David Gordon Green has opened up about coaxing Ellen Burstyn into returning to The Exorcist franchise after fifty-some years.
“It’s incredible. I read her biography, and then it became like a mission: could I invite one of the Hollywood icons to step into this role that she hasn’t been in, in 50 years? That’s a true undertaking,” Green tells the new issue of Total Film magazine, which is out on newsstands on Thursday, August 17.
Green is no stranger to talking actors into returning to their most iconic roles, having cajoled Jamie Lee Curtis into playing Laurie Strode for the final three Halloween movies.
“The inspiration that her book gave to me in terms of her perspective after the movie, and how the success of the movie…I say ‘success,’ but also a lot of obstacles and hardships were faced because of the notoriety of the film,” Green continued. “So I got to know her, and we swapped literature and ideas, and we evolved this character to be meaningful for Ellen, beyond just a Chris MacNeil revisit.”
Burstyn last played Chris Macneil, mother of Linda Blair’s possessed Regan, in William Friedkin’s original 1973 film. The role earned her an Oscar nomination (and a permanent spinal injury from being thrown across the room during an exorcism scene), but she wasn’t interested in appearing in the subsequent (and not nearly as well-reviewed) sequels.
In The Exorcist: Believer, two schoolgirls (Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum) disappear in the woods and come back possessed by an otherworldly demon who’s out for blood. Jewett’s father (Leslie Odom Jr.), at his wit’s end, seeks out the help of none other than fellow-parent-of-possessed-child Chris MacNeil. While some may groan at the thought of another Exorcist film: it’s not a remake. Instead, it pays homage to its roots by putting Burstyn’s character front and center, as she becomes the girls’ only hope.
The Exorcist: Believer opens in cinemas on October 13, 2023.
This is just a snippet of our interview in the new issue of Total Film magazine, which features The Marvels on the cover. The magazine hits shelves this Thursday, August 17. This issue also comes with a free 48-page photo supplement looking behind the scenes at Warner Bros to mark 100 years of the studio. Check out the covers below:
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