‘The Exorcist??’ Creators Take Another Trip Down Those Infamous Steps

The Exorcist (1973) is still one of the top horror films of all time, and the William Friedkin film is memorable for many of its terrifying scenes and the demonic imagery seen throughout the film, but there is one star of The Exorcist that has been vital to the story and yet has never received any recognition until now. The stone steps, upon which young, possessed Regan MacNeil’s (Linda Blair) bedroom window looks, are possibly as important as the then-young star, Ms. Blair, herself.

First, those stone steps help to rid The Exorcist of Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran), as possessed Regan pushes him out of her bedroom window, adding a sense of urgency to Chris MacNeil’s (Ellen Burstyn) search for a cure for her daughter’s condition.

Again, the stone steps serve as the instrument of death, as Father Damien Karras takes the demon into himself and lunges himself through the broken window to become the second man to meet his death, tumbling down the 75 stone steps.

The Exorcist Steps Are Commemorated Just One Day Before Halloween

William Peter Blatty, William Friedkin
William Peter Blatty and William Friedkin revisit the steps used in the filming of ‘The Exorcist.’ Image by H. Darr Beiser, USA Today.

The steps used in the filming of William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Exorcist, which was written by William Peter Blatty, were commemorated on Friday in a ceremony attended by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia, The Exorcist director William Friedkin, and author William Peter Blatty.

At 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening, Mayor Bowser unveiled a plaque, forever immortalizing the steps, which are located at the corner of Prospect Street N.W. and 36th Street N.W. and, as mentioned in The Exorcist by Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb), lead down to M Street N.W. in Georgetown. The plaque establishes the site, commonly known as “The Exorcist Steps,” as a historical landmark and acknowledges that the steps serve as a “significant contribution to Washington, D.C.’s film history,” according to Washington Business Journal.

“The famed Exorcist Steps not only pay tribute to an iconic film but have also become a part of the District’s rich film history,” stated the Washington, D.C. mayor. “This recognition is more than deserving and I am confident this landmark will continue to be a favorite destination for residents, tourists, and students for decades to come.”

William Friedkin, Director Of The Exorcist, Set Out To Make An Entirely Different Kind Of Film

The Exorcist, Linda Blair, William Friedkin
Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) faces her demons in ‘The Exorcist.’ Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Exorcist surprised Friedkin in different ways, admits the films director. In the making of The Exorcist, which relied heavily on the source novel written by William Peter Blatty, Friedkin tells the Hollywood Reporter that he didn’t hold back and really expected an X rating from the Motion Picture Association. Friedkin reports that even Warner Bros. was expecting that X rating.

Mr. Friedkin also reveals that it was never his intention to make a horror film and he certainly never expected it to become such a huge success among horror fans. Instead, Friedkin’s intent was to create an emotional drama.

“I thought it was a film about the mystery of faith… but I didn’t set out to make a horror film,” says 80-year-old Friedkin. “But by now, I have accepted that it is [a horror film].”

Upon learning of the commemorative plaque and ceremony in Washington D.C., William Friedkin said that it means more to him than any Oscar, because that plaque will be there forever, where it can be viewed by fans, new and old.

Friedkin also remarked that he’s found sequels to The Exorcist unbearable and that he dreads the day The Exorcist gets a reboot. Speaking of modern Hollywood trends, Friedkin observed that few films have escaped that fate.

Reflecting on his critics and fans, William says the most condescending praise he can receive is to have his work referred to as interesting.

“I don’t want it to be interesting, I want it to have a visceral impact,” The Exorcist director says. “The Exorcist is special to me because it did have that impact and I think it continues to, to a great extent.”

[Featured image courtesy of Warner Bros./The Exorcist]

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