‘The Exorcist’ Comes To The Stage As Fox Premieres Series

It has been a while since we’ve seen anything new from The Exorcist franchise, which is based on the original novel by William Peter Blatty and the original film directed by William Friedkin, but now, in this age of revivals and reboots, it seems The Exorcist is coming to both the small screen and to the stage. Fox just premiered the first trailer for The Exorcist television series to the dismal reception of long-time fans, while The Exorcist stage play will soon be premiering at the U.K.’s Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

The Exorcist Brings The MacNeil Family To The Stage For U.K. Fans

Set to premiere through the Halloween season, The Exorcist will be seeing an unexpected revival on the stage in the form of a play written by John Pielmeier and based on both Blatty’s novel and Friedkin’s 1973 film adaptation of The Exorcist. Unlike the planned Fox reinterpretation, The Exorcist play will be a faithful retelling of the story penned by Blatty, says the playwright.

As fans of The Exorcist may recall, the story contains horror elements, including sexually suggestive material, and is best told with an ‘R’ rating, as was the case with Friedkin’s adaptation. The play will be similarly mature and theatergoers are cautioned that The Exorcist play “contains adult material which may shock and offend” with Pielmeier adding that he recommends the play for ages 18 and above.

This isn’t the first time Pielmeier has produced The Exorcist for the stage. In 2012, The Exorcist was seen on stage at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles with Brooke Shields playing Chris MacNeil (Regan’s mother) and Richard Chamberlain starring as Father Merrin.

Roxana Silbert, artistic director at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre said she was proud to be premiering The Exorcist and two more new plays, all of which bear local, national, and international relevance.

“We continue to attract fantastic audiences by commissioning the best new plays, writers and directors in the country and hosting the cream of national and international companies and theatremakers.”

Fox Premieres The Exorcist To Skeptical Fans

The names and circumstances have all been changed for…well, for unknown reasons. In fact, other than the title and possibly the theme music, Fox’s version of The Exorcist bears very little resemblance to anything previously created by William Peter Blatty or William Friedkin. For the network’s reinterpretation of The Exorcist, Father Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is a young priest who enlists the help of an older, more experienced colleague in coming to the aid of the Rance family.

Also altering the story further is establishing the mother, played by Geena Davis, as a devout Catholic, which, in light of The Exorcist‘s themes, changes the entire premise of the story. One positive aspect about Fox’s Exorcist, however, is its ability to bring Davis back in front of the camera. Other than a stint on Grey’s Anatomy, Geena hasn’t been as visible as she once was and, if The Exorcist can draw a large following, Davis may have found a way to reassert herself.

Geena Davis notwithstanding, a network adaptation of The Exorcist seems doomed to fail, particularly with the limits of what can be shown on a basic cable channel. In fact, produced today exactly as it is, Friedkin’s 1973 would surely earn a minimum rating of NC-17 and still, there would be protests online and at theaters over the acts committed by 13-year-old Regan MacNeil, played by Linda Blair. As it stands, The Exorcist (1973) was re-rated three times in the U.K. Initially, The Exorcist was banned. A second rating gave the film an ‘X’ rating. Finally, the film was submitted a third time and given a rating of 18 and above, equivalent to the U.S. ‘R’ rating.

A basic cable adaptation of The Exorcist, even rewritten and updated for a modern retelling, will require an ingeniously crafted adaptation, if it’s to keep fans too scared to miss an episode.

The Exorcist stage play runs at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre from October 21 to November 5.

The Exorcist television adaptation will premiere in November on Fox.

[Image by Warner Bros.]