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The Exorcist is a 1973 American horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted from the 1971 novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty, dealing with the demonic possession of a young girl and her mothers desperate attempts to win back her daughter through an exorcism conducted by two priests. The film features Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, Lee J. Cobb, Jason Miller and Mercedes McCambridge. Both the film and novel took inspiration from a documented exorcism in 1949, performed on a fourteen-year-old boy. The film is one of a cycle of 'demonic child' movies produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Rosemary's Baby and The Omen.
The "Exorcist steps", stone steps at the end of M Street in Georgetown, Washington DC, were padded with 1/2"-thick rubber to film the death of Karras. The stunt man tumbled down the stairs twice. Georgetown University students charged people around $5 each to watch the stunt from the rooftops.
The MacNeil residence interiors were filmed at CECO Studios in Manhattan. The bedroom set had to be refrigerated to capture the authentic icy breath of the actors in the exorcizing scenes, the bedroom scenes along with many other scenes were filmed in the basement of Fordham University in New York. The temperature was brought so low that a thin layer of snow fell onto the set one morning. Linda Blair, who was only in a thin nightgown, says to this day she cannot stand being cold. Exteriors of the MacNeill house were filmed at 36th and Prospect in Washington, using a family home and a false wall to convey the home's thrust toward the steps. In fact, both then and now, a garden sits atop the embankment between the steps and the home.