THE MAKING OF EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC
The role of the psychiatrist, Dr. Gene Tuskin, presented new problems. There had been a general move toward Chris Sarandon. [Director John] Boorman was skeptical, and Sarandon's screen test showed, Boorman thought, that he was too introspective an actor for the part. It was felt that [Richard] Burton had an ascetic quality, tortured, otherworldly, and a practical, down-to-earth counterpoint was now needed. George Segal was approached, but the money he asked for was astronomical, so that was that. David Carradine was reconsidered, but his persona was thought to be too close to Burton's. Finally, women were discussed. After all, it was argued, the conflict between Lamont and Tuskin, between faith and reason, would create some interesting, if unverbalized, confrontations if it were also between man and woman. They wouldn't even have to change a name. [Creative associate Rospo] Pallenberg suggested Jane Fonda or Ann-Margret for the role.
And then Boorman came up with Louise Fletcher, who had just won an Oscar as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She was practical, no-nonsense, and she had an aura of command and authority that could be a counterfoil to Burton's burnt-out case and at the same time carry the audience forward with her into acceptance of the new spirituality the film was presenting.
She won the part, and the film was cast.
* * * *
It is a big day for the Makeup, Hair, and Wardrobe departments. The three female leads are coming in for the first time for tests. At the start of the day, Boorman says to the department heads and their assistants congregated in his office, "What we want to do here is to find a silhouette for our characters and dress them in a narrow range of colors and textures. Don't dress them as they would look in life, but to help express their characters and give them a motif that the audience recognizes. Kitty [Winn] is nun-like; Louise has a severity of line and color, with a softness brought in with sensuous materials, silk and crepe de chine -- these say that under a rather severe professional guise is a woman. Linda [Blair] has a simple teenager look, and then we must gradually lead her to the end where she becomes a special human being, so then she must be luminous, full of light, have an effulgent quality. Makeup and hair must carry through on these ideas. Just keep in mind that we want a basic uncluttered profile for each character."
Louise Fletcher has arrived. She has quite a lot of natural chic; she is nearly six feet tall and quite slender. Her manner is slightly haughty, possibly concealing a bad case of nerves. Again, the crowd is gathered in Boorman's office. "Go light on her," he advises.
[Makeup Supervisor Gary] Liddiard: "I see no problem going light, she has a real good complexion."
Boorman: "She should look different when she goes out at night, startlingly different."
Louise: "It has to be shaded in. I have problems, you know. Jowls."
[Director of Photography William] Fraker: "And we're using hard light in that hospital complex."
Louise: "I tend to get flattened out. Milos [Forman, the director of Cuckoo's Nest] loved that, that demented look."
Boorman: "Her neck is a very salient feature, her face went into her neck in Cuckoo. Fix that. And correct a bit underneath the eyes."
Louise: "Correct under the eyes? I'd like a permanent correction underneath the eyes. Finally it comes down to just a matter of being rested and having peace of mind and you're your own best makeup."
[Hair designer Carrie] White enters. "Louise doesn't want her hair cut yet; she says she still has a week and a half. She looks like Prince Valiant. I've been doing her hair for thirteen years. I did those rolls she had in Cuckoo's Nest."
It is Louise's turn at Makeup. She talks as Liddiard works on her face. "I have to open an eye, otherwise I start to get dizzy and throw up. It's something to do with my inner ear. I can't close my eyes and have someone touch my face." She begins to look quite beautiful with the additional makeup, unlike Kitty. Liddiard carefully suggests eyeliner to Louise, as he did with Kitty -- it is something he has learned that the women don't like. "Now I'm just going to try this, don't get nervous." He works on her eyebrows.
Louise says, "Yeah, that eyebrow tends to stop right in the middle. Don't know why."
Liddiard: "No hair." She gives him a rueful look. He applies mascara. Louise: "I have some white lashes, can you see them?...I had a funny experience in New York; they wanted some pictures of me so I got a guy I know who works for Avedon, he did my face and hair, it took two hours and the photographer had to wait. I looked sensational, beautiful. Finally I came out, and the photographer said, 'I don't know why you bothered, I usually photograph Joe Namath.' I came out in the pictures looking like Joe Namath."
