Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) Poster


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William Friedkin, director of the first film, told a story, recalled to by a Warner Bros. executive, at the Chicago Critics Film Festival in April 2013. Studio heads came to the sneak preview of "Exorcist II" in a limo, and told the drivers to go get fast food. They entered the auditorium, and within 10 minutes into the film, an audience member stood up, glanced into the crowd, and proclaimed: "The people who made this piece of shit are in this room!" 10 or 12 other audience members gathered to find the executives. The heads rushed out of the theater and realized that there were no cars to make their escape. They were subsequently chased down the street by a group of angry audience members.
The original cast and crew of The Exorcist (1973) were very much opposed to a sequel. William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty actually met to discuss ideas at one point, but when they failed to develop a suitable premise, they abandoned the project. Both Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn turned down repeated offers by the studio, though Blair eventually agreed to return when presented with what she considered a good script. However, according to Blair, due to various rewrites the script ended up a total mess. By that point, however, she was contractually bound to a sequel, and unable to drop out of the project.
Linda Blair refused to be subjected to the makeup she wore in the first film. In flashback scenes, the possessed Regan was played by a double.
On the night of the premiere, the movie was literally laughed off the screen. Things were tolerable until the "synchronizer" machine was introduced, and it went straight downhill from there.
The original, opening night version of this film was so poorly received that the audience at a theater on Hollywood Blvd. actually threw things at the screen to express their disgust when it was over.
Linda Blair has stated in interviews that she and Richard Burton got along beautifully and that he would often come around her quoting William Shakespeare.
Director John Boorman pulled the film out of theaters twice to do some more editing.
At the time of its release, this was the most expensive film produced by Warner Bros.
Although widely regarded as a flop, the film was actually the only one of the sequels/prequels to show a profit on its theatrical release despite being a major underperformer and a critical embarrassment to the studio. However, the film's critical reception was so bad that plans for a second sequel were promptly dropped.
Stanley Kubrick turned down the offer to direct.
Linda Blair has said that Richard Burton started out sober, but frequently became drunk during the middle and end of filming. She also says that tensions were high among the cast.
In one of the last scenes, when the house is shaking and the bed rolling, Linda Blair fell off the bed into a crack in the floor. Viewing dailies showed this to be a superior way of dealing with Blair's character, but a stagehand jumped into the scene to rescue her from injury and the shot was unusable.
Jeffrey Dahmer, well-known late serial killer, used "Exorcist II: The Heretic" as inspiration and for "insight". The influence of the film, together with the second Star Wars-film, were brought up during his trial for 14 murders.
Originally, the script had a major role for Lee J. Cobb's character of "Lt. Kinderman" from the first film, but upon Cobb's death the entire film was reworked. The script for "The Heretic" apparently bore no resemblance to William Peter Blatty's "Legion", which was later made into The Exorcist III (1990) and featured "Lt. Kinderman" (then played by George C. Scott) in a starring role.
When the role of Dr. Tuskin was still written as male, Chris Sarandon, George Segal and David Carradine were considered. Director John Boorman passed on Sarandon, and Segal's salary demands were too high. When the decision was made to make Dr. Tuskin a woman, the screenwriter suggested Jane Fonda or Ann-Margret before Boorman decided upon Louise Fletcher.
In one scene (lasting eight minutes and ten seconds), the camera cuts to close-ups of Lamont in which he's neither moving nor speaking, 26 times (not counting genuine reaction shots).
During the filming, director John Boorman contracted San Joaquin Valley Fever (a respiratory fungal infection), which caused filming to be suspended for five weeks. It was determined to be caused from the dust used in the African sets from the film.
Jon Voight originally agreed to play Father Lamont before dropping out over concerns with the screenplay. David Carradine and Jack Nicholson were considered to play the part: the studio rejected Carradine due to an ongoing dispute with him over his Kung Fu (1972) TV series, while Nicholson's salary demands were deemed too high.
The role of Dr. Gene Tuskin was originally written for a man.
Final film of Paul Henreid.
This film is listed among the Top Ten Best Bad Films ever made in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE MOVIE GUIDE.
William Peter Blatty, author of the original novel, reportedly had to stifle his own laughter upon viewing the film at the premiere.
The swarms of locusts were realized by painting a few thousand Styrofoam packing peanuts brown and shooting them out of a large air blower. Director John Boorman had experimented with a number of techniques to get actual grasshoppers to swarm around (including clipping their legs off so they couldn't land!), but none were convincing enough for him, so they used the peanuts (nicknamed "Larrys" by the crew).
Original rough cut of the movie was 3 hours long. Amongst the scenes which were deleted from the final version there was a special effects sequence of the African church being destroyed by the demon.
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Christopher Walken was also considered to play Father Lamont, but the studio management was opposed to his casting.
John Boorman's autobiography recalls an anecdote in which he claims Linda Blair came up to him one day during the beleaguered shoot and perkily announced, "without irony," "Did they tell you? I was only ten minutes late this morning!"
Richard Burton only agreed to make the film in return for Columbia casting him as Dr. Martin Dysart in Equus (1977), which he had played on stage.
Editor Sam O'Steen was originally scheduled to direct, but the studio decided it wanted a more experienced director and went with John Boorman.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Despite Ellen Burstyn's repeated refusals of the offer to return, most drafts of the screenplay featured Chris in a central role, eventually dying at the end of the film and passing Regan's custody onto Father Lamont. It wasn't until shortly before shooting and Kitty Winn agreeing to return that her role was swapped for that of Sharon.

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