Not the news horror fans wanted on Friday the 13th for sure, but the man responsible for creating the greatest horror story of the 20th century has passed away. William Peter Blatty died last night in a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, according to his wife of 33 years Julia Alicia Blatty, who confirmed to CNN. He was 89.
The acclaimed writer, director, and screenwriter died of multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. William Friedkin, who directed the film version if Blatty’s most infamous work, The Exorcist, posted the news to his Twitter account.
The novel, The Exorcist came out in 1971, the same year William Friedkin won Oscars for Best Picture and Director for The French Connection. The story about a little girl possessed by a demon and subject to an ancient church practice shook readers to the core and sold over 10 million copies. Two years later, Blatty and Friedkin collaborated on the film adaptation, with Blatty writing the screenplay. The 1973 film shocked audiences the world over and became a global sensation. It was a hit with critics too, earning an amazing ten Oscar nominations, unheard of for a horror film. It won for Best Sound and Blatty took home Best Adapted Screenplay honors. The film earned over $400 million worldwide and is universally ranked as one of, if not, the greatest horror film ever.
Along with The Exorcist, the New York City-born Blatty wrote several other novels, many dealing with devils and demons. He was also a noted screenwriter before and after The Exorcist. Hilariously, he also co-wrote one of the best comedies of all time, A Shot in the Dark, one of the Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther films. He adapted his own novel again in 1980, writing and directing The Ninth Configuration, and he also wrote and directed The Exorcist III in 1990 starring the late George C. Scott.
Blatty’s widow told CNN, “He was the most generous, loving, hysterical husband, father and grandfather. I was just profoundly blessed to be married to him. He was a wonderful man.”
It wasn’t all about big scares for Blatty, his widow told CNN. “He had a big heart and he was very, very funny.”
RIP William Peter Blatty
January 7, 1928 – January 12, 2017