Like John Carpenter's Halloween, William Friedkin's The Exorcist is a 1970s horror classic that influenced the genre forever, sparked a franchise with shaky sequels, and features a third entry that has since become a beloved cult classic. And like Halloween, David Gordon Green will be co-writing and directing a new trilogy of sequel films oriented around a returning character from the original, while broadening out the legacy with new ideas.
However, when it comes to the creative construction of these new trilogies, this is where the franchise similarities end. Our own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Green for Halloween Kills and asked him what he learned making the Exorcist films from making his Halloween ones. And Green used two examples from his own body of work to illustrate the wide differences.
Green began by calling The Exorcist and Halloween “very different sub-genres of horror.”
“To me, it's as different as making Stronger and Pineapple Express. They're just so unbelievably different. One is very primal and the other is very academic. So it's just trying to switch gears there. I'm sure I'll know more a year from now when I've gotten a handle on what Exorcist is. The script's written. And it was a very, entirely different writing process.”
For those unfamiliar, Stronger is a sobering drama based on a true story where Jake Gyllenhaal regains his strength after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombings, whereas Pineapple Express is a stoner action-comedy where Seth Rogen gets embroiled in a high-stakes (emphasis on high) crime fiasco. Green has always been a genre-hopping director, and it sounds like The Exorcist will continue this impulse even within the specific sub-genre of “legacyquel trilogies of 1970s horror movies” (my gut is that he views Halloween as “primal” and The Exorcist as “academic,” though I could see the converse argument).
Green is writing the trilogy with Peter Sattler, whom Green worked with on an unaired television adaptation of horror graphic novel Freaks of the Heartland: “He's another film school buddy of mine and we just have got along great. We did this adaptation of this Steve Niles graphic novel a few years ago and just had a great time, it was so cool. So I brought him on board to jumpstart Exorcist with me. It's very cool.” Green also confirmed that he will co-write and direct all three films (“That’s the idea right now, yeah”) and said that “the first one of our trilogy is written and the second two are being outlined. So we've got a ways to go on that, but we know where we're going. It's a new journey [with] some familiar characters and some new ones as well.”
The first in Green’s Exorcist trilogy will feature Ellen Burstyn reprising her role as Chris MacNeil, the mother of the young, possessed Regan (Linda Blair). Leslie Odom Jr. will play the father of a newly possessed child himself, who seeks out Regan for her help on how to save his own daughter. Like Green’s Halloween films, Jason Blum will produce and Universal acquired the films (for a whopping $400 million) with the intent of distributing them in theaters and on Peacock — the first film will start in theaters, but the second two just might debut day-and-date.
Green’s first Exorcist film is set to release on October 13, 2023. Be on the lookout for more from our Halloween Kills interview with Green soon.