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Regan MacNeil
Biographical Information
Gender female
Eye color brown
Hair color strawberry blonde
Born April 1959 (novel)
1961 (film)
Died 1975 film
Affiliation(s) Chris MacNeil (mother)
Howard MacNeil (father)
Jaime Macneil (brother, deceased)
Herny Rance (husband)
Casey Rance (daughter)
Kat Rance (daughter)
Portrayer(s) Linda Blair
Lydia Wilson (The Exorcist BBC Radio)
Geena Davis (The Exorcist (TV Series))

Regan Teresa MacNeil is a character in the novel The Exorcist, its film adaptations, and the television series The Exorcist. In the 2014 adaptation of the BBC Radio 4 novel, she was portrayed by Lydia Wilson. Regan is the daughter of famous actress Chris MacNeil. Regan is a shy, creative young woman who becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu. She gradually assumes a strange, aggressive behavior that worries and scares her mother. Her mother, Chris, consults physicians and psychiatrists, but no somatic nor psychiatric causes are found. The doctors finally suggest an exorcism, as patients who believe they are possessed sometimes benefit from ritualized treatment.

Regan became an icon of horror films and a primary influence for subsequent films depicting demonic possession. The character has been spoofed in many parodies (in one occasion by Linda Blair herself), such as the Scary Movie series.


The Exorcist

Regan MacNeil is a possessed 12-year-old girl and the daughter of actress Chris MacNeil. Regan is caught between her mother's grueling working schedule and the fact that her parents are in the process of an acrimonious divorce (her father is in Europe and is not seen in the movie).

She is described as shy, even diffident, and it is not within her nature to behave aggressively. She is devoted to her mother, making clay animals as gifts for her and leaving a rose at her place at the kitchen table each morning. Chris is determined to be a good mother, spending all her off days with her. Because Chris is an atheist, she does not teach Regan about religion. However, her atheism is not militant and she does not attempt to discourage any belief in a higher power that others have. When Regan asks about God, Chris tries to answer reassuringly.

Even though Chris knows Regan very well, it takes her some time to realize that Regan's bizarre changes are not neurological. At first she seeks doctors, who either consider it a case of bronchitis or an imaginary ailment. This results in further and more complicated testing, where it cannot be found where there is anything wrong with her medically, culminating in a point where some of the world's most prominent medical men convene. It steers towards the spiritual when one psychiatrist suggests demonic possession and recommends seeking the services of a priest.

Damian Karras, a priest who has studied psychology, is reluctant to approve exorcism. After a study of Regan, he agrees to it. His bishop authorizes the exorcism on the basis that he must be under the oversight of a more experienced priest, so he is aided by Lankester Merrin. A prolonged battle between Pazuzu and Karras ensues, including briefly transforming Regan into his deceased mother. After some time, Pazuzu looks for a new host, leaving Regan's body.

Regan is returned to normal with no apparent memory of her possession. However, in the penultimate scene of the first movie where Chris is given a friendly greeting by two priests, Regan gives one of them a kiss on the cheek, suggesting she has some memory remaining of Merrin and Karras and wished to give a posthumous thanks.

Exorcist II: The Heretic

In the sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic, which takes place four years after the events in The Exorcist, Regan is 16 years old, living in New York City and undergoing psychiatric therapy, claiming to remember nothing about her plight in Washington, D.C. While her psychiatrist believes her memories are only buried or repressed. As the story progresses, Regan is revealed to have psychic healing powers (the reason why the demon attacked her previously).

