The New Exorcist Trilogy Has A Roadmap, But One Of The Movies’ Biggest Surprises Was Not Part Of The Plan

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Exorcist: Believer. If you have not yet seen the film, proceed at your own risk!

The Exorcist: Believer is not your typical legacyquel. While many franchises are resurrected by studios with “We’ll see what happens” mentalities, a full trilogy of movies has been a part of Universal Pictures’ plans for The Exorcist since July 2021 when the canon revival was announced. In support of this long-term plan, writer/director David Gordon Green has evidently created a “roadmap” of a larger story to be told with the movies… but it’s something that he hasn’t kept a tight grip on. For example, it turns out that the return of Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil at the end of the new movie was not something that was ever planned by the production.

I spoke with the filmmaker virtually earlier this month during the press day for The Exorcist: Believer, and he talked a bit about what’s coming in the future at the end of our interview. I noted that his movie doesn’t function like a “Part 1” despite the promise of future chapters (unlike Fast X, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning), and Gordon Green explained that while there is a plan for the franchise, he hasn’t actually paid much attention to it since before the start of production on his latest feature. He told me,

I’m a very organic filmmaker. I’m always following intuition and the insight and opportunity that I have along the way… I honestly haven’t looked at our roadmap since before we started shooting this movie.

David Gordon Green held up the involvement of both Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair in the making of The Exorcist: Believer as examples of his loose approach toward the future of The Exorcist continuity. He explained that the script for the film was written with “hope” that the production could bring back the former as actress-turned-author Chris MacNeil, and he explained that the latter wasn’t part of any plan at all:

When we started this journey, we had no idea that we were gonna get the blessing of Ellen [Burstyn] and Linda [Blair]. And so that was an amazing evolution in the creative process here. I’d written something that I had every hope that I could convince Ellen to join us. And then the Linda element happened really organically.

In the movie, a part of Chris MacNeil’s story is that she has lost contact with her only child. While speaking with Leslie Odom Jr.’s Victor Fielding, Chris explains that Regan was upset when she wrote her book about her experience with demonic possession, and they lost contact as a result. At the end of The Exorcist: Believer, they are reunited when Regan goes to visit her mother in the hospital.

David Gordon Green told me that Linda Blair was originally involved with the film to support the work of young actors Lidya Jewett and Olivia O’Neill, who play possessed girls Angela and Katherine, but he was struck by a special idea when they were on set:

She began as a consultant on the film. And I never even asked her to be in it. That wasn’t the pursuit. I was just going to learn from her and help the navigate the wellbeing of our young actresses. And that was the intent. And then as I got to know her and, and felt the warmth of her voice and that power, I thought, you know, there’s something really iconic here if we could convince her to do it.

Continuing, he explained that while there is a larger franchise plan, it’s not something to which he is married because he knows that big things like a Linda Blair cameo may arise organically from the filmmaking process. Added Gordon Green,

When that happened, that was a surprise to me. We, Pete, my co-writer, Pete Sattler, and I, have a roadmap of where we want to go with it, but again, elements like Linda showing up… That was in production of the movie. And so that hasn’t been a part of that construct. But now knowing what an amazing human being she is and having developed a friendship with her, there’s all those possibilities.

The upcoming sequel is titled The Exorcist: Deceiver, and it is presently scheduled for release in April 2025 – meaning that production is likely to start up next year. As part of getting to work on it, David Gordon Green is excited to look back at the trilogy roadmap he created with Peter Sattler and dig into the future:

It’ll be really interesting. After I take a deep breath, the release of the movie comes out, we see what the response is like, and if the world wants more, then we certainly have more to give ’em.

Starring Leslie Odom Jr., Lidya Jewett, Olivia O’Neill, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, and Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist: Believer is now playing in theaters everywhere, and you can learn about all of the big scary films on the way in the coming months with our Upcoming Horror Movies guide.


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