From the fatal helicopter crash that struck Twilight Zone: The Movie to the curse that seems to plague actors who play Superman, go inside some of Hollywood's most ill-fated film sets.
Movie productions rarely ever go perfectly as planned. Actors forget lines, set pieces break down, and sometimes entire scenes need to be rewritten on the fly. Whatever issues may arise, though, there is a certain level of expected improvisation that naturally occurs on most film sets — but what happens when seemingly everything goes wrong?
Some film productions in recent history have gone so awry that many of the actors, directors, and crew members involved alleged the productions were cursed.
From the off-screen issues that plagued The Exorcist and Poltergeist to the bizarre, untimely deaths of actors involved in Atuk and Rebel Without A Cause, the stories behind these allegedly cursed movies might be even more terrifying than anything in the films themselves.
Several Deaths And On-Set Incidents Plagued The Exorcist (1973)
When it released in 1973, The Exorcist became renowned as the most terrifying film of all time. Moviegoers reportedly fainted, vomited, and ran out of the theater during screenings. It was unlike anything the world had seen before on film — which also made it somewhat controversial.
For many religious Americans, a film that so clearly depicted the horrors of demonic possession, inflicted upon a little girl no less, seemed to fly in the face of God. And its on-set production issues only added to The Exorcist‘s woes.
There were several deaths before the film released that bizarrely mirrored some of the deaths depicted on-screen. For example, Jack MacGowran, whose character Burke Dennings is killed by the Pazuzu-possessed Regan in the film, died from complications of influenza shortly before the film’s release.
Likewise, Vasiliki Maliaros, who played the mother of Father Damien Karras, died from “natural causes” that same year. In the film, Maliaros’ character also died after being admitted to a hospital. Several other actors, including Linda Blair and Max von Sydow, tragically lost family members during the production, and Father Karras actor Jason Miller had a near-fatal motorcycle accident during filming.
But it wasn’t just the actors who were affected by the alleged curse. In 1972, early on in the film’s production, a bird flew into a circuit box, causing a massive fire to burn down the set of Regan’s family home. The only room that was unaffected was Regan’s bedroom — in which the film’s exorcisms would take place.
The fire caused a six-week delay in filming, and a priest was even called in to bless the set.
Both Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan’s mother Chris MacNeil, reportedly suffered back injuries as a result of the production. Burstyn’s injuries were caused by a harness that jerked her about on set, and Blair’s were caused by poor rigging on Regan’s bed, which shakes about violently during an exorcism.
Of course, it’s possible that many of these situations can be attributed more to director William Friedkin’s carelessness than to a supernatural curse. Still, stories of these various incidents on and off-set have kept the film’s reputation as a “cursed film” alive and well for more than 50 years now.