As the entertainment community comes off a year where seemingly countless legends passed away, 2017 isn’t getting off to a great start on this front either. The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty has passed away at the age of 89. The news broke on Twitter this morning by The Exorcist director William Friedkin, although no cause of death has been given at this time. The director only shared that Blatty died yesterday, calling the writer a “dear friend and brother.”
After news of his death broke, a number of entertainment and horror luminaries took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late author. Earlier this morning, tributes started pouring in from Stephen King, directors Edgar Wright and Joe Lynch, and Jeremy Slater, who created the The Exorcist TV series that debuted last fall on Fox. The late author celebrated his 89th birthday less than a week ago.
William Peter Blatty was born January 7, 1928 in New York City, to Lebanese immigrants who were also devout Catholics. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1950 and would earn his Masters in English Literature at George Washington University in 1954. He would go on to work as a door-to-door salesman in the 1950s before breaking into writing in 1960 with his first book, Which Way to Mecca, Jack? The late writer also started writing screenplays in the 1960s such as 1963’s The Man From the Diners Club starring Danny Kaye and Telly Savales, A Shot In the Dark starring Peter Sellers and Elke Sommer and Darling Lili starring Rock Hudson and Julie Andrews, just to name a few. His career would be turned upside down with the publishing of his 1970 novel The Exorcist, and the 1973 film adaptation.
William Peter Blatty also wrote the screenplay adaptation for The Exorcist, which won him his first Oscar, although the film was largely snubbed by the Academy otherwise, only winning for Best Sound while losing out in the other eight categories it was nominated for, including Best Picture, Best Director for William Friedkin, Best Actress for Ellen Burstyn and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Linda Blair. Despite only winning two of 10 Oscars, the film was a massive hit at the box office, taking in an incredible $232.9 million in 1973. When adjusted for inflation, that figure would equate to a domestic take of $941.1 million, which would just barely break Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ domestic record of $936.6 million.
The late horror legend would go on to write The Ninth Configuration, which he adapted from his own novel Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane and made his directorial debut with, and The Exorcist III, which he also directed adapted from his Exorcist sequel novel Legion. He wasn’t involved at all in the 1977 sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. Last year, the filmmaker’s original director’s cut of The Exorcist III, which was long thought to be lost, was re-discovered, and released under the original title of the novel, Legion. The writer is survived by his wife Julie Alicia Blatty and eight children. Take a look at some of the tributes that have poured in on social media to the late great William Peter Blatty.