Since we just did a blogisode on the current television show based on his original idea, THE EXORCIST, it felt like a good time to pay respects to the writer/director who brought it to life and perfected it.
WILLIAM PETER BLATTY
Writer William Peter Blatty died in January of this year at age 89. He was born on January 7, 1928, in New York City—the youngest child of Lebanese immigrants. His mother was deeply religious.
Best known as the author of the massive hit horror novel THE EXORCIST which has been translated into over a dozen languages, the book was a shift in his own career from comedy writing, as he was one of the more well established in Hollywood, having written with Blake Edwards for movies such as “A Shot in the Dark” and “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?”.
For Blatty, the unprecedented success of THE EXORCIST pretty much type-cast him with publishers. When they were begging him for a sequel, he wrote a memoir about his mother, “I’ll Tell Them I Remember You” which the bookstores were hostile toward.
The idea for THE EXORCIST was planted in 1949, when he was studying at the Jesuit-affiliated Georgetown University and read an account in The Washington Post of an exorcism under the headline “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip”.
Twenty years later, the widely discussed incident, came back to him as the perfect basis for a book about the battle between Good and Evil.
His book LEGION is the true sequel to THE EXORCIST and he adapted it into the film that the studio titled THE EXORCIST III. Another superb work of theological horror, it is a murder mystery and follows police detective, Lieutenant Kinderman, as he investigates a series of murders with disturbing religious themes.
One thing bothered him about the movie, though. Many viewers, inculding Warner Bros. president, interpreted the climax of the film as a win for the demon who possessed the 12 year old girl. That one of the priests was able to goad the demon into taking up residence inside himself instead, and then jumping to his own death was a win for good, not evil.
For years he asked the director, his friend, William Friedkin, to make it more explicit. And in 2000, he put out a directors cut which portrayed it as such. He also rewrote a few parts of the book, adding a chapter, for the 40th anniversary edition, which was published in 2011. He wanted his audience to understand, “That God exists and the universe itself will have a happy ending.”