William Friedkin's 1973 adaptation of “The Exorcist” features disgusting imagery, expertly crafted shots, and a tense narrative, but it’s the performance of Linda Blair that makes it truly powerful. Though it launched Blair's film career, working on the film was no walk in the park.
Blair began working as a model at a young age, appearing in print ads and quickly making the transition to TV ads. As she grew up, Blair became disillusioned with life in front of a camera, and she was ready to give up acting for horseback riding until she heard about “The Exorcist.”
Blair's mother brought her to meet William Friedkin to audition for the role of Regan. Friedkin had seen thousands of applicants, but after seeing Blair, he was convinced she was the perfect fit.
The role of Regan was physically demanding to the point that Blair was put in uncomfortable and dangerous situations. These included extremely low temperatures, a harness that hit her spine, and an hours-long makeup process.
Disaster after disaster plagued filming, including a fire that burned down the set, until a priest was finally called upon to exorcise the set. Two of the film’s actors died before its release, which is especially eerie since their characters also die in the film.
Despite the controversy surrounding the film's content, "The Exorcist" was a massive success and won multiple Oscars. Following the film's release, the 14-year-old Blair won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar, quickly becoming a household name.
While the film was fictional for Blair, many viewers found the religious themes to be absolutely real and horrifying. Journalists and reporters wanted to know her perspectives on the complicated themes presented in the movie, which made her extremely uncomfortable.
She was just a teenager, but Blair wasn't spared any of the criticisms people had about the film. Blair was accused of glorifying Satan by playing Regan, and she even received death threats and random harassment on the street.
Despite her acting talent, Blair had a hard time getting cast in roles beyond just helpless victims. Blair attempted to revitalize her image with a series of nude photoshoots, which unfortunately led to her only being cast in exploitation and B-films for most of her career.
Blair has had an intense love of animals since childhood, and her real passion is animal activism. In 2004, she founded the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected animals.