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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March 2005, 16:09 GMT
World debut for ditched Exorcist
By Neil Smith
BBC News entertainment reporter

The original version of horror prequel Exorcist: The Beginning, dropped by its producers over claims it was not scary enough, had its world premiere in Brussels on Friday.

Stellan Skarsgard in Exorcist: The Prequel
Stellan Skarsgard appeared in both versions of the Exorcist prequel
Director Paul Schrader, whose film was completely reshot by Finnish film-maker Renny Harlin, introduced the screening at Brussels' International Festival of Fantastic Film.

Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, who appears in both versions of the prequel in the role Max Von Sydow played in the original Exorcist, sent a video message in support of the director.

Cast members Billy Crawford, Gabriel Mann and British actor Ralph Brown were also in Brussels to support the film, renamed Exorcist: The Prequel to avoid confusion with Harlin's version.

Schrader said it was "very gratifying" his actors had travelled to Belgium at their own expense, describing their gesture as an "act of solidarity".

"This film was not supposed to exist", he said, adding the Brussels event had only come about through "patience and cunning".

Stellan Skarsgard in Exorcist: The Prequel
The Swedish actor sent a video message in support of his director
The director said he first got an inkling production company Morgan Creek were dissatisfied with his version midway through shooting, but that he never expected to be removed completely.

"I always knew there'd be blood on the floor - I just didn't know it would be mine," he said.

"Getting fired is not good for your reputation or your self-esteem."

However, he refuses to feel bitterness towards his replacement, calling it a "no-win" situation.

"I'm surprised Renny did it - to step into that situation with all that history," he said.

"It's a terrible job. But sometimes when you need to work you do strange things."

Schrader admits he felt some trepidation when he saw Harlin's version lest it interfere with plans to release his own.

Paul Schrader
Schrader was replaced by Finnish film-maker Renny Harlin
"I was worried it might be good and doom my case," he explained.

"But the worse it got the better I felt. I thought, 'Maybe my film has a chance now'."

Skarsgard, currently in Los Angeles shooting Pirates of the Caribbean 2, said via video message he was glad the film was being screened. "I hope it's fantastic," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Bourne Supremacy actor Mann, who said it was an "unbelievable experience" working with such a "cinematic icon".

"It broke my heart when the movie didn't come out," said US pop star Crawford, who endured six hours of prosthetics make-up to play a character possessed by the devil.

"I'm very moved that so many people's good work will finally be seen," added his co-star, French actress Clara Bellar.

Stellan Skarsgard in Exorcist: The Prequel
The prequel will definitely be distributed in the Netherlands
Like Harlin's version, Schrader's film takes place in British East Africa (now Kenya), where the discovery of an ancient church sets in motion a diabolical chain of events.

The rejected version, however, is less reliant on special effects and is generally considered to be more cerebral than the one that replaced it.

The director says his prequel will be definitely be distributed in the Netherlands and is optimistic it will be shown in the UK soon.

"Warner Bros said they couldn't release the same movie in the same year, but I believe they're reconsidering," he said.

"The buzz on the internet might have reached the executive suites."

The Brussels Festival of Fantastic Film runs until 26 March.

Original Exorcist to be screened
18 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
'Cursed' Exorcist movie released
20 Aug 04 |  Entertainment
Rejected Exorcist 'heads for DVD'
14 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Exorcist director 'not gory enough'
26 Aug 03 |  Entertainment


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