Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil, Max von Sydow as Father Merrin, and Jason Miller as Father Karras in The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, 1973.
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October 29, 2015 8:46 AM EDT

When William Friedkin was making The Exorcist, he didn’t think of it in the genre it has come to symbolize today: “I didn’t set out to make a horror film,” he says.

Instead, Friedkin saw the movie about a young girl in the grips of a vicious demon as “a film about the mystery of faith,” he tells the Hollywood Reporter. “But by now, I have accepted that it is [a horror film].”

No matter what you call it, the film has become a key cultural touchstone, and on the day before Halloween, 42 years after its release, it will get a new honor: a bronze plaque marking the staircase in Washington, D.C. where the character of Father Karras takes a fatal tumble. The honor “means more than an Oscar,” Friedkin says, because it is “something that will be up there in public forever.”

Four decades later, Friedkin is still proud; he recently re-watched the film for the first time in years and gave it two thumbs up. “I honestly thought it was very well made film.”


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