Of all the demonically possessed kids to ever show their devilish faces in a horror movie, Regan McNeill in “The Exorcist” is easily the most terrifying — and memorable. Is there anyone who grew up in the ’70s and wasn’t absolutely petrified by the sight of her freaky head spinning all the way around? Or later, when the footage was reinserted into the film, the image of her crawling, spider-like, down a staircase?
It seems only fitting, then, to bring this month’s Halloween-themed Rich or Rehabs to a close with a primer on the queen of the child horror stars, the actress who played Regan: Linda Blair.
Most of us know that Blair rose to stardom at the age of 14 when 1973’s “The Exorcist” gave her permission to puke up pea soup on a priest and scare her way into the hearts of America. The demonic drama, which reportedly made some moviegoers scream, faint and vomit in their terror, went on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations, including one for Blair as Best Supporting Actress. But she lost to another child star: “Paper Moon’s” Tatum O’Neal. As imdb and other Web sites recall, Blair also received death threats after the movie was released, prompting Warner Bros. to hire the police to live with her family for six months.
After “The Exorcist,” Blair continued acting, reprising her role as Regan in the inferior “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” and appearing in some notable TV movies, including “Born Innocent” and “Sarah T. — Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.” She went on to star in other films (“Roller Boogie,” “Hell Night”) but the credits got increasingly schlocky as the ’80s went on (“Savage Streets” or “Grotesque,” anyone?).
Post-“Exorcist,” things also got a little wild for Linda. She developed addictions to drugs and alchohol, for which she was eventually treated. And she also dated a couple of Ricks — that’s Springfield and James — the latter of whom reportedly wrote the song “Cold Blooded” about their relationship.
But all that’s ancient history. What’s Linda Blair doing now?
She still acts occasionally, popping up in the occasional indie film and, a few years ago, in an episode of “Supernatural.” She also makes appearances at horror conventions every now and then.
But the main focus of Blair’s career now is the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation, a non-profit that rescues abused and abandoned animals from the streets of L.A. Considering that Blair — who turned 50 earlier this year — wanted to be a veterinarian before she won that role in “The Exorcist,” it’s fitting that she ultimately remains committed to helping animals.
See, she’s not scary. Really. She loves puppies!
Images: childstarlets.com and lindablairworldheart.org