You remember being scared by the original The Exorcist, but you may not have known these stories about its terrifying prequel.
1. The director changed late in the game.
John Frankenheimer was originally brought on to direct the prequel, but he had to withdraw due to health concerns. He passed away a month after bowing out.
2. Production didn’t go too smoothly.
Paul Schrader took the helm from Frankenheimer. Schrader had nearly completed Dominion in 2002 when the studio pulled the plug over concerns that his prequel wasn’t scary enough.
3. That’s when things got complicated.
After the studio axed Schrader’s film, an entirely new prequel, this time directed by Renny Harlin, went into production. This new film, Exorcist: The Beginning, used the same sets and much of the same cast as Dominion. It failed both critically and financially upon its release, so in an effort to recoup their investment the studio gave Schrader just $35,000 to complete his version on top of the original $30 million budget.
4. The hiatus stopped the music.
Because Schrader was forced to shelve the movie, the score was left incomplete. Composer Angelo Badalamenti finished some of the music, but the rest was completed by heavy metal band Dog Fashion Disco, who were introduced to Schrader by his son.
5. Liam Neeson originally had a part.
Neeson was slated to play Father Merrin, but he dropped out because of scheduling conflicts with Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.
6. There’s a Swedish influence.
Taking inspiration from the original Exorcist, Schrader cast actor Stellan Skarsgård as Father Merrin because he felt Skarsgård is the best Swedish actor of his generation—just as he thought Max von Sydow (the original actor who played Merrin in The Exorcist) was the best Swedish actor of his generation.
7. Production spanned two continents.
The film’s exteriors were shot on a set built 45 minutes outside of Marrakesh in Morocco, and the interiors were shot at the famed Cinecittà studios in Rome. Production lasted 10 weeks, with five in Morocco and five in Rome.
8. Kenyan politics disrupted the whole shoot.
Schrader originally sought to shoot the film where the story actually takes place, in modern day Turkana County, Kenya, but it proved to be implausible because of the area’s war-torn and unstable political situation.
9. Actor Billy Crawford is a pop star whose records are huge in France.
French tourists swarmed the Moroccan set to get a peek at the star.
10. Clara Bellar (who plays Rachel) was cast because of her 1940s appeal.
Director Schrader also liked her work as a robot in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.
11. Filming used live hyenas.
But the critters were so camera shy they had to be replaced by CGI.
12. The huge statue has a long back story.
The giant Pazuzu statue in the crypt scenes was based on the statue from the original Exorcist, which itself was based on a real ancient artifact found in Iraq. Schrader updated the statue’s look in Dominion to reflect more African design influences.
13. There’s fine art if you look hard enough.
The mosaics in the church take design cues from similar Byzantine mosaics in the Italian city of Ravenna.
14. African masks shaped the character design.
The elongated head prosthesis of the possessed Cheche character was based on African masks Schrader photographed while location scouting.
15. There’s a subtle John Ford tribute at the end.
The film’s closing scene is inspired by the final shot of John Ford’s The Searchers, starring John Wayne.