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SYFY WIRE The Exorcist

Who Is Voicing The Demon in The Exorcist: Believer?

The Exorcist: Believer hits the big screen Friday, Oct. 13.

By Josh Weiss
American actress Linda Blair on the set of The Exorcist; David Gordon Green

Last week, we learned that Pazuzu will not be returning in The Exorcist: Believer (opening in theaters everywhere Friday, Oct. 13).

The revival of the 50-year-old horror franchise will instead feature a brand-new demon that director, co-writer, and executive producer David Gordon Green (filmmaker behind the recent Halloween trilogy) has decided to keep under wraps for the time being.

RELATED: The Exorcist: Believer Director David Gordon Green Teases “Synchronized Possession” in New Film

Even so, a name and backstory for the hellish entity is only part of the equation. If Green wants any hope of matching the thrills and chills of the William Friedkin-directed original, he'll have to match the unearthly sound design that famously gave life to the thing occupying the body of Linda Blair's Regan MacNeil; the thing that turned an innocent child into a scarred and profanity-spewing monster.

Can he find anyone who could possibly match the iconic rasping of the late great Mercedes McCambridge? Well, in the case of Believer, it may not be a case of finding one voice, but several.

Who is voicing the demon in The Exorcist: Believer?

"We're in the demon-voice part of the process now, and we're exploring various processes," Green — who co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Sattler (Broken Diamonds) from a screen story by Scott Teems (Firestarter) — teased during a recent interview with Empire for the magazine's September 2023 issue (now on sale). "The other day I brought five very, very different people into a room, with a microphone and asked them to say things. Maybe I want it to be each of these voices and more. Maybe I want the demon to be a lot of things."

Like Friedkin before him, Green wants to make "radical choices" viewers aren't expecting. "If you're just trying to do a fan service, you're gonna get lost," he explained.

In that vein, the writer-director hoped to move away from our collected notion of the exorcist as an almost unflappable superhero-type figure that shows up to save the day with a crucifix and vial of holy water. "We don't have Max von Sydow show up at the 11th hour," he added, referring to Father Merrin. "We don't have that type of character in this one."

Based on the trailer, the closest we'll have to a traditional demon vanquisher is Chris MacNeil (once again played by Ellen Burstyn), who has spent the last half a century preparing for a rematch with Satan's hordes.

Who voiced the demon in the original Exorcist?

Pazuzu was voiced by Mercedes McCambridge in the original Exorcist. Described by The Washington Post as "one of the great portrayers of wicked cynicism" upon her death in 2004, McCambridge understood the power of the human voice, having begun her career in the world of radio. 

"It wasn't hard for me to imagine the rage," she once noted in a behind-the-scenes interview. "If it's this close in me, right here — I'm only a human being — it's that close in everybody."

According to Friedkin, McCambridge went full method, swallowing raw eggs, chain-smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol to get the perfect amount of unhinged hoarseness. Since she had been sober up until that point, the actress requested her priest be on standby for counseling. And though she didn't think it completely necessary, McCambridge also allowed herself to be restrained like poor Regan while recording her demonic dialogue.

"The most curious things would happen in her throat, double and triple sounds would emerge at once," the director said. "Wheezing sounds. Very much akin to what you could imagine a person inhabited by various demons would sound like. She performed it under great duress and I was stunned at what she put herself [through] — and allowed me to put her through — in order to accomplish this."

When does The Exorcist: Believer open in theaters?

Based on characters created by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist: Believer hits the big screen Friday, Oct. 13. Green is an executive producer on the film with Danny McBride, Stephanie Allain, Ryan Turek, and Atilla Yücer. Jason Blum, David Robinson, and James G. Robinson are producers.

A sequel — officially titled The Exorcist: Deceiver — is tentatively slated to open on April 18, 2025. The title and release date (tentative or otherwise) for the third movie have not been announced yet.

Want more demonic thrills in the meantime? The Exorcist III and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist are now streaming on Peacock!