Lankester Merrin

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Lankester Merrin
The Exorcist character
Father Merrin.jpg
Max von Sydow as Father Lankester Merrin in The Exorcist.
First appearanceThe Exorcist
Created byWilliam Peter Blatty
Portrayed byMax von Sydow (films: The Exorcist, Exorcist II: The Heretic)
Stellan Skarsgård (films: Exorcist: The Beginning, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist)
Ian McDiarmid (BBC Radio adaptation)
Richard Chamberlain (stage)
Peter Bowles (stage)
OriginWashington, D.C., United States

Father Lankester Merrin is a fictional character in the novel The Exorcist (1971), one of the two main protagonists in the 1973 film adaptation, and several sequel films.

In the novel[edit]

Merrin, an elderly priest and paleontologist on an archeological dig in Iraq, finds images of the demon Pazuzu and subsequently experiences other unusual phenomena. He had previously faced the demon many years ago during an exorcism in Africa. The find sparks a premonition that he will battle the demon again in a distant land. Merrin does not appear again until much later in the novel, when he joins the protagonist, Father Damien Karras, in Washington, D.C. to exorcise the demon from the body of a young girl. Merrin, who has a heart condition for which he takes nitroglycerin, dies during the ritual, leaving the inexperienced Karras to complete the exorcism himself.

In the films[edit]

Merrin's depiction in the 1973 film The Exorcist is faithful to the novel. The character of Merrin reappears in the sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), in extended flashbacks detailing an exorcism he performed in Africa following the Second World War. He is portrayed in both films by Max von Sydow. The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Father Merrin.[1] Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating it would become a "Brando movie".

The character was featured again in both prequel films, Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Both films revisit Merrin's experiences in Africa immediately prior to his first exorcism, but each presents a different version of the events and neither agrees with the events as presented in Exorcist II. He is played in both films by Stellan Skarsgård.

Other adaptations[edit]

In the 2014 BBC Radio dramatisation, Merrin is voiced by Ian McDiarmid.


  1. ^ Coffin, Patrick (1 December 2013). "The Unbearable Frightness of Being". Retrieved 16 June 2015.

External links[edit]