|The Exorcist character|
|First appearance||The Exorcist|
|Last appearance||Exorcist II: The Heretic|
|Created by||William Peter Blatty|
|Portrayed by||Linda Blair (films)
Lydia Wilson (BBC Radio)
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 diffident, 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.
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Actress/comedian April Winchell states that she was seriously considered for the part of Regan MacNeil 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 considered to play Regan, but the material troubled her parents too much, and they pulled her out of consideration.
Anissa Jones, known for her role as Buffy in Family Affair, auditioned for the role of Regan MacNeil, but she too was rejected, for much the same reason as Ferdin. Having played Buffy Davis in the recently cancelled sitcom, the producers were concerned the role would confuse and scare fans of both the show and Jones.
When she was working as a model, Kim Basinger auditioned for the role of Regan MacNell.
Sharon Stone was considered for Regan MacNeil.
Melanie Griffith revealed that she auditioned for Regan McNeil.
Kay Lenz turned down the role of Regan McNeil because she didn't like the script. William Friedkin decided she was too old.
Thirty other actresses auditioned for the part of Regan MacNeil.
According to Panorama magazine, William Friedkin didn't give Brooke Shields the part of Regan McNeil because "she was too young for the part". She was eight years old at the time.
Dana Plato claimed that she had been offered the role of Regan 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. Anyway, 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 as Regan 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.
- 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).