She is brought, made up, into Boorman's office. She sits and White stands behind her, feeling her hair. Louise says, "It's the same old hair, isn't it, Carrie?" White says, "Jeez, you've come a long way, Virginia Slim." (Louise is from the South, and she was around the movie business a long time before her big break, as the wife of producer Jerry Bick.) White kneels on the floor before Louise, holding her hair up on either side, to give the effect of shorter hair -- cradling her face, in effect. Then she leans forward and loudly kisses the inch or so of space left between them, breaking the moment of seriousness. Boorman says, "I want a radical change for when she goes out; she has a different life away from her work."
White does a drawing of Louise's main hairstyle, kneeling on the floor before the low coffee table. She asks Boorman, "You want a nose on this drawing?"
Boorman: "Just the mustache."
She starts fooling around with Louise's hair again. "For night, you want a back look, with a gardenia. I'll have to go to the Luau to get it."
But Louise isn't sold. "I'd like to be open on the night thing. Maybe back is too severe, maybe she just gets it together real good this time."
White: "Like Jennifer Jones."
Louise: "Jennifer Jones?"
White: "Yeah, she really gets it together when she goes out."
* * * *
When Burton meets Louise, he says, "I'm a Welsh dwarf, and it's always been my fate to be cast with tall leading ladies. Sophia Loren not only towered over me, but insisted on wearing six-inch heels, even when they were not in the shot, because if she took them off, she said, it changed the shape of her body!"
Rehearsals break for a working lunch, which today is a giant press conference on Stage 1. Louise goes to Makeup first. "I love Hollywood," she says. "You come in looking like shit and they make you look gorgeous. Oh, that reminds me. I have to call my doctor to get him to teach me how to hyperventilate when I have my heart attack."
[Co-producer Richard] Lederer introduces everyone. The loudest applause is for Burton, whose voice caresses the huge space, but there is a lot of hard, sincere clapping for Louise and von Sydow.
* * * *
In Boorman's office, Dr. Fineman, who is one of the hypnosis consultants on the film, is going to tell the actors about various forms of hypnosis, so that their scenes with the Synchronizer will have the stamp of authenticity. With beeps and the flashing of strobes, the Synchronizer will bring two subjects into a trance-like state in which they will be able to share the same experiences. Louise, as Dr. Tuskin, will operate the machine and aid its effect by using verbal hypnosis on Regan, or Lamont, as they start to go into trance. Burton fidgets; he seems to be fighting boredom.
Boorman says, "You slip into a certain pattern of words, don't you?" Dr. Fineman: "It's called a patter." Boorman to Louise: "It should sound like you've said the same words many times. I like the way he puts subjects under by touch. That gesture, it's nearly religious, isn't it, the way he touches the forehead with his thumb."
Burton gets up to leave without explanation, droit de seigneur. Boorman is surprised. "Are you going, then?" Burton nods, shakes hands and kisses all around, calling everyone, male and female, "darling," and whisks out.
Louise says she is still worried about the technical aspects of her acting. Boorman: "We've seen a couple of psychiatrists at a very advanced learning center at UCLA, and another one, in Huntington Beach, very similar to our own Research Center, and I'll arrange for you to see them, if you like, and learn some of their jargon."
Now Henry the Hypnotist, a much more colorful consultant, tries to hypnotize Louise, who is on the sofa, and Linda, who is in an adjacent chair. He sounds like a faith healer -- the same intonation, the same mellifluousness. His nose twitches every so often. His patter is much more sophisticated, fluid, contemporary, and plastic than Dr. Fineman's. "I am not above but part of all things," he tells them. He touches their eyes. He gives them each a suggestion, neither of which works. Linda laughs outright now. Louise says she had a definite tingly feeling. "I always populate my thoughts -- it was boring just to visualize what you were saying. I was almost asleep until you said "purple," because then I saw a part of my father's vestment -- he's a minister -- and that disturbed me."
