The Bizarre On-Set Accident That Actually Made It Into The Exorcist
Movie sets are meticulously organized — configured of hundreds of movie parts and people who are all working together to produce a well-rounded project for their desired audience. Everything from the dialogue to the camerawork and beyond is thought out beforehand, though that doesn’t mean things don’t change on the fly. In many ways, movie sets are tightly-controlled environments, but unexpected things still happen, and those working on the project have to adapt.
At their worst, on-set accidents can result in the injury or death of actors or the film crew. The recent gun-related tragedy that occurred on Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” set is a prime example of this. On the very opposite of the spectrum, accidents can also result in something filmmakers can actually use. These types of things happen more often than we probably realize. Take, for instance, the bizarre on-set accident that surprisingly made it into the 1973 religious horror classic, “The Exorcist.”
The gut-busting accident that became horror iconography
If you’ve seen “The Exorcist” or anything that has parodied it over the last four decades, you likely already know the scene in question. Amid the eponymous exorcism, the demon inside Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair) begins talking to protagonist Damien Karras (Jason Miller) to tempt and confuse him. Taking advantage of Karras’ guilt over his mother’s recent death, Pazuzu (the demon) tells Karras that he can pass one message on to her in the afterlife. When Karras calls Pazuzu’s bluff and asks for his mother’s maiden name, the stumped demon projectile vomits directly into Karras’ face.
It’s an iconic scene in horror history, primarily because of how gross it is. What most people don’t know, however, is that the vomit (which was actually pea soup) missed its intended target. In an interview with the BBC for the “Exorcist” documentary “The Fear of God,” Jason Miller explained that while the soup-shooter had been pointed at his chest during rehearsals, it had erroneously been pointed at his face during filming. Realizing that the face-shot was much more off-putting, the filmmakers decided to leave it in the final movie. Thus, horror history was made by a bit of a happy accident.