Linda Blair’s Life after *The Exorcist*: The Horror Behind the Scenes

At only 13 years old, Linda Blair shocked audiences with her mesmerizing performance as the demon-possessed Regan MacNeil in the legendary horror film, The Exorcist. However, her life took a drastic turn after her captivating portrayal left her emotionally and physically drained. The production of The Exorcist was plagued with controversies and eerie incidents, which left a lasting impact on the cast and crew.

Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist is based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel, inspired by a real exorcism in 1949. The movie, released in 1973, follows the story of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, whose unsettling behavior leads her mother to seek medical attention. When conventional methods fail, she turns to Father Damien Karras, a Jesuit priest, who confirms that Regan is possessed by an evil spirit. To save Regan, Karras requests an exorcism from the Catholic Church.

Despite its controversial content, The Exorcist became a blockbuster, earning multiple awards and securing its place as the second highest-earning R-rated horror film of all time. Linda Blair’s chilling performance catapulted her to superstardom. Before The Exorcist, Blair had begun her career as a child model, appearing in advertisements for well-known brands. The opportunity to star in the film was too tempting to resist, leading her to audition for the role of Regan. Director William Friedkin recognized Blair’s talent and chose her over thousands of other candidates.

Filming The Exorcist in the 1970s presented unique challenges. Unlike today’s movies powered by advanced technology, the film required actors to perform physically demanding tasks, often putting them in hazardous situations. Blair, in particular, had to endure uncomfortable and dangerous scenes. While she didn’t have to tumble down any steps like a stuntman did in the exorcism scene, the straps holding her to the bed during intense thrashing scenes dug into her back. Additionally, her bedroom set was kept at a frigid temperature, causing discomfort as she wore only a nightgown while the rest of the crew were appropriately dressed.

The set of The Exorcist seemed plagued by an eerie curse, with numerous tragedies and deaths associated with production. One of the most bizarre incidents occurred when a bird flew into a lightbox, causing a massive fire that destroyed the entire set where Regan’s exorcism was to take place. Production was delayed for six weeks while the set was rebuilt. Before the fire, director Friedkin had even asked a Jesuit priest to exorcise the set as a precautionary measure.

Sadly, the accidents and misfortunes continued to affect the cast and crew. Actor Jack MacGowran, who played Regan’s first victim, and Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Father Karras’ mother, both passed away even before the film’s release. Incredibly, their characters also died in The Exorcist. Blair herself experienced personal loss when her grandfather died during production. Tragically, a total of nine people associated with the film lost their lives during its making.

While Blair was too young to comprehend the gravity of these events, she became the target of religious critics who claimed that her portrayal of Regan was responsible for their crisis of faith. Allegations of her glorifying Satan and death threats followed, making it a harrowing experience for the young actress. Press conferences were equally daunting, as journalists bombarded Blair with questions about the movie’s concept and her personal beliefs, expecting her to have all the answers. The overwhelming pressure took a toll on her mental well-being.

Post-The Exorcist, Blair struggled to find roles that didn’t typecast her as a helpless girl. She appeared in TV dramas such as Born Innocent and Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, where she showcased her acting range. However, in an attempt to break free from the shackles of her infamous role, she posed nude for a magazine. Unfortunately, this move backfired and led to a series of exploitative roles that further affected her career.

Despite the challenges, Blair never lost sight of her passion for animals. She eventually founded the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected animals. Her activism in the animal rights world continues to be a significant part of her life.

Although Blair’s life has been overshadowed by her role in The Exorcist and the infamous events surrounding the film’s production, she remains determined to make a positive impact. She wishes that the media would focus on her efforts to make a difference rather than dwell on the past. As she expressed in an interview, “I’m sad, but I’m not mad at them.”

Linda Blair’s journey after The Exorcist is a testament to her resilience and determination to overcome the challenges of fame and the ghosts of the past.