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SYFY WIRE Linda Blair

Linda Blair Pays Tribute to Late Exorcist Director William Friedkin: "He Fiercely Protected Me"

Blair famously played the demonically possessed Regan MacNeil in the seminal horror film.

By Josh Weiss
Linda Blair and William Friedkin on set of The Exorcist (1973).

Following the death of celebrated filmmaker William Friedkin Monday, actress Linda Blair took to Instagram to pay tribute to the director who fostered (and later defended) her Oscar-nominated performance as demonically possessed Regan MacNeil in 1973's The Exorcist.

Affectionately referring to Friedkin as "Billy" in the caption, Blair described the man as a "game changer" and "maverick," whose outside-the-box approach to cinema made him an enviable collaborator in Hollywood throughout a career spanning more than half a century. 

"Every actor wanted to work with him and maybe my story is the most poignant," she wrote, going on to recall the experience of shooting an unprecedented movie that would change the face of horror onscreen.

RELATED: Was The Exorcist cursed? Linda Blair talks offscreen horrors in clip from docuseries 'Cursed Films'

"Taking a real 13-year-old and confirming my stability to endure the journey he was about to take me and the world on. His directing came with demanding guidance, commitment and strict work ethic. His creative licensing with my performance, always thought provoking and precise with his 'on point' direction for my performance as Regan. Pushing envelopes with groundbreaking special effects to ensure my performance was nothing less than shocking and unforgettable."

When the young actress began to receive death threats from members of the public claiming The Exorcist was heretical and glorified Satan worship, Friedkin "fiercely protected" her from "the maddening crowds."

"It was an honor to know him and I am deeply saddened at this time," Blair concluded. "He changed my life forever, along with the world through my performance, and all my performances throughout my career."

The Exorcist franchise returns to the big screen this October with David Gordon Green's Believer. While Blair did not reprise Regan, she did serve as a technical advisor on the soft reboot co-produced by Universal Pictures, Blumhouse, and Morgan Creek Entertainment. With that said, the project does feature the return of Ellen Burstyn as Regan's mother, Chris MacNeil.

"My friend Bill Friedkin was an original; smart, cultured, fearless and wildly talented," Burstyn said in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter. "On the set, he knew what he wanted, would go to any length to get it and was able to let it go if he saw something better happening. He was undoubtedly a genius."