William Peter Blatty, the novelist and filmmaker whose tale of demonic possession became a cultural sensation in the Oscar-winning 1973 film “The Exorcist,” has died. The AP reports that Blatty died Thursday at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.
Blatty, 89, died of multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
“Inspired by an incident in a Washington suburb that Blatty had read about while in college, ‘The Exorcist’ was published in 1971, followed two years later by the film of the same name,” the AP reports. “Blatty’s story of a 12-year-old-girl inhabited by a satanic force spent more than a year on The New York Times fiction best-seller list and eventually sold more than 10 million copies. It reached a far wider audience through the movie version, directed by William Friedkin, produced and written by Blatty and starring Linda Blair as the young, bedeviled Regan.”
The movie won two Oscars, including one for Blatty for his screenplay. The film received a total of 10 Oscar nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Director (Friedkin), Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actress (Blair) and Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller).
Stephen King sent out a tweet today after hearing of Blatty’s death, writing: “RIP William Peter Blatty, who wrote the great horror novel of our time. So long, Old Bill.”
The movie version of “The Exorcist” shocked audiences in 1973, with reports worldwide of audience members fainting, throwing up, charging the screen waving rosary beads and having epileptic seizures.
“Named the scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly, ‘The Exorcist’ topped $400 million worldwide at the box office, among the highest at the time for an R-rated picture,” the AP notes.
Blatty dabbled in producing and directing, including directing “The Exorcist III” in 1990.
His extensive bibliography includes “Elsewhere” (2009), “Dimiter” (2010) and “Crazy” (2010).