When casting The Omen, director Richard Donner had to find a kid creepy enough to play Damien, who's part young boy, part unholy monster, and part Morrissey publicity photo. While there was presumably no shortage of stage parents lining up their kids for a crack at playing a creepy devil child, finding the right one was another matter. So how did Donner settle on actor Harvey Stevens? Easy: Stevens was the only one who immediately struck him in the crotch.
20th Century FoxMaybe not the exact shade of terror they had in mind, but definitely a menacing move.
Donner wasn't immediately convinced Stevens was the right kid for the unholy job, but at the insistence of his producer, he brought the boy in for another audition. However, unbeknownst to anyone else, Donner wanted to see how Stevens would perform in the scene wherein Damien had to fight his own mother. So when the audition started, Donner challenged the boy to a fight and told Stevens to "come at him" -- which was apparently an acceptable thing to say to a child actor in the 1970s. Before the director realized what he'd done, the young actor was charging at him, clawing his face and hitting him square in the groin. After the audition, Donner told his producer to dye Stevens' hair black and get him a contract, presumably in a falsetto voice.
The team making The Exorcist had a similarly daunting task when casting Regan, a preteen girl possessed by an ancient demon with a penchant for violence, profanity, and getting kinky with religious symbols. Director William Friedkin had a hard time finding a stage kid who had "swearing like a sailor" on her resume, and was about to give up on his search when in walked 11-year-old Linda Blair and her mom. At first sight, Blair was like all the other precious darlings Friedkin had rejected, but when he asked her if she knew what her part was all about, Blair calmly responded by listing all the bad things her character does, like how "she pushes a man out of a window and hits her mother in the face and she masturbates with a crucifix." Taken aback by her candor, Friedkin asked her if she knew what masturbation was. Blair answered: "It's like jerking off, isn't it?" He then asked if she'd ever "done that" -- to which the 11-year-old replied "Sure, haven't you?" Friedkin hired her on the spot.
Warner Bros.Boy, we’re kind of amazed that everyone who ever held an audition in the ‘70s isn’t in jail right now.
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