William Peter Blatty, the author of one of the most controversial but popular tales ever adapted for the screen has died aged 89.
Blatty wrote The Exorcist in the early 70's after a successful screenwriting career, which saw him work on a long term collaboration with Blake Edwards. Movies like A Shot In the Dark, Gunn & Darling Lili saw him write for actors as diverse as Peter Sellers, Rock Hudson and Julie Andrews.
After "retiring" from movie work, he drew on early experience at a Jesuit school and the tale of a local boy who had been reportedly exorcised in the area during his college years in Georgetown. The Exorcist was a Times Bestseller for over 4 months and appeared in the list for over a year.
Blatty adapted his own novel along with director William Friedkin and a seminal movie resulted. The Exorcist both thrilled and repulsed audiences with stories of fainting, vomiting and hysteria during screenings (one of which was my parent's first date!) leading to people walking out. It remains one of the most talked about films ever made.
The movie was very much a collaboration between Blatty and Friedkin, although the maverick director did upset his friend by removing some scenes he felt important. These were later re-inserted in the "Version You've Never Seen in 2000.
The Exorcist is remembered for Linda Blair's unforgettable turn as Regan, the powerhouse performances of Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller and Ellen Burstyn or Friedkin's clever use of marrying shocking and violent scenes with cutting edge effects, truly it is Blatty's writing that made the movie work.
It could be argued Blatty belongs in the same company as Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly and Edgar Allan Poe for their contribution to Horror. Blatty's combination of painstaking research, tension filled story telling and the bravery to include scenes like the crucifix masturbation that would not only shock, but appall many set him above other horror writers of his era.
The Exorcist has spawned 4 movie sequels, a TV show that has just ended its first season and a stage play, which you can read about here.