The Exorcist: Believer was the number one movie at the box office this weekend and a lot was made out of Ellen Burstyn’s return to the franchise as Chris MacNeil for the first time since since William Friedkin’s original film in 1973. Leslie Odom Jr’s Victor Fielding enlists Chris’s help after his own daughter is possessed, just as Chris’s daughter, Reagan, had been possessed in the first film.
So, Burstyn isn’t in the film all that long when she confronts a possessed child. As a viewer, we are thinking, oh, here we go. Chris MacNeil is going to show this demon who’s boss. Instead, the possessed child jumps onto Chris MacNeil’s face and stabs both of her eyes out with a crucifix, leaving her blind and confined to a hospital for the rest of the film. It’s pretty shocking! At the very end, Chris is reunited with Reagan (Linda Blair) after the two had been estranged since shortly after the events of the first film.
So why did David Gordon Green convince Burstyn to come back and then have her character’s eyes stabbed out? I asked him just that.
“When I was pitching it to her for the first time, before she’d read the script, I was telling her,” said Green. “She’s like, ‘David, you’re not going to kill Chris, are you?’ But I wanted her character…. I worked backwards.”
“I wanted her character and Regan to reconnect,” he explains. “I wanted there to be warmth, and I wanted the good guys to win. But I wanted the bad guys to get a mark on the board.”
What’s interesting about the way David Gordon Green works is he’s not necessarily trying to make a crowd-pleasing story. Which, yes, sometimes frustrates viewers. And here, Green admits that’s exactly what he was trying to come up with, a frustrating conclusion.
“And I thought, what more frustrating ending could there be than to have this reunion, but not be able to see your daughter?” Green continues, “And the last thing she says is, ‘I wonder if I’ll ever see her again.’ And then the answer is no. You’re blind for that moment. And so I want it to be life-affirming in some ways. But I also feel like you can’t make it too clean cut for an audience to acknowledge that connection without some of the frustration that accompanies it.”
It is unknown if we’ll see Chris or Reagan return in the rest of Green’s planned trilogy.
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