Lankester Merrin
Biographical Information
Gender Male
Born 1892 (novel)
1896 (film) (aged 79)
Died 1971 (novel)
1975 (film)
Title(s) Father
Portrayer(s) Max von Sydow
Stellan Skarsgård
Ian McDiarmid (The Exorcist BBC Radio 4)
I believed God let us decide between good and evil. I chose good. Evil happened.

–Lankester Merrin, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

Father Lankester Merrin (novel: c. 1892–1971; film: c. 1896–1975) is a fictional character in the novel The Exorcist, its film adaptation, The Exorcist, and several sequel films. Merrin is a priest and exorcist who had several encounters with the demon Pazuzu and eventually became the one it assumedly feared. Alongside Father Karras, Merrin attempted to save the soul of Regan MacNeil, a young girl possessed by Pazuzu.



Merrin was born in the Netherlands, the son of a Dutch father and an English mother. As an elderly priest on an archeological dig in Iraq, he finds images of the demon Pazuzu and subsequently experiences other unusual phenomena. He had previously faced the demon many years ago during an exorcism in Africa. The find sparks a premonition that he will battle the demon again in a distant land. Merrin does not appear again until much later in the novel, when he joins the protagonist, Father Damien Karras, in Washington, D.C. to exorcise the demon from the body of a young girl. Merrin, who has a heart condition for which he takes nitroglycerin, dies during the ritual, leaving the inexperienced Karras to complete the exorcism himself.


The contents of this article or section are considered to be non-canon as they did not have William Peter Blatty's involvement and therefore may not have actually happened/existed.

Father Merrin belonged to a group of theologians who believed that psychic powers were a spiritual gift which would one day be shared by all humanity in a kind of global consciousness, and thought people like Kokumo and Regan were foreshadowers of this new type of humanity.

Notes and triviaEdit

  • William Peter Blatty based Merrin on Jesuit paleontologist/archaeologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Screenwriter
    Tumblr lzxixoIhlU1qb9nsso6 r1 250

    Sydow under his make-up process.

    William Goodhart wrote Exorcist II: The Heretic based on his theories.
  • Stellan Skarsgård plays a younger version of Max von Sydow's character from The Exorcist. Skarsgård is nearly a decade older than von Sydow was during the filming of the original movie.
  • In order to make Max von Sydow appear much older than his then age of 44, make-up maestro Dick Smith applied generous amounts of stipple to von Sydow's forehead, eyes and neck. His facial skin was then manually stretched as liquid latex was applied. When the latex dried, his taut skin was then released causing the film of rubber to corrugate. This daily make-up procedure lasted three hours and was apparently the cause of much anguish for von Sydow.
  • Father Merrin's arrival was filmed on Max von Sydow's first day of work.
  • The scene where Father Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow, one of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases, was inspired by the 1954 painting "Empire of Light" ("L'Empire des lumières") by René Magritte.
  • The Exorcist III is the only film Merrin does not appear.
  • The character was originally going to be played by Marlon Brando but William Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating that with Brando in the film it would become a Brando movie instead of the important film he wanted to make and he didn't want the star to overwhelm the story.
  • The character of Father Marcus in the Exorcist series is an updated version of Merrin.


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