No Sympathy for the Devil: ‘The Exorcist’ Director William Friedkin Looks Back


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Those stairs – and steps in general – are a defining metaphor in both The Exorcist and Friedkin’s latest film. When we walked through Georgetown, Friedkin kept pointing out stairways he shot – one in Healy Hall that Jason Miller’s character ascends to ask for the extension, one out front where Burstyn’s character led a student protest, another in a courtyard that led to the Jesuit residence, another outside where two priests discuss obtaining the Roman ritual of exorcism and then two minutes away those famous 75 steps that ended in a pool of blood. In The Devil and Father Amorth, Friedkin explains that the priest used to perform his exorcisms in the Scala Sancta atop a staircase – the Holy Stairs that lead to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate – that can only be climbed on one’s knees.

“It all represented the idea of ascension,” Friedkin says.

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Kory Grow — Rolling Stone

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