Two versions of prequel emerge
Director Paul Schrader's artsy version will likely go straight to DVD.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
It could be a Hollywood first -- two versions of the same horror film, done by two very different filmmakers.
But don't worry about seeing double today. Only one version of Morgan Creek's "Exorcist: The Beginning" will play your neighborhood multiplex. The more atmospheric and literate original version, starring Stellan Skarsgard as the young Father Merrin and directed by Paul Schrader, is expected to go straight to DVD. It may, in fact, be bundled with the second version, also starring Skarsgard but directed by Schrader's artistic opposite, action ace Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger").
"I don't know of a case involving a movie where it was simply started over by another director," muses Schrader, 58, best known for such edgy art-house dramas as "Affliction" and "Auto Focus." "It's the same premise, but with different plot elements, casts and sets."
Schrader likens the two "Exorcists" to "the ultimate film-school exercise," only done on a Hollywood budget (between $35 million and $50 million apiece).
"You know, it's like giving two students the same premise and saying, 'You have 1,000 feet of film; make your movies."'
The New York-based filmmaker admits that all the adverse publicity surrounding the supernatural prequel to "The Exorcist" (1973) has, for the time being, made him persona non grata in studio circles.
Why, then, isn't he more bitter?
"Well," he says with a sigh, "what's the upside of that? This movie really wasn't my baby. I mean, they didn't steal something I originated and torture and disfigure it. I had an opportunity to do something different, make a non-exploitative horror film. Then Morgan Creek decided they should have made a different film. It's very much a case of buyer's remorse."