By MICHAEL GINGOLD
With his new documentary THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH opening this week, William Friedkin led a press tour through the Georgetown locations of his classic THE EXORCIST. This writer took part and came back with photos you can see past the jump.
Friedkin started off with a press conference in Healy Hall on the campus of Georgetown University, where EXORCIST novelist/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty studied. The director then led assembled journalists through interiors of the Hall used for filming (plus the classroom where Blatty first heard the true story that inspired his book) and outside, where actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) shoots a student-protest scene early in the movie. Next, we headed outside to Dahlgren Quadrangle, where Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) discuss who might have committed recent desecrations, and then into Dahlgren Chapel, where a particularly blasphemous violation of the Virgin Mary is seen. (Friedkin revealed that he didn’t want to actually bring the obscene statue into the holy building, so its shots were filmed elsewhere.)
Next, we continued down some stairs walked by Karras at another point in the film, and over to the house used as the MacNeil residence. It’s significantly smaller than it appears in THE EXORCIST; a false front was built to expand it on screen. (In addition, a streetlight was placed on the sidewalk outside to allow for the famous silhouetted nighttime arrival of Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin.) We ended up, of course, at the famous “EXORCIST Steps,” onto which a stuntman doubling Father Karras fell from the false house facade, tumbling fatally to the bottom. There, Friedkin completed the tour in front of a plaque commemorating the staircase, placed on October 30, 2015.
In THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH, Friedkin is invited by the titular Italian Roman Catholic priest to witness and film an actual exorcism, and explores the phenomenon through interviews with members of both the religious and medical communities. The Orchard releases the movie in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, followed by further bookings; see the trailer below the photos.