You remember being scared by the original The Exorcist, but you may not have known these stories about its terrifying prequel.
1. The director changed late in the game.
John Frankenheimer was originally brought on to direct the prequel, but he had to withdraw due to health concerns. He passed away a month after bowing out.
2. Production didn’t go too smoothly.
Paul Schrader took the helm from Frankenheimer. Schrader had nearly completed Dominion in 2002 when the studio pulled the plug over concerns that his prequel wasn’t scary enough.
3. That’s when things got complicated.
After the studio axed Schrader’s film, an entirely new prequel, this time directed by Renny Harlin, went into production. This new film, Exorcist: The Beginning, used the same sets and much of the same cast as Dominion. It failed both critically and financially upon its release, so in an effort to recoup their investment the studio gave Schrader just $35,000 to complete his version on top of the original $30 million budget.
4. The hiatus stopped the music.
Because Schrader was forced to shelve the movie, the score was left incomplete. Composer Angelo Badalamenti finished some of the music, but the rest was completed by heavy metal band Dog Fashion Disco, who were introduced to Schrader by his son.
5. Liam Neeson originally had a part.
Neeson was slated to play Father Merrin, but he dropped out because of scheduling conflicts with Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.
6. There’s a Swedish influence.
Taking inspiration from the original Exorcist, Schrader cast actor Stellan Skarsgård as Father Merrin because he felt Skarsgård is the best Swedish actor of his generation—just as he thought Max von Sydow (the original actor who played Merrin in The Exorcist) was the best Swedish actor of his generation.
7. Production spanned two continents.
The film’s exteriors were shot on a set built 45 minutes outside of Marrakesh in Morocco, and the interiors were shot at the famed Cinecittà studios in Rome. Production lasted 10 weeks, with five in Morocco and five in Rome.
8. Kenyan politics disrupted the whole shoot.
Schrader originally sought to shoot the film where the story actually takes place, in modern day Turkana County, Kenya, but it proved to be implausible because of the area’s war-torn and unstable political situation.