At only 13, Linda Blair terrified viewers with her believable portrayal of the demon-possessed Regan MacNeil in the nightmare-inducing film, The Exorcist. But what many people don’t know is that this iconic role had a lasting impact on Blair’s life.
Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist is a horror movie that tells the story of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil whose unusually erratic and violent behavior raises concern. Her mother seeks medical attention, but when that fails, she turns to Father Damien Karras, a Jesuit priest, who confirms that Regan is possessed by an evil spirit. To free Regan from the demons’ grasp, Karras pleads with the Catholic Church to perform an exorcism.
Despite the controversial content of the film, The Exorcist was a box office hit, and it still holds the spot for the second highest-earning R-rated horror film of all time. It was the first major role for Blair, whose chilling performance launched her into superstardom.
As a young teen, Blair considered giving up acting to pursue a career involving animals. But the opportunity to star in The Exorcist was too enticing to resist. Despite being a newcomer, Blair was selected over thousands of others to play Regan.
However, the making of The Exorcist was not without its challenges. The physical demands of the role were uncomfortable and dangerous. Blair was strapped to a bed and thrashed around, while the room was kept at a freezing temperature. The crew faced their own obstacles, with injuries and illnesses occurring on set.
But the challenges didn’t stop there. The production seemed cursed, with tragedies and deaths related to the filming. One bizarre incident involved a bird flying into a lightbox, causing a massive fire that burned down the entire set. Despite these unfortunate events, Blair, at a young age, didn’t fully grasp the complexity and sensitivity of the film’s concept.
After The Exorcist’s release, Blair faced backlash from religious individuals who believed the film was responsible for their religious crises. She even received death threats and accusations of glorifying Satan. Press conferences also became daunting for the young actress, as she was bombarded with questions about faith and Catholicism.
Sadly, Blair’s role as Regan continued to haunt her career. She struggled to find roles that didn’t typecast her as a helpless girl. In an attempt to shift industry perceptions, she made a controversial decision to pose nude for a magazine, which backfired and led her career down a different path.
Despite the challenges and the impact on her life, Blair has found solace in her passion for animal welfare. She founded the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected animals.
The Exorcist will always be remembered as one of the most terrifying movies of all time. Even though it was filmed decades ago, it still resonates with audiences. If you’ve seen the film, we’d love to hear your thoughts!