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Linda Blair Says Working With Exorcist Director William Friedkin Was an “Intense” Experience

Summary

  • The Exorcist‘s intense filmmaking process included months of testing and makeup to ensure that Regan was still recognizable as the actress Linda Blair.
  • William Friedkin’s vision for the film aimed to rattle audiences while maintaining the visibility of Regan’s character, pushing for the best special effects without the use of CGI.
  • Blair praises Friedkin as an incredible genius and commemorates him as her director, friend, and protector following his recent death.


Creating William Friedkin‘s horror masterpiece The Exorcist was no easy task, according to actress Linda Blair. In a recent interview with Collider, Blair recalls working with the late director for the 1973 horror film, calling the filmmaking process intense. Blair was only 14 when she took on the role of Regan MacNeil, a young girl who becomes demonically possessed after playing with an Ouija board.

The Exorcist is still considered one of the best, and most terrifying horror movies of all time. According to Blair, getting the film to that level of greatness had much to do with Friedkin’s vision. Friedkin wanted to rattle audiences with Blair’s appearance; however, he wanted to ensure that audiences saw that Regan was still there, even through her possession. There was no CGI at the time, so Friedkin demanded the best special effects. Blair says:

“He needed the best of the makeup, and they worked three to six months on the makeup with the testing. It started as a full mask, and he got it down to be very minimal because he wanted the audience to always see Regan as me, not as Frankenstein or a different character where you couldn’t see that it was me. He thought that was very important, so he pushed the effects to be the best, and that was hard to do on a child’s face and to get it so minimal.”

Related: The Exorcist: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts That Haunted The Cast


Linda Blair Calls William Friedkin an “Incredible Genius”

Friedkin and Linda Blair on the set of The Exorcist
Warner Bros

Aside from utilizing convincing special effects and makeup to play up the notion that demonic possession could happen in a regular household and to a child, The Exorcist is highly praised for its performances. In total, the film earned 10 Academy Award nominations, becoming the first horror movie to ever gain a Best Picture nod, with Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, and Blair all receiving acting nominations. Detailing the film’s acting and storyline, Blair recalls “an enormous amount of rehearsal.”

“He would push me harder and harder and do things that brought me out of my comfort zone that I didn’t enjoy. He was creating the character, which I didn’t really understand. He wasn’t sure what he could ask of a child, and he was determined not to use an adult that looked like a child. Many people thought Regan was supposed to be sickly, and that’s why the demon would come in, but that’s not what he wanted. I was the Cinderella girl and had done commercials as a very happy, healthy young child. He loved taking [that] and just destroying it. [laughs] That was hard for me! The project took a very long time, and he was very intense.”

the exorcist

The Exorcist

Release Date
December 26, 1973

Rating
R

Runtime
2hr 2min

Because of her age, Blair says that Friedkin had to walk a fine line, and he would often prepare her for things that would happen during filming (particularly with her co-stars):

“He let me know, and we had these conversations in private about what he was probably going to do and said, ‘This is what’s going to be happening, and whatever happens, do not move. Do not come out of character.'”

Despite calling Friedkin “intense” and noting that trait could have been too much for a lot of children, Blair calls the finished product “a perfect production.” She also has nothing but praise for the late Friedkin:

“He had a perfect eye and was an incredible genius.”

Following Friedkin’s death this August, Blair fondly commemorated the director, taking to social media and calling him “my director, friend and protector.” Blair reprised the role of Regan for 1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (directed by John Boorman) and for a surprise cameo in this year’s David Gordon Green sequel film The Exorcist: Believer.

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