Halloween is an excellent time for an exorcism.
Last Monday, October 22nd, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hosted a 45th anniversary screening of William Friedkin's The Exorcist, a film that feels as raw and shocking as it did upon its theatrical debut in 1973. Winner of two Academy Awards (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound) and nominated for eight others (including Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress), the film has been cited as the first horror film to be nominated for the top prize at the prestigious ceremony. For the event, Friedkin and his lead actress, Ellen Burstyn, were on-hand at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills for a rather enlightening Q&A.
Foul-mouthed, bone-chilling, back-breaking, and head-spinning, the film, based on the 1971 novel by author William Peter Blatty, is still one of the pinnacles of horror filmmaking, a film that feels practical in its storytelling execution (if demonic possessions do exist, it certainly felt like this is how they went about taking place) and ahead of its time in its display of makeup and astonishingly grotesque effects. Released the week of Christmas, the film was as strong an example of counter-programming as may have ever been concocted.
At the sold-out event, Friedkin and Burstyn reflected on a number of issues related to the film, including its Lutheran Baltimore-based origins, the casting of Linda Blair (who, as evidenced by her first meeting with the director, was very familiar with the source material), a fire on set, the filming (and refilming) of a specific scene, and whether or not a director's cut exists of the film. All that and more (including a timely reference to Jared Kushner) are discussed below. Give it a watch!