Horror website Fearnet have detailed an appearance William Friedkin made at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood last Tuesday (1 May). The director spoke to the audience about the upcoming stage play of The Exorcist (Opening at the Geffen Playhouse July 3). Also present were playwright John Pielmeir and Geffen’s artistic director Randall Arney.
Playwright John Pielmeier revealed he wrote the play in a staggering ten days, the fastest he has ever written a stage production. After speaking with author William Peter Blatty about the approach he wanted to take, and having Blatty’s blessing to proceed, Pielmeier said he was “just so jazzed by this book.”
“I just started exploding with ideas and passion and feelings that just spoke to me in such a deep, deep way. I let it gestate in me for a while, then I went off alone and I vomited it out, so to speak.”
Blatty was incredibly supportive of the first draft and the production has evolved from there. “What was wonderful about how generous Bill Blatty was was that he allowed me to riff on things that are barely mentioned in the novel,” Pielmeier said. “For example, there’s a brief mention that Chris had a child before Regan, a little boy who died. I kind of took that and expanded that in the play, as something that’s haunting her life. I think these are people who, everyone has something haunting them.”
Pielmeier reaffirmed the stage production of The Exorcist deals less with the special effects and physical horror and more with the struggle between faith and despair. “The first question that most people ask me,” he said, “is ‘How are you going to make her head turn around?’ And I thought, ‘That’s not the kind of thing we want to see on stage.’
Asked whether The Exorcist could translate to stage, Friedkin had nothing but praise for the production team that has been assembled. “It’s got a great pedigree,” he said. “Mr. Pielmeier is a distinguished American playwright. I think John Doyle is the best stage director in this country. You’ve got a terrific combination. I’m looking forward to it.”
Friedkin also spoke about why he believes his film adaptation of The Exorcist still resonates with audiences today. “It deals with the mystery of faith, which even atheists are concerned about, or think about,” he explained. “Even if you deny the existence of a god, you’re thinking about it. And to me, anyone who can say, ‘Absolutely, there is no such thing as a god’ doesn’t know what they’re talking about. We don’t know. The idea of faith is we’re not supposed to know on this earth, but we know that every day before our eyes is a miracle. The miracle of birth, the miracle of love. We have nothing to say about how we come into this world or how we’re leaving it; but some force does, I believe. Now I’m not Catholic, but I strongly believe in a god, and I very much believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Which I think are profoundly beautiful and important. I personally feel, I must say, that the Church has come a long way from the practices and teachings of Jesus¦ The film is important in a way because of the teachings of Jesus. That’s what is in every frame of this film.”
Click over to the fantastic Feanet article to read more of what Friedkin and playwright Pielmeier had to say on the night. Be sure to join us in the Exorcist Forums to discuss how you feel about the upcoming stage play.
Photo credit: Fearnet