This was my 2002 interview (along with audience questions) during Linda Blair's 2002 appearance at DragonCon in Atlanta.
In 10th grade I skipped school to go to the first showing of “The Exorcist” at the Paramount theater in Memphis. The film amazed me as did the performance of a young model named Linda Blair. I watched as the film’s young star became an instant celebrity. I also watched as the 14 year old was mercilessly destroyed by the media. Her troubles were exploited by uncaring vultures looking for publicity. Ms. Blair’s public struggles became a thing of the tabloid press. Because of her public assassination, it was a pleasure to discover that the petite, beautiful woman is a fighter, a scrapper and a survivor. Ms. Blair appeared at a Q&A session with fans on Day Two of the Dragon*Con 2002 convention. Ms. Blair’s strength, humor and convictions were both entertaining and inspirational. She looks better than ever.
Ms. Blair talked about her films, friends and causes. She frankly discussed many of her battles with the Hollywood establishment, her heath and the press. Ms. Blair also hinted about a film project she is set to direct and star in. If her appearance at this event was any indication of her tenacity and determination, then Linda Blair might soon be rediscovered by the very industry that created and discarded her with such callous disregard. Those interested in reading about and helping in Ms. Blair’s charitable work should check her website at www.lindablair.com.
Below are excerpts from the Q&A session between Ms. Blair and the fans at Dragon*Con 2002. Questions submitted by me are marked RW. All other questions were submitted by fans.
LINDA BLAIR: Hi, lets do a question and answer session about what ever you want to talk about, psychology 101. (Laughs from the audience, but no one approaches the microphones.) OK, well we’re done. Thanks for coming.
Fan #1: I have a question about “Repossessed.” What was it like to do a direct parody of your own work, and what was it like to work with Leslie Nielson?
LINDA BLAIR: The director’s name was Bob Logan. A very dear friend of mine named Murray Langston, who was “The Unknown Comic” brought me a film called “Up Your Alley” that he had just finished, and Bob had directed it. He said, “Why have you never spoofed “The Exorcist?” I wasn’t in a place I could laugh about it. Everyone was either scarred of it or they could see what was funny about it, but I didn’t know how to laugh about it. So, I got a call and they asked me what it would take to get me to do it. So, I said Tom Hanks, he had not won the academy award yet, or Leslie Nielson, who was actually more famous at the time, and they got Leslie Nielson. So, I then had to create this character, and I was not sure how to go about it. But, an actor has to find was of creating different things. So I found “The Gremlin” and it became a lot of fun. It was the best thing I could of done, not only for myself, but, I think for many people so they could find the humor. Because “The Exorcist” is kind of serious. Thank you for bringing it up, because “Repossessed” is very dear to my heart.
Fan #2: My favorite film in the whole world is “Roller Boogie.”
Did you actually do all your own skate moves?
LINDA BLAIR: Everything that you can tell is me, is me. I could not, obviously do the ‘flying camels’ or some of the moves like a figure skater. I skated when I was very young, and I trained for nearly six weeks. It was hard. I really never skated back then. So, they had professionals for the more difficult stuff in the movie.
Fan #2: Did you get to keep the clothes?
LINDA BLAIR: (laughs) From “Roller Boogie”?
Fan #2: You don’t understand, I’ve loved that movie since I was seven years old!
LINDA BLAIR: I know there are a lot of fans of “Roller Boogie.” It makes me feel good. I’m sure I had a leotard or two for a while, but don’t think I have anything from “Roller Boogie” any more. I do have some pieces of memorabilia which I am starting to auction of on E-Bay for charity. You can go to ‘lindablair.com’ and click on “Linda’s E-Bay” and you will see the items I had up for charity. I do have the roller skates that I used in “S Club 7.”
Fan #3: You first worked with Murray Langston on “Night Patrol.” What was he like?
LINDA BLAIR: I saw Murray Langston on the “Gong Show” as did many people. I saw him do the bit with a cork-screw. The kind with the round head, and the arms. He would say, “This is my imitation of Linda Blair” and turn the head around and around. I met Murray and he had a night club. Kitty Bruce, Lenny Bruce’s daughter was a good friend of mine. I went with her, I was 15, and that’s how I met Murray. He has become one of the closest friends in my life. He was one of the kindest, nicest, funniest…he can always make someone laugh. He likes to entertain people and make them feel comfortable. I have great admiration for him.