Notes and trivia

  • The character has been spoofed in Scary Movie 2 with actress Natasha Lyonne in the role. Linda Blair
    Natasha Lyonne as Megan Voorhees in Scary Movie 2.
    herself spoofed Regan in the 1990 comedy Repossessed, alongside Leslie Nielsen. 
  • Actress/comedian April Winchell, daughter of the ventriloquist Paul Winchell, claims she was seriously considered for the part of Regan MacNeil until she developed pyelonephritis, which caused her to be hospitalized and ultimately taken out of consideration.[1]
  • Anissa Jones also auditioned for the part, but producers felt her own familiar face, having played Buffy Davis in the recently-cancelled sitcom Family Affair, would confuse and scare fans of both the show and Jones.
  • Denise Nickerson was also seriously considered for the role of Regan MacNeil, partly based on her past experience with special effects and makeup, as she is best known for becoming a giant blueberry as her role as Violet Beauregard in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. However, her family, after reading the script and seeing some elements that caused them concern, refused to endorse her for the role.
  • The agency representing Linda Blair overlooked her, recommending at least 30 other clients for the part of Regan. Blair's mother brought her in herself to try out for the role.
  • On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair's delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max von Sydow that he actually forgot his lines.
  • The substance that the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) hurls at Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is thick pea soup. Specifically, it's Andersen's brand pea soup. The crew tried Campbell's but didn't like the "effect."
  • In the scene where the words "help me" arise out of Regan's torso, the effect was achieved by constructing a foam latex replica of actress Linda Blair's belly, writing the words out with a paint brush and cleaning fluid, then filming the words as they formed from the chemical reaction. Special effects artist Dick Smith then heated the forming blisters with a blow dryer, causing them to deflate. When the film was run backwards, it appeared as though the words were rising out of young Regan's skin in an attempt to summon intervention.
  • Linda Blair injured her back when a piece of the rig broke as she was thrown about on the bed.
  • For the vomiting sequences, Eileen Dietz doubled (uncredited) for Linda Blair, and later sued unsuccessfully for puking credit.
  • According to Variety magazine, it was revealed that Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds were contenders for the roles of Regan and Chris MacNeil.
  • According to Panorama magazine, William Friedkin didn't give Brooke Shields the part of Regan McNeil because "she was too young for the part". It is known that Shields at the time wasn't known as an actress prior to the controversy of a similar film: Pretty Baby (1978).
  • Dana Plato claimed that she had been offered the role of Regan but her mother Kay had turned it down. In the book "Former Child Stars: The Story of America's Least Wanted" William Peter Blatty later said that he had "no such recollection" of this actually happening, and that Plato herself may have been the source for this rumor. She eventually got a role in Exorcist II: The Heretic.
  • Laura Dern and Eve Plumb auditioned for the role of Regan McNeil.
  • Sharon Stone was considered for Regan McNeil.
  • Melanie Griffith revealed that she auditioned for Regan McNeil.
  • Pamelyn Ferdin, a veteran of science fiction and supernatural drama, was a candidate for the role of Regan.
  • Anissa Jones auditioned for the role of Regan, she was rejected.
  • When she was working as a model, Kim Basinger auditioned for the role of Regan MacNell.
  • There were 30 actresses considered for the role of Regan MacNeil.
  • There were 600 applicants trying out or was considered to play Regan MacNeil.
  • For The Exorcist III, Carolco Pictures had the idea of a grown up Regan and giving birth to possessed twins but it was abandoned and the story got switched to Blatty's novel Legion instead. John Carpenter wanted to direct The Exorcist III but William Peter Blatty directed it, changing the story and the movie.
  • The contortionist Linda R. Hager was hired to perform the famous "spider walk" scene, which was filmed on April 11, 1973. Ms. Hager was able to perform the scene by use of a harness and flying wires hung above the staircase used in the set; she would advise Friedkin when she was just barely touching the stairs with her hands and feet; and then she maintained that light touch as she was moved down the staircase by the harness and wires. William Friedkin deleted the scene before the film's December release. He felt it was "too much" of an effect because it appeared so early in the film. He later admitted that another reason for omitting the scene was that there was no way to hide the wires from view at the time. Almost 30 years later, Friedkin changed his mind and added the scene back for the extended 2000 version, with the wires digitally removed.
  • On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair's delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max von Sydow that he actually forgot his lines.
  • The scene where Regan projectile vomits at Father Karras only required one take. The vomit was intended to hit him on the chest. Instead, the plastic tubing that sprayed the vomit accidentally misfired, hitting him in the face. The look of shock and disgust while wiping away the vomit is genuine. Actor Jason Miller, (Father Karras), admitted in an interview that he was very angered by this mistake.
  • Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots who believed the film "glorified Satan", Warner Bros. had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the film's release.
  • Regan was one of the wicked daughters who betrays the title character in William Shakespeare's "King Lear".
