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Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
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Directed by: Renny Harlin
Script by: Alexi Hawley
Status: Premiere Aug. 18, 2004 (Los Angeles, USA)
Runtime: 116 min
Production Studio: Morgan Creek Productions
Co-Stars: Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, Ben Cross, Ralph Brown, Alan Ford
Role: Father Francis
A young priest, fresh from the seminary, sent by the Vatican to oversee the excavation of an early 5th century Christian church in East Africa, but the Vatican’s real agenda is to see if the legend about the spot where Lucifer fell to earth is true or not. He is one of Vatican’s best young minds and appointed troubleshooter.
Plot: Archeologist Lankester Merrin is asked to go to East Africa to excavate a church that has been found completely buried in sand. Merrin is also an ordained Roman Catholic priest who, still haunted by what he was forced to do during World War II in his native Holland, eschews any religion or belief. Accompanied by a young priest, Father Francis, to keep an eye on the religious elements of what they find, Merrin makes his way to the camp. There he meets a young doctor, Sarah and soon realizes there is an air of gloom that envelops the entire site. Workmen go mad and a young boy is mauled by a pack of hyenas while completely ignoring his younger brother Joseph. Inside the church itself they find signs of desecration. Merrin is forced to re-examine his lack of faith and come face to face with the devil.
Trivia & Facts:
- Budget: $50 - $78 million
- In 2002, during pre-production, the project's first director, John Frankenheimer, suffered a stroke and died. Liam Neeson, initially cast as Father Merrin, left during pre-production and was replaced by Stellan Skarsgard. Paul Schrader stepped in with principal photography taking place in Morocco and Italy, wrapping in early 2003.
- Morgan Creek Productions fired Paul Schrader after he had submitted a completed movie, saying that he had given them "footage without any of the bloody violence the backers had wanted". He had already made it clear in interviews that he was making more of a psychological drama than an all-out gore-fest. He was fired and Renny Harlin was hired to re-shoot the movie.
- Several changes followed the firing of Paul Schrader, both in crew and cast. Screenwriter Alexi Hawley was called to retool the previous script, and he cut off some characters of Paul Schrader's version, besides adding some new ones, like the one played by actress Izabella Scorupco. Actor Gabriel Mann, who played Father Francis in the original version, was not able to re-shoot his scenes due to schedule problems, so new director Renny Harlin replaced him with James D'Arcy.
- In December 2003 in Rome when the curse of "The Exorcist" befell Renny Harlin. The director was two weeks into filming when he was hit by a car as he stepped onto an Italian street. Harlin's leg was shattered and required the surgical insertion of 14 pins. Production came to a halt for 2 weeks while he convalesced. Returning to the set, he directed the remaining 6 shooting weeks on crutches.
- 90% of Shrader’s prequel was reshot. Paul Schrader's previous version premiered at Brussels Fantasy Film Festival (March 2005) as 'Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist' and had a limited theatre release on May 20 2005.
Film Location: Casablanca (Morocco), Rome (Italy)
Renny Harlin: There’s an interesting tension between Father Merrin and Father Francis, because they’re both in the middle of nowhere working at the dig, and the suspicion starts growing that maybe Father Francis knows much more than what he shows and maybe there are lots of secrets that Father Merrin has yet to discover.
We were very lucky to get James because he’s a really strong young actor and delivers a wonderful performance as this young, idealistic missionary. And at the same time, you see behind his eyes that maybe there’s something more going on.
Quotes from the film:
Father Francis: This is the spot where Lucifer fell.
Father Francis: You asked the question, now you listen to the answer!
James D’arcy plays the young and idealistic Father Francis this time around and does a very good job --- Flickfest.co.uk
D’Arcy endows Father Francis, an eager young priest on a special mission, with a provocative combination of innocence and wisdom --- Betty Jo Tucker, reeltalkreviews.com
Luckily, this film features a rather sexy saving grace in the form of English totty James D’Arcy as Father Francis. We can’t verify exactly what it is that he does in this film apart from holding a lantern. But, by gum, does he hold that lantern --- bestforfilm.com (Top 10 Sexiest Film Clergymen)