Morgan Creek Productions fired Paul Schrader after he had submitted a completed movie, saying that he had given them "footage without any of the bloody violence the backers had wanted". He had already made it clear in interviews that he was making more of a psychological drama than an all-out gore-fest. He was fired and Renny Harlin was hired to re-shoot the movie. Almost 90% of the movie was re-shot and at least two characters have been dropped from Paul Schrader's version of the movie. Following the lackluster reception to Harlin's version, though, Schrader's version was finally released as Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005).
Several changes followed the firing of Paul Schrader, both in crew and cast. Screenwriter Alexi Hawley was called to retool the previous script, and he cut off some characters of Paul Schrader's version, besides adding some new ones, like the one played by actress Izabella Scorupco. Actor Gabriel Mann, who played Father Francis in the original version, was not able to re-shoot his scenes due to schedule problems, so new director Renny Harlin replaced him with James D'Arcy.
The film was originally rated NC-17 "due to the film being too graphic and violent". The offending scenes were edited and the result was the R-rating for "strong violence and gore, disturbing images and rituals, and for language including some sexual dialogue".
After Merrin has opened the lid of the crypt inside the church, and he lights the crypt, the face of the demon can be seen for just a few frames on the inside of the lid. A same technique of blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearances of the demon's face was used in The Exorcist (1973).