No franchise has shaped the horror genre as much as The Exorcisthas. Since the original movie came out in 1973, there have been plenty of sequels, like Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Exorcist III, and most recently, The Exorcist: Believer – which brought back many of the original characters with the original actors and actresses reprising their roles. But the franchise’s highlight is the film’s different versions that have been released over time, with original cuts and extra footage. In a shocking revelation, it turns out that two of The Exorcist‘s most famous scenes weren’t even in the original movie.
Looking back at a YouTube video released on the Warner Bros. Entertainment Channel in 2020, the director of the film, William Friedkin, spoke up about the difference of opinions that he and writer William Peter Blatty had about the film’s final cut.
In the video titled Behind the Scenes: Different Version of The Exorcist, Friedkin shared that he cut some scenes out of the original film because he felt they weren’t necessary after speaking with a Warner Bros executive. Friedkin ended up cutting out “several scenes”, totalling more than 12 minutes of footage removed from the film.
The cutting of the footage caused Blatty and Friedkin to fall out. The two didn’t speak for several years until Blatty asked Friedkin to review the footage with him again before the movie was brought out on a different version.
The two reviewed the footage at intervals, like converting it to DVD, Blu-Ray, etc. There were a few scenes that the two wanted to add back that simply wasn’t possible because while they had access to the footage, the soundtrack for that scene had been lost since it was thought that the scenes wouldn’t be used in the future. Unfortunately, these scenes never made it back into any version.
These Two Iconic Scenes Weren’t In The Original Movie
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The first scene that became iconic in later versions of the film that was cut out of the original is the iconic scene where Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil is crawling down the stairs on her back. A scene like that required a lot of coordination, and Blair had to be on wires so that she wouldn’t hurt herself falling down the stairs and injuring herself, so they had her on wires.
Friedkin decided to remove the scene because when they were reviewing it, the wires were shiny and far too apparent in the scene, not wanting to draw the audience out of the atmosphere and revealing the movie’s magic. In later versions, they could add the scene back in and use CGI to remove the appearance of the wires and make the scene more realistic. Since being added back for versions in the early 2000s, the scene has quickly become one of the most iconic of the movie and an iconic symbol of demonic possession in movies.
Another now iconic scene that never made it to the original cut was a dialogue scene where the two priests are sitting on the stairs, basically asking themselves why Regan, of all young girls, was possessed. Father Merrin’s (Max von Sydow) answer was that the girl herself wasn’t the target but that she was a tool to make everyone who came into contact with her question their faith.
It was to make the priests and Regan’s mother question their faith in humanity and God, leading them to ask themselves why God would let something like this happen, effectively separating them from God and making them ripe for the taking by the demon.
Friedkin decided to cut the scene despite how much Blatty loved it. Blatty wrote the scene because he felt it explained so much and helped make the movie more believable. Friedkin felt that it was obsolete because it was the film’s central theme. Out of love for the writer, Friedkin later included the scene in the film.