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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
John Boorman was originally offered the opportunity to direct "The Exorcist" but passed because he found the script repulsive. Instead, he made "Zardoz" with Sean Connery. Boorman, of course, eventually took over the role of director on "Exorcist II".
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!"
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.