  • William Peter Blatty said that William Friedkin misinterpreted the head spinning scene. He said Regan's head was described as turning almost all the way around, not literally all the way around, rotating 360° the way it did.
  • The original "Spider Walk" scene showed Regan sticking out a long, snakelike tongue and trying to grab Sharon.
  • Several scenes were filmed that director William Friedkin would have loved to include in the movie, such as a scene showing Chris and Regan actually visiting some historic landmarks (as Chris suggests they should do in the movie). However, the soundtrack for the scene had gone missing. Another scene showed a possessed Regan slithering over the floor and upsetting several house guests by making obscene gestures with her tongue. The original negative of the scene got lost, and Friedkin refused to use a qualitatively inferior workprint he had of the scene instead.
  • Though often cited as one of the most shocking scenes in cinema, the crucifix masturbation scene was actually greatly toned down from that of the novel. In the source book, the scene is much longer, gorier and sexually explicit, with Regan suffering a broken nose, butchery of her genitals, and orgasming.
  • Linda Blair hated vegetables so much at the time, that the use of the pea soup actually did make her vomit.
  • The bedroom set had to be refrigerated to capture the authentic icy breath of the actors in the exorcising scenes. Linda Blair, who was only in a flimsy nightgown, says to this day she cannot stand being cold.
  • In the disturbing scene where Regan is masturbating with the crucifix, Eileen Dietz was used for the shot where Regan belts her mother across the face. William Friedkin felt they needed someone with more heft physically to perform the stunt, and the double was shot from the back. The crucifix scene was filmed with Dietz, according to an interview with her in the documentary Starz Inside: Fantastic Flesh (2008).
  • In the novel, the possessed Regan has diarrhea and frequently relieves herself. Because of this she has to wear diapers. It is also frequently mentioned in the book that her bedroom has an almost unbearable stench.
  • The most disturbing scene to the majority of viewers was that of Regan having an arteriogram (the first test she had in the hospital). William Friedkin, attributes this to the fact that the procedure itself looked very realistic, the man who played the doctor was an actual neurosurgeon in real life and that Linda Blair was as believable as a young, scared girl undergoing a scary, invasive procedure.
  • The first medical test Regan has is an arteriogram. The second medical test is a pneumoencephalograph.
  • The second medical test Regan has is a Pneumoencephalograph. A Pneumoencephalograph (sometimes referred to as an "air study") is a procedure in which the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is drained from around the brain by means of a lumbar puncture (puncturing the spinal column with a needle and removing CSF). The CSF is then replaced with oxygen or helium to allow the brain to show up more clearly on x-rays. This test was used in the 1970s to detect lesions in the brain. However, it was a very painful test with side effects such as severe headaches and vomiting due to the loss of CSF (which is replenished by the body in less than a day). The patient also had to be moved frequently while the x-rays were taken in order to displace the air which caused more discomfort to the patient. Furthermore, it relied on plain x-rays which do not clearly represent soft tissues such as the brain. While this test was used a lot before and during the early 1970s, it had limitations. The test did not show actual lesions unless they were on the edge of the structures that could be seen on the x-rays or large enough to displace tissue which could be seen on the x-rays. So, there could be a lesion there, but too small to be seen. Imaging contrast was not part of this test but used in a test that was often performed along with the Pneumoencephalograph called an Angiograph in which contrast was introduced into the vascular system and x-rayed. The Pneumoencephalograph was phased out in the late 1970s when more modern neuroimaging equipment became available.
  • Popular belief and parodies give the false impression that Regan throws up on the priests during the exorcism, but she only throws up on Karras once when her first meets her alone. She does, however, vomit during the exorcism but slowly onto the bed and Merrin's stole.
  • To entertain and distract Linda Blair during the long makeup process she had to sit through, the crew set up a television near her makeup chair so she could watch The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
  • According to the Exorcist novel, Regan has a picture of her father, Howard MacNeil, on her bedside table. [2]
  • The Exorcist character of Casey Rance is an updated version of Regan. Regan herself (as Angela Rance) becomes an updated version of her mother Chris MacNeil.
  • Jeremy Slater, the creator of The Exorcist (TV Series) confirmed that Angela Rance (who is also Regan MacNeil) has been fully integrated by the demon, which would have confirmed her death. However, Regan/Angela survives the integration and is in a wheelchair. According to Slater, since Angela was possessed as a child and still has a part of "the real Regan" inside her, she built up a defense mechanism, making the integration unsucessful.[3][4]
  • The Scary Maze Game.jpg
    Scary Maze Game.
    In her possessed state, she was infamously used as a screamer in the infamous popular flash game made by Jeremy Winterrowd, the Scary Maze Game.


  1. 5 things you don't know about April Winchell, Mr. KABC Radio Show audio archive, accessed February 8, 2007
  2. Blatty, William Peter. The Exorcist. New York: Harper & Row. 1971. Print.
  3. Frederick, Brittany. "The Exorcist' Season Finale Recap and Review: 'Chapter Ten'". FanSided. Time Inc., 2016. Web. 26 Dec. 2016.
  4. Serrao, Nivea. "The Exorcist boss Jeremy Slater on season 1 finale". Entertainment Weekly. Time, Inc., 17 Dec. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
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