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury when a harness jerked away and she fell on her coccyx. Warner Bros. protected Blair with bodyguards for six months following the film due to death threats.
"The Exorcist" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Burstyn was nominated for Best Actress, while Miller and Blair were both nominated for their supporting roles. The film walked away with only two Oscars: William Peter Blatty won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, while Robert Knudson and Christopher Newman took home Oscars for Best Sound. "The Exorcist" fared better at the Golden Globes that year, winning Best Motion Picture: Drama and awards for Friedkin (Best Director), Blatty (Best Screenplay) and Blair (Best Supporting Actress).