* * * *
At 9:44 a.m., May 24, 1976, it's the first shot of the film...Louise working with Tiffany Kinney, who plays Debbie, a deaf girl. They are at the Research Center of the Hospital, where Debbie, connected to a machine, hears her own voice for the first time and weeps. Gary Liddiard has left the set just before the shot, no doubt to do something urgent, but now Boorman needs him to make tears for Tiffany. Boorman orders the sixth take to be printed, the first few feet of what will amount to 98,805 feet of printed film. It is 10 a.m. A good omen. Sixteen minutes is not much to get a printable take.
Louise goes over a line change with Bonnie Prendergast, the script supervisor, whose exacting job it is to record every take, and its duration in seconds, on the film. Then she asks Pallenberg if it is okay with him. He says it is, and that any actor should make the lines fit his own vocal chords.
Louise has visited the learning centers Boorman told her about, and together they have gone over all of her dialogue in the Hospital scenes and modified it according to the speech patterns she picked up from the psychiatrists.
Boorman returns to the shot in which Regan encounters Father Lamont for the first time and in which Father Lamont and Dr. Tuskin meet. The actors' movements are very complicated because of the reflections. Even though Burton is in the frame, Linda does not actually stare at him, although it would appear that she does. Louise looks straight into the camera when she extends her hand (which shakes during every take) to Burton. She does not look at him, although, again, his arm and shoulder are in the frame. There is a lot of taking off and putting on of shoes by Louise and by Belinha Beatty, a willowy girl who plays a nurse. This is to accommodate the camera, and also to accommodate Burton, who is not really a Welsh dwarf, but it not tall, either, especially next to the women. After the sixth, and successful, take, Burton says to Boorman, "I don't know if this means anything, John, but this is my sixtieth film. I've never seen any of them, either, excepting for the first couple, and those I've produced or directed. I look just like my father, and I don't want to watch him up there."
Later, Belinha says, "A lot of the mistakes were mine; I wasn't on my marks. I just have to keep saying to myself, 'You have to start someplace -- Richard Burton has done sixty films, he already knows everything there is to know.'"
The first dailies are seen. In the establishing shot of Dr. Tuskin working with Debbie, the deaf girl, Louise turns to the camera at the end of the take, tears in her eyes. "Wonderful," she says to the people behind the camera, smiling.
* * * *
Richard Burton has said that he will hold Equus at bay until The Heretic is finished, but now another problem has arisen. Louise Fletcher's husband Jerry complained of chest pains yesterday. He was examined and rushed to the hospital. Dick Lederer, who had a coronary bypass operation just two weeks after becoming affiliated with The Heretic, says, "At this very moment Jerry is having the same operation I had, at the same hospital, Cedars-Sinai. Louise is sitting there waiting, and there is a good chance she won't be able to start working on Monday."
Word has come that Louise is dissatisfied with the new rewrite, because the one scene in which she can be seen as a person, not merely a doctor -- she is dressed up to go out on a date -- has been cut. Aside from that, she thinks her last speech in the film is awful. She has told Guy McElwaine and Dick Lederer that she won't say it. She has also told Gary Liddiard and Lynda Gurasich. Lederer relays this to Boorman and Pallenberg.
Bonnie Prendergast overhears, and when she gets Pallenberg alone she tells him she hates the ending of the movie now. She says there are so many catastrophes, it is almost a joke. Although he is used to her bluntness, Pallenberg is nonetheless shocked into silence for a moment. "It won't be a joke," he says, finally.
August 9. The film starts shooting again. Louise Fletcher has made it in. Somehow she is changed; there is more in her face now; she seems more beautiful. Her husband is all right, she tells Dick Lederer, but his spirits are very low. She also tells Lederer that they had been about to separate when he became ill.
Kitty Winn falls very ill with a gall bladder dysfunction and checks into what is becoming the company's corner hospital, Cedars-Sinai, for a week. Louise Fletcher sends her a note saying, "There is no Pazuzu." Then, incredibly enough, Louise doubles over in pain on her last day, and a couple of days later has a gall bladder operation. Kitty sends her a note: "Who says there's no Pazuzu?"
Copyright 1977 Warner Books.
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