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This Is How They Scared The Actors On The Exorcist

William Friedkin, the director responsible for daring film classics such as "The French Connection" and "To Live and Die in LA," is certainly a man known for taking some serious risks for his art. The infamous car chase in "French Connection" featured real accidental collisions, and Friedkin later admitted in a WTF interview that he had put lives in jeopardy during production but simply didn't think about it at the time.

Unusual shooting conditions and conflicts with actors soon became a recurring issue on the director's films — "Sorcerer," for instance, involved an arduous production in multiple locations that included Friedkin firing five production managers (via Bright Walls Dark Room).

His biggest hit overall would be horror phenomenon "The Exorcist," a sensation that spawned multiple sequels and dozens of rip-offs. Friedkin often deliberately provoked Hackman during the shooting of "Connection" to throw him off guard, but the set of "The Exorcist" involved a whole new level of manipulation and abusive conditions for the whole cast.

Here's how Friedkin tortured his actors to get the reactions right for the ultimate movie of demonic possession.

Random shotgun blanks were fired into the air on set

According to Buzzfeed, Friedkin would have the prop man fire shotgun blanks into the air at random times on set, perpetually surprising the actors while producing the frightened expressions that he wanted.

The director noted in a Reddit AMA session that his inspiration was George Stevens' direction for "The Diary of Anne Frank," doing the same thing with his actors in order to provoke fearful reactions. "It's of course very difficult to say to an actor, 'Now you are looking at the face of the demon' and expect him or her to be frightened, when he or she is in fact looking at the face of a 12-year-old girl in makeup. The unexpected sound of a gun helps to produce the desired response."

It was certainly effective but an undeniably cruel thing to do to people who could, you know, simply pretend to be scared and probably give similar reactions. But that wasn't the end of the director's machinations.

Friedkin continued to use old school directing techniques to provoke actors

Friedkin used other tricks as well to elicit genuine responses from the actors, trying to get as close to unfiltered screen performances as possible. He famously lied to actor Jason Miller and told him the pea soup during the vomit scene would hit him in the chest, not his face. Father Karras' look of disgust when Regan projectile vomits all over him is in fact Miller's actual reaction to the pea soup captured on camera (via Den of Geek).

At one point, after Father William O'Malley — an actual priest playing a small part in the film — asserted that he trusted the director, Friedkin slapped him across the face to get the right reaction for the next scene (via The Week). And while the injuries Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn sustained while wearing harnesses were unintentional, their screams were ultimately used in the movie.

Friedkin, however, doesn't seem to regret many of his actions, even noting that O'Malley "thanked me for it and blessed me for [the slap]." Whether or not Friedkin was justified, "The Exorcist" became one of the highest grossing films of all time, reports The Numbers, and enshrined the director in cinema history.

You can currently stream "The Exorcist" on NBC's service Peacock.