William Peter Blatty (January 7, 1928 – January 12, 2017) was an American writer and filmmaker.
The Exorcist, written in 1971, is his most well-known novel; he also wrote the screenplay for the 1973 film adaptation, for which he won an Academy Award, and wrote and directed the 1990 sequel The Exorcist III.
Blatty was born in New York City, the son of Lebanese parents who travelled to the USA on a cattle boat. His father left home when William was three-years-old. He was raised in what he described as “comfortable destitution” by his deeply religious Catholic mother, whose sole support came from peddling homemade quince jelly in the streets of the city.
He attended a Jesuit school, on scholarship, then Georgetown University. also on a scholarship. He went on to The George Washington University for his master’s degree in English Literature. His writing career began in earnest in the 1960s and aside from novels he worked on screenplays, writing comedy films such as the Pink Panther film, A Shot in the Dark (1964).
Allegedly retiring to a remote and rented chalet in woodland off Lake Tahoe, Blatty wrote The Exorcist, a story about a twelve-year-old girl being possessed by a powerful demon, that remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 57 straight weeks and at the Number One spot for 17 of them. It would eventually be translated by himself and director William Friedkin into one of the most famous mainstream horror movies of all time.
The first sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), was disappointing both critically and commercially. Blatty had no involvement in this first sequel and his own follow-up ignored it entirely.
In 1978, Blatty adapted his novel Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane! into the retitled The Ninth Configuration; and in 1980 he wrote, directed and produced a film version. In it, a commanding officer who attempts to rehabilitate patients at an insane asylum for Army soldiers by allowing them to live out their fantasies. The film was a commercial flop. It has since acquired a cult following.
In 1983, Blatty wrote Legion, a sequel to The Exorcist which later became the basis of the film The Exorcist III. He originally wanted the movie version to be titled Legion but the studio insisted otherwise.
On September 27, 2011, The Exorcist was re-released as a 40th Anniversary Edition in paperback, hardcover and audiobook editions with differing cover artwork. This new, updated edition featured new and revised material. Blatty commented:
“The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist will have a touch of new material in it as part of an all-around polish of the dialogue and prose. First time around I never had the time (meaning the funds) to do a second draft, and this, finally, is it. With forty years to think about it, a few little changes were inevitable – plus one new character in a totally new very spooky scene. This is the version I would like to be remembered for.”
The Exorcist was adapted into a TV series in 2016.