Book Chapter

Abjection Beyond Tears: Ellyn Burstyn as Liminal (On Set) Mother in The Exorcist

Mark Nicholls

Re-reading the Monstrous-Feminine Art, Film, Feminism and Psychoanalysis | Routledge | Published : 2020


This essay considers the way Ellen Burstyn created the lead role of Chris MacNeil in William Friedkin’s blockbuster, The Exorcist. Analysing elements of Burstyn’s performance and her significant personal reflections on the process, as well as those of her colleagues, particularly her on-screen daughter Linda Blair, this essay provides a creative practice account of the production. This account demonstrates Burstyn’s creation of the character, revealed in Barbara Creed’s landmark analysis as the abject mother of the liminal space. In the contemporary context of the #MeToo movement, it also investigates the limits to which William Friedkin, as director, was prepared to push his cast, Burstyn a..

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