Fan #3: I remember the film you did with Murray called “Night Patrol.” I thought it was funny. I liked Billy Barty in that movie.
LINDA BLAIR: Oh, Billy Barty was wonderful. “Night Patrol” was originally called “The Unknown Comic Movie” and it was on a lower budget. There were a lot of problems while we were filming. The director and Murray had differences of opinion. One person thinks something is funny and another person doesn’t, so there were a lot of problems. Referring to Billy Barty, they added farting noises that were not in the script. Billy was really upset about that. Then, they made Murray a police office who was speaking French. We don’t know why. They didn’t use his voice for “the Unknown Comic,” it was another person, and no one can do the unknown comic except Murray. So there were a lot of problems and Murray basically walked away from the picture and it is a shame. It became “Night Patrol” and it still has a large fan base.
Rusty White: Hi.
LINDA BLAIR: Hi!
RW: I was curious about “Born Innocent.” I believe you were 15 when you made that.
LINDA BLAIR: Yes.
RW: How difficult was that from a psychological standpoint was it to do that movie.
LINDA BLAIR: Hard. It was really hard. After “The Exorcist” came out…I mean, I was from Connecticut. I had worked in New York since I was 7 doing commercials. That didn’t prepare anybody for being launched into so called world fame. Nothing could. Being talked about in the newspapers, whether it was true or not. It was a very difficult arena. The next movie was “Airport 75,” which had some very big stars in it. My mother and I were just really amazed. We would sit there in our little trailer and say “Oh, there goes Charlton Heston…George Kennedy…Karen Black.” You know, it was really neat. Ruth Curtis, the producer of “Born Innocent” had this screenplay. At the time, teenagers were really used in Disney type movies or Patty Duke of course had done “The Miracle Worker.” There weren’t that many good roles for teenagers, and certainly not ones that told the truth about child abuse or alcoholism. So that was the first movie like that. A lot of people weren’t sure if I was up to the task or not, because there was so much publicity about “Did I make The Exorcist?” “Did I not?” “Was I the devil?” “Was I in the make-up or not?” You can tell it is me.
LINDA BLAIR: So he (director Donald Wrye) believed in me, so that is how the movie came about. It was very difficult because I was the so-called star of the film, so everything was on my shoulders. I had a great responsibility every day of my life. Then the challenge of getting through the rape scene was really hard. Five hours on a bathroom floor when you are 15 years old, soaking wet, and going through…well, obviously it was all make believe…
LINDA BLAIR: …but psychologically it was hard. It really bothered me. It took me a long time to get over that. I really didn’t know how to get rid of stuff. I was always doing roles like ‘the person in jeopardy,’ ‘the person who gets abused’ in someway. I didn’t understand how to get rid of that so I felt abused. But, I worked through it over the years. As people know I have a great sense of humor. I think I’ve come a long way….And if you’d like to read my book on Psychology!!! (audience laughs) So “Born Innocent” was difficult for me, but it is very special because it made a difference to a lot of young people at the time.
RW: It was a powerful movie.
LINDA BLAIR: Thank you.
RW: Would you indulge one “Exorcist” question?
LINDA BLAIR: Sure.
RW: Did you ever meet the Mt. Rainer boy on whom the book was based?
LINDA BLAIR: No.
RW: One last question. You mentioned “Airport 75.” Christopher Lee is one of my favorite actors. Do you have any memories of working with him.
LINDA BLAIR: No.
LINDA BLAIR: No. That’s a lot of no’s!
(A deaf man approached the microphone. Dragon*Con’s “signer” translated this question and answer as she did for the entire program.)
Fan #4: Do you still collect horses?
LINDA BLAIR:>LB: I don’t collect horses. I used to train and show horses. I would but and sell. It is a very difficult business. My heart does not allow me to buy or sell animals anymore. I rescue dogs. I am the president of the “Pacific Coast Dog Rescue.” I help animals all around the world. In every city I go to, I like to meet people in that city who work in their community to work with animals and/or children or people that are in need of help, because I believe community service is a good thing.
Fan #5: Would you recommend that a child appear in “The Exorcist” today?
LINDA BLAIR: Do I believe that a child should be put in the position to make a film like “The Exorcist”? My answer would be no. I was not raised…I was not trained to be an actress. Modeling and commercials is quite a bit different. So I was falling into an arena.
Fan #5: So you believe a child would have difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality?
