|The Exorcist character|
|First appearance||The Exorcist|
|Created by||William Peter Blatty|
|Portrayed by||Linda Blair (films)
Lydia Wilson (BBC Radio)
Geena Davis (TV series)
Regan Teresa MacNeil (born November 11, 1961) is a fictional character from William Peter Blatty's horror novel and film, The Exorcist and its first sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic. In both films, she was portrayed by Linda Blair.
Regan MacNeil is a 12-year-old girl and the daughter of actress Chris MacNeil. Regan is caught between her mother's grueling working schedule and the fact that her parents are in the process of an acrimonious divorce (her father is in Europe and is not seen in the movie).
She is described as shy, even different, and it is not within her nature to behave aggressively. She is devoted to her mother, making clay animals as gifts for her and leaving a rose at her place at the kitchen table each morning. Chris is determined to be a good mother, spending all her off days with her. Because she is an atheist, she does not teach Regan about religion, but when Regan has questions about God, Chris tries to answer reassuringly.
Even though Chris knows Regan very well, it takes her some time to realize that Regan's bizarre changes are not neurological. As soon as she accepts the idea of possession, she consults Fr. Karras and begs him to evaluate Regan for an exorcism.
In the sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic, which takes place four years after the events in The Exorcist, Regan is 16 years old, living in New York City and undergoing psychiatric therapy, claiming to remember nothing about her plight in Washington, D.C. while her psychiatrist believes her memories are only buried or repressed. As the story progresses, Regan is revealed to have psychic healing powers (the reason why the demon attacked her previously).
For The Exorcist III, Carolco Pictures had the idea of a grown up Regan who gives birth to possessed twins but it was abandoned and the story was switched to Blatty's novel Legion instead. John Carpenter wanted to direct The Exorcist III but William Peter Blatty directed it changing the story and the movie.
Considered for the role
- Actress/comedian April Winchell states that she was seriously considered for the role until she developed pyelonephritis, which caused her to be hospitalized and ultimately taken out of consideration.
- Denise Nickerson, famous as Violet Beauregarde in 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, was also considered, but the material troubled her parents too much, and they pulled her out of consideration.
- Pamelyn Ferdin was a candidate for the role, but the producers may have felt she was too well-known.
- Sharon Stone was considered for Regan MacNeil.
- Jamie Lee Curtis was sought by the producers to audition for the role, but her mother Janet Leigh refused.
- Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds were contenders for the roles of Regan and Chris MacNeil, according to Variety magazine.
- Brooke Shields was considered but William Friedkin didn't give her the role because he felt "she was too young for the part", according to Panorama magazine. She was eight years old at the time.
- Anissa Jones, known for her role as Buffy in Family Affair, auditioned for the role, but she too was rejected. Having played Buffy Davis in a recently cancelled sitcom, the producers were concerned the role would confuse and scare fans of both the show and Jones.
- Kim Basinger, when working as a model, auditioned for the role.
- Laura Dern and Eve Plumb auditioned for the role.
- Melanie Griffith revealed that she auditioned for the role.
Offered the role
- Kay Lenz turned down the role because she didn't like the script. William Friedkin decided she was too old.
- Dana Plato claimed that she had been offered the role but her mother Kay had turned it down. In the book Former Child Stars: The Story of America's Least Wanted, William Peter Blatty later said that he had "no such recollection" of this actually happening, and that Plato herself may have been the source for this rumor. Plato was cast for a role in Exorcist II: The Heretic.
- In the end, Linda Blair was selected from a field of 600 applicants for her most notable role in The Exorcist.
In popular culture
- In the Supernatural season 2 episode The Usual Suspects, Linda Blair guest stars as a police detective helping them against an apparent vengeful spirit. At the end of the episode, a reference is made to Linda's role as Regan in the form of Dean commenting that Linda's character looked familiar and Dean suddenly wanting pea soup.
- "The Exorcist Season 1 Episode 5 Review: Through My Most Grievous Fault". TV Fanatic. 2016-10-21. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
- 5 things you don't know about April Winchell, Mr. KABC Radio Show audio archive, accessed February 8, 2007
- "Among Ferdin's disappointments was losing the role of Regan MacNeil in the 1973 movie, The Exorcist to Linda Blair." Bob Leszczak, The Odd Couple on Stage and Screen (McFarland, 2014).