Heads turn at ‘Exorcist’ bow

Latest chapter in scary saga opens to auds

BRUSSELS — When Morgan Creek’s Jim Robinson put the kibosh on Paul Schrader‘s nearly finished “Exorcist” prequel and shelled out for a whole new movie — by Renny Harlin — it was thought that would be the last anyone would see of Schrader’s version.

But Schrader and his closest circle didn’t give up hope.

A groundswell of Internet-fueled curiosity about the pic, now titled on screen “Exorcist: The Prequel,” eventually led to Belgium last week where the film, finished with coin from Morgan Creek itself, had its first public screening at the Brussels Intl. Fantasy Film Festival.

In a few weeks, it will get its first theatrical run in the Netherlands, where it will be dubbed “Paul Schrader’s Exorcist: The Original Prequel.”

There is no decision yet on whether U.S. auds will also get to see it theatrically.

“It’s an evolving situation,” Schrader said. “This film wasn’t supposed to exist. Initially, Warner Bros. (the pic’s U.S. distributors) said, ‘We don’t want it and we can’t release the same movie twice in the same year.’ But, three days ago I heard, ‘We’ll think about it.’ Obviously the Internet buzz reaches up to the executive suites.”

Although Schrader is known to have signed a “non-disparagement agreement,” which prevents him from saying anything negative about Morgan Creek, he has been campaigning for his version to be taken off ice.

He has often compared Robinson’s reaction to “buyer’s remorse,” noting that, “It’s like you go out buy a Lexus and you take it home and you don’t like. So you go out and buy a big ugly Hummer and then you have two cars in the garage.”

“Jim and I are … dissimilar,” Schrader told Variety, “so it was not an ideal marriage.”

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