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EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING

About The Production
One of the most terrifying films of all time, The Exorcist has been the source of countless nightmares since its debut in 1973. Written by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, the film graphically chronicles the macabre story of Regan, a 12-year-old girl who becomes demonically possessed. The only force that can release her from the demon's grasp and end her torture is a powerful exorcism, performed by Father Lankester Merrin in a ritual that almost kills them both. Exorcist: The Beginning takes audiences back in time, 25 years into Father Merrin's past, to illuminate the horrifying events that first turned him away from God, then ultimately led him down the path to becoming an exorcist.

Director Renny Harlin, known for the dynamic directing style he has brought to hit action films such as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and The Deep Blue Sea, has created a new chapter in the Exorcist legend. "I am a huge fan of the horror genre,” says Harlin. "I'm known for my action films, but I started in horror and it is a genre that I've always loved and admired. And obviously the original Exorcist is one of the most famous horror films ever made. It's one of my favorite films, so when this opportunity came across my path, I just couldn't pass it by.”

Immediately after shooting began in Rome, the director was seriously injured when he was struck by a car. "I broke my leg pretty badly,” he recounts, "so I had to shoot the entire movie on crutches with a cast on my leg, which was definitely tough and frustrating. But I think that it contributed to the movie in that it made me really sit in one place and think hard about what I wanted to do. 

"In doing a prequel, I tried to set up a lot of those unanswered questions that are posed in the original,” Harlin continues. "There are a lot of open plotlines that are never explained, including a comment about an exorcism that Merrin had performed years ago in Africa. I wanted to make it so that if you watch this film and then watch The Exorcist, the original naturally follows, as if it were the sequel. I wanted to really find the way into people's minds and hearts, to give them an experience that would satisfy them as well as horrify and surprise them.”

The story begins with a broken and desolate Father Lankester Merrin who, in the wake of his agonizing experiences in his native Holland during World War II, has traveled the world in a vain attempt to escape the horrors of his past. "We chose to tell the story of Father Merrin as a young priest,” says Harlin, "and learn how he first came into contact with the demon. The central story of this movie is really Merrin's struggle to find his faith again. We learn that something absolutely horrific happened to him that made him walk away from priesthood, and he's lost his faith in everything, including himself.”

Stellan Skarsgård plays the disillusioned priest, a role that Harlin found particularly fitting for the actor. "Max Von Sydow played Father Merrin in the 1973 original,” says the director, "and I think there's a very natural connection. Both actors are Swedish, they look alike, and both are fantastic actors who are renowned both in their own country and abroad. Stellan brought a real sense of reality to this part.” 

Skarsgård himself did not feel daunted or bound by the famous performance of his predecessor. "I've given my own take on the character,” he says of his approach to the role. "In The Exorcist, Max portrayed the character of Merrin as an old man who was nearing the end of his life. You can't tell what he may have been like when he was younger, so I had the freedom to approach the character in my own way.”

During his travels through Cairo, Merrin is approached by a stranger for an unusual assignment. The British government is financing an archaeological dig in a remote area of Kenya, and they have uncovered a striking discovery – a perfectly p

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