LINDA BLAIR: I feel that if a child went through some training they would know…I certainly knew it wasn’t real, but when a job is as demanding as a “Born Innocent” or a “Sarah T.” you have delve into…for me, the only training I had was with Billy Friedkin who said ‘You have to go find something very painful, so that you are feeling that to help you emote.” I did that and that is why the work is very believable. So, I feel that “The Exorcist”…I was raised a Protestant, so I was unaware of all the tapestries of the Catholic Church. Therefore, I didn’t know what the Devil was. That was a safety net for me, but that was still a very difficult film to make. It was long. Everything was difficult to do. I didn’t understand what it was all about. But I think a lot of kids would say “OK! I’m going to play the Devil!” Nobody forced that on me. Billy Friedkin didn’t force that on me. He never said “OK, you’re the Devil.” He just sort of made me go through different motions so he could get the look, to make the character react a certain way. I’ve had kids come up to me and act like the Devil. This is not good. It’s not. That’s why I wouldn’t encourage another child to do that. “Born Innocent” was a really heavy film. Kids are much more aware nowadays. That is nothing now. The issues they have to deal with today are much more serious. Today a child can go and talk to someone and the family will be looked at. That didn’t happen back then. It was the child’s word against the parent and the parent usually won. That’s really heavy. I told you, Psychology 101!
Fan #6: What does “Linda Blair” rent from Blockbusters? What does “Linda Blair” have in her CD player?
LINDA BLAIR: You’re going to get really board. I live with rescued animals. I literally live with animals that are very difficult. I believe there is a deeper communication. I take animals from difficult backgrounds. So I have a lot of quiet. I don’t have a lot of music. When I do, it really is, it varies. I don’t listen to anything that is heavy or dark. Not a lot of “jamming” type music because that would make me go out of my mind. It’s more peaceful and, as boring as it may seem, Top 40. I love “Enigma.” Like my personality, I have different likes. If I’m doing a particular film I might use music to motivate me. I love Country Western sometimes. A lot of things. Opera still isn’t on my list. As far as movies. I like “issue” films. I don’t know why I like “submarine” films. If there is a submarine film I’ll watch that. My dad was a Navy pilot, so I think that gave me an interest in military films. I watch many different types of films. I’m not a horror buff, which many people might think I am. I’m very earthy. I own person interest is ‘healing.‘ To make the world a better place. How do you communicate that? What’s missing in the entertainment field, because I feel there is so much violence out there that it does effect the young people. I’m getting ready to direct my first film, which I will also act in. It’ll be fun. A lot of work. But I’m up for it. It’s where I am in my life right now. I wrote a book called “Going Vegan” about my life and what happened as to why I became a vegetarian and then a Vegan. That took about six months to do. So that’s pretty much it. When I do come out, I try to have fun.
RW: You mentioned earlier, problems with Hollywood, and violence. Could you expand on that?
LINDA BLAIR: That’s just my point of view. They are a little out of touch in some ways. We have some great films and then there are too many people making violent projects on television and in films. We have other subject matters that are of interest to many people and they are not being fulfilled. Right now if you have monsters, thrillers and something else, you get your movie made.
RW: Back in the 70s you had “The Waltons.” Do you think a show like that might succeed today because it would be such an oddity?
LINDA BLAIR: Look at “Seventh Heaven.” I don’t watch it because my dogs keep the TV on “The Animal Planet.” “Seventh Heaven” is a big show, but a lot of the executives don’t trust it, and they are the ones who run the show. It’s bizarre to me.
Fan #6: What is next for you?
LINDA BLAIR: I am getting ready to direct a film that I will star in. The project is very close to my heart. I have had four film projects that I was developing over the last 15 years. One was made without me, which really pissed me off. There was a television series that was optioned by Fred Silverman. I think everyone would have been really happy with it. When you present a series in Hollywood, you aren’t allowed, I wasn’t allowed to give a written treatment. I could give an oral presentation, but if you write it down, you can’t get a “show runner.” It’s all about money. To make a long story short. We went to William Morris to get a show runner. They told us what was wrong with the project. I was curious what they meant. Next thing you know they have their version of the project with one of their writers over at Disney. I asked Fred if we were going to sue and he said it happens all the time. People don’t know that I’m a viable commodity. So that’s why I’m doing this film and I’m not telling anybody anything about the movie. I’m doing it on a smaller basis, but that will be more fun. And then I feel I’ll be an entity for Hollywood to deal with.