Editor’s Note: The article below contains spoilers for The Exorcist: Believer.
The Big Picture
- Director David Gordon Green successfully convinced the star from the first Exorcist movie to make a surprise cameo in The Exorcist: Believer, reuniting her with her on-screen mother Ellen Burstyn after many years.
- Linda Blair initially joined the film as a consultant to advise the young actors playing possession victims, providing valuable insight and helping create intimate and complex performances.
- The moment of reunion between Blair and Burstyn on set was unexpected and emotional, leaving the crew awestruck. It was the first time they had communicated in many years, and it was captured in the first take of the scene.
Ellen Burstyn‘s role in The Exorcist: Believer has been well-publicized, but director David Gordon Green didn’t think he’d get her The Exorcist co-star on-screen – until he did. Getting Linda Blair to reunite with her on-screen mother for the movie’s surprise ending turned out to be easier than he thought. Entertainment Weekly has a new interview with Green where he goes into detail on the process that went into getting Blair to reprise her role as Regan Sinclair for the first time in over forty-five years.
It has been previously reported that Green brought on Blair to consult on the film and advise Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum, the young actors playing possession victims, and that was the original extent of her involvement. As Green says, “She read the script and gave me her thoughts on how to go about accessing a degree of intimacy, of darkness, of complexity within these two amazing performers, Lidya and Olivia. She helped us walk those tightropes, and then we started having fun.”
Although Blair has largely left acting behind, she did ultimately agree to a short cameo at the film’s conclusion, reuniting with Burstyn for the first time in years. The cameo was filmed in secret, and was not in the script. As Green describes it,
“I told Ellen that Linda had agreed to do this, and they were going to be reunited. It was just something that felt right, and Linda felt comfortable. She walked in, and the moment was shared by the dropped jaws of the crew. The camera operator was crying, didn’t know what was happening! The moment that you see Linda take a knee and take her hand is the first time they’d communicated in many, many years. It was the first take.”
Who Is Linda Blair?
Blair was a largely unknown fourteen-year-old actor when she rocketed to stardom for her captivating, fearless performance in William Friedkin‘s 1973 smash hit The Exorcist; she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role, a rarity for a genre film. She reprised her role as Regan in 1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic. She, Kitty Winn, and Max von Sydow were the only three cast members from the original to return for the John Boorman-directed sequel. Blair went on to have a busy acting career throughout the ’70s and ’80s, frequently appearing in the horror and exploitation films, including Hell Night, Chained Heat, and Savage Streets. She also sent up her most famous role in the 1990 Leslie Nielsen horror spoof Repossessed, and had a brief cameo in 1996’s Scream. She has largely retired from acting, and has become a prominent animal rights activist.
A revival of the long-dormant horror franchise, The Exorcist: Believer is the first in a proposed trilogy of films from director Green and horror impresario Jason Blum. The film is tracking to open in the top box office spot this weekend, but critics have suggested the franchise should be cast back into Hell; in his review, Collider’s Chase Hutchinson says “this superficial sequel remains stuck in the past”.
The Exorcist: Believer is in theaters now. Stay tuned to Collider for future updates!