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Linda Blair, whose performance as the demonically possessed Regan MacNeil in William Friedkin’s iconic 1973 horror film The Exorcist, is remembering the late director as a genius, a maverick, a game changer and the man who “changed my life forever.”

Friedkin died yesterday at the age of 87.

In a lengthy Instagram post – read the entire statement below – Blair, who was just 14 when she delivered the unforgettable performance that earned her an Oscar nomination, begins her remembrance by recalling another film classic.

“Like Sidney Poitier‘s famous movie To Sir with Love, how do you put into words appreciation to the person that changed your life forever, along with the world?,” she writes.

“Billy Friedken was a game changer, thought outside the box, was a genius with an incredibly bold personality and extraordinary imagery that electrified colleagues and moviegoers alike and remained a true maverick throughout his career in the film industry,” Blair writes.

Linda Blair and William Friedkin, 2010

George Napolitano/Getty Images

Although over the years the actor has blamed Friedkin’s tenacious demands during the film – particular the use of a harness and rigging during scenes in which young possessed Regan convulses and flails in bed – for back pain that continues to this day, Blair in her tribute graciously acknowledges the effectiveness of the director’s techniques, saying Friedkin pushed “envelopes with ground breaking special effects to ensure my performance was nothing less than shocking and unforgettable.”

When the film became a cultural phenomenon and brought the cast immense attention, Friedkin, Blair writers, “fiercely protected me from the maddening crowds that reared their ugly heads back in the day of the movie’s release.”

“He was my director, friend, and protector,” she writes. “It was an honor to know him and I am deeply saddened at this time. He changed my life forever, along with the world through my performance, and all my performances throughout my career.”

See the entire statement below.

Like Sidney Poitier‘s famous movie “To Sir with Love”, how do you put into words appreciation to the person that changed your life forever, along with the world?

Billy Friedken was a game changer, thought outside the box, was a genius with an incredibly bold personality and extraordinary imagery that electrified colleagues and moviegoers alike and remained a true maverick throughout his career in the film industry.

Every actor wanted to work with him and maybe my story is the most poignant. 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 ground breaking special effects to ensure my performance was nothing less than shocking and unforgettable.

He fiercely protected me from the maddening crowds that reared their ugly heads back in the day of the movie’s release.

He understood my need to remain grounded in nature, my love for animals, and giving me my first prize horse which I named “Best Director” in his honor. He supported my continued love for animals and my foundation Linda Blair Worldheart, to change the world for the animals.

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

RIP my dear friend…love, respect and deepest condolences to Sherry, Cedric and Jack.



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