WHILE many cannot wait for The Exorcist to return to cinema screens, the cast and crew will be praying history doesn’t repeat itself after real-life horrors plagued the original film.
Universal Pictures is due to announce their reboot to the demon possession flick, with a trilogy deal reportedly worth $465million (£335m).
The original 1973 film caused quite the stir and saw terrified cinemagoers vomiting and fainting – one woman broke her jaw after she passed out.
One thing director David Gordon Green, who headed the Halloween reboots, will hope to avoid is the series of unfortunate events that followed the first Exorcist.
Several surprising incidents led to claims that the film was “cursed” – and after deaths, a freak fire and injuries on set, many would agree.
Deaths & the ‘curse’
The deaths of at least four people have been linked to the film and some believe this is proof of The Exorcist “curse”.
They included Jack MacGowran, who played the eccentric film director Burke Dennings and in the film, he was killed by demon-plagued Regan MacNeil.
His character was attacked by the possessed child, who used her superhuman strength to break his neck and then flung him out of her bedroom window.
Ahead of the film’s release, Jack tragically died from complications related to influenza, which he caught during the London flu epidemic in 1973.
Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Father Damien Karras’ mother, also passed away that same year before The Exorcist hit the big screen.
The star, who had no previous acting experience and was cast after being spotted at a restaurant, was ruled to have died from “natural causes” at an inquest.
In the film, Vasiliki’s character died after being admitted to a hospital and later haunted the dreams of Father Karras.
Later, while the religious man performs an exorcism, Regan mentions his mother’s name in an attempt to distract him and make him feel guilty.
During the production, a number of the cast and crew, including Linda Blair, who played Regan, and Max von Sydow, who played Father Merrin, also lost family members.
Not only that, the son of Jason Miller, who played Father Karrass, had a near-fatal motorcycle accident during filming.
The Exorcist was faced with multiple production delays but the most notable one happened early on into the production.
The set for Regan’s family home burned down in 1972 after a bird flew into the circuit box.
Eerily, the only part of the set that survived was the bedroom where the exorcisms would take place.
Film historian Sarah Crowth told iNews: “This set production back significantly, and led to a draining shooting period of over a year.”
After the incident, which caused a six-week delay, real Jesuit priest Thomas M. King was called in to bless the set.
Ellen Burstyn, who played concerned mum Chris MacNeil, suffered a spinal injury while being hoisted around on a harness.
She was left on crutches for the rest of the production and recalled the accident during a 2018 interview with The Guardian.
Ellen told William ‘Billy’ Friedkin, the film’s director, that a crew member was “pulling me too hard” but she claimed he dismissed her concerns.
She recalled: “Billy said, ‘Well, it has to look real.’ I said, ‘I know it has to look real but I’m telling you, I could get hurt.’”
The actress alleged that the director made a signal and the cameraman “smashed me on the floor” after her complaint.
“I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Through my screams, I said, ‘Turn the f***ing camera off,’” she said.
Mr Friedkin rejected Ellen’s claims and said: “I’m sure she was hurt by the fall – you fall on your backside, it’s gonna hurt – but she wasn’t injured.”
Linda also claimed there was poor rigging and that it contributed to her developing scoliosis in a USA Today interview.
The actress said the moment she fractured her lower spine was actually “the footage that’s in the movie”.
On the TV show Cursed Films, she said: “In this particular take, the lacing came loose.
“I’m crying, I’m screaming, they think I’m acting up a storm. It fractured my lower spine.”
Linda went on to suffer injuries on other film sets too – including a motorcycle accident and multiple falls from horses.
Fainting, vomiting & controversy
The Exorcist was released on Boxing Day, in 1973, but it seemed claims of the “curse” weren’t going to die down.
During one screening in Rome, it was reported that a bolt of lightning struck a church opposite the cinema.
In America, one woman “passed out and broke her jaw” and later sued Warner Brother for an undisclosed sum.
Meanwhile, in the UK, it was reported that St John’s Ambulance staff attended screenings to help distressed cinemagoers.
Claims about The Exorcist “curse” continued and according to Ms Crowther, it was used as a “marketing tool” for the film.
She believed putting the movie out during “a major religious festival” gave “some indication of the studio’s intent to spark controversy and debate”.
She believed Warner Brothers “spread speculation of the curse”, which helped the film to become “an extremely hot topic” in the press.
The film expert said: “Column inches and television news screens were filled with stories of audience members fainting and vomiting, and walking out in large numbers at early screenings.”