Although many people assume that The Exorcist (1974) was American actress Linda Blair's film debut, she had actually been working in commercials since age six. Blair was chosen from a field of 500 hopefuls for Exorcist because of her resemblance to the film's star, Ellen Burstyn. To the casual viewer, the film, which dealt with the Devil's possession of an innocent preteen girl, was hardly the sort of fare that any responsible parent would allow their child to appear in. But the Exorcist's director, William Friedkin, was careful to prearrange the special effects (head turning around, bloody body wounds, vomiting green bile) with the least amount of danger or trauma for Blair. From all reports, she handled the assignment like a trouper, though she balked at having her hair messed up for the purposes of the plot. Blair was nominated for an Academy Award for her Exorcist work, but this campaign was scuttled when it was learned that, not only had the girl been extensively doubled by a dummy, but her horrendous "Satan" voice, explicit obscenities and all, had been dubbed by adult actress Mercedes McCambridge. A major celebrity at 15, Blair was able for a while to parlay her Exorcist work into a series of demanding film and TV roles, most of which cast her as a much-abused victim. Her rape scene in the TV movie Born Innocent was so graphic that the network was forced to cut the scene when the film was rerun. In other appearances, Blair played a teen alcoholic, a kidnap victim, a heart-transplant patient on an endangered airliner, and her Exorcist role again in Exorcist II (1977). By this time, Blair was unable to maintain the equilibrium of her career, which degenerated into exploitative crime or girls-in-prison films. More recently, Blair was seen in Repossessed (1990), a ham-handed spoof of the film that made her famous.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Worked as a child actor in commercials starting at the age of 6.
- Was chosen for her role in The Exorcist based on her resemblance to Ellen Burstyn.
- Was stalked and threatened after the release of The Exorcist, so much so that security guards were hired to live with her and her family for six months.
- Wrote Going Vegan!, a book detailing her switch to a vegan diet.
- Founded the Worldheart Foundation, devoted to animal rescue and the prevention of animal abuse.