She’s one of the most iconic faces in horror movie history, permanently etched in our minds as the terrifying demon-possessed girl from the 1973 classic The Exorcist. Linda Blair’s chilling portrayal of Regan MacNeil earned her an Oscar nomination at just 14 years old and launched her career as a leading scream queen of the 1970s and 80s. Yet aside from her supernatural blockbuster debut, Blair’s prolific acting career and activist work are less widely discussed. So what ever happened to the actress after her head-spinning, green vomit-spewing claim to fame?
Linda Denise Blair was born on January 22, 1959, in St. Louis, Missouri, to James Frederick and Elinore (née Leitch) Blair. She has an older sister, Debbie, and an older brother, Jim.
When Blair was two years old, her family relocated to Westport, Connecticut, due to her father’s job as a Navy test pilot-turned-executive recruiter. Her mother worked as a real-estate agent.
At the tender age of five, Blair began working as a child model, appearing in catalogues for Sears, J.C. Penney, and Macy’s, and in over 70 commercials. She secured a contract at age six for a series of print ads in The New York Times. At the same age, she began riding horses, later becoming a trained equestrian.
Blair’s acting career started with a regular role on the short-lived Hidden Faces (1968–69) daytime soap opera. Her first theatrical film appearance was in The Way We Live Now (1970), followed by a bit part in the comedy The Sporting Club (1971).
In 1972, Blair was selected from a field of 600 applicants for her most notable role as Regan, the possessed daughter of a famous actress, in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973).
The role earned her a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She became an overnight star at just 14 years old.
Despite the film’s critical successes, Blair received media scrutiny for her role in the film, which was deemed by some as “blasphemous”.
After the film’s premiere in December 1973, some reporters speculated about Blair’s mental state, suggesting the filming process had resulted in her having a mental breakdown, which Blair denied.
Career After The Exorcist
After rocketing to fame with her acclaimed performance in the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist, Linda Blair worked to establish herself as a versatile actress in the years following.
In 1977, she reprised her iconic role as Regan MacNeil in the sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. But the film was poorly received commercially and critically.
Blair began embracing roles in various made-for-TV movies in the late 1970s, including the controversial Born Innocent (1974) and Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (1975). She also appeared in disaster film Airport 1975 (1974).
Looking to shed her child star image, Blair starred in the 1979 roller disco musical Roller Boogie. This established her as a sexy grown-up star and led to her becoming a pin-up model.
The 1980s found Blair starring in numerous low-budget horror films like Hell Night (1981) and Savage Streets (1984) as well as exploitation flicks such as Chained Heat (1983). She spoofed her Exorcist role in the comedy Repossessed (1990).
Throughout the 1990s and beyond, Blair made cameos and guest appearances related to her horror icon status, including roles in Scream (1996) and Supernatural (2006). She hosted the reality show Scariest Places on Earth from 2001-2006.
Though she never fully escaped the shadow of The Exorcist, Blair worked consistently in the decades after and appeared in a wide variety of horror, thriller, and exploitation films. She embraced her scream queen status and horror legacy.
What is Linda Blair Doing Now?
Linda Blair still acts occasionally in small roles that tie into her horror roots, like recent appearances in independent horror films: Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel (2016), The Green Fairy (2016), and Landfill (2020).
In 2022, Blair made a surprise appearance on reality competition The Masked Singer dressed as a creepy scarecrow.
She continues to appear at horror conventions and make cameos related to her iconic Exorcist role.
Blair remains an avid animal rights activist. She spoke in depth about her Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation charity that helps rescue and rehabilitate abused animals. She encourages people to get involved in animal welfare.
Recently, there has been a surge of excitement in the horror movie world as rumors have emerged that Linda Blair could reprise her iconic role as Regan MacNeil in the upcoming reboot of ‘The Exorcist’.
Ellen Burstyn is reprising her original role, and the addition of Blair has added to the anticipation. The new ‘Exorcist’ film is set to be a direct sequel to the original, taking place 50 years later.
Linda Blair dated several famous rockstars and musicians in her youth, including Rick Springfield, Glenn Hughes, and Tommy Shaw. She was also romantically linked to Rick James in the early 1980s, who wrote the song “Cold Blooded” about her.
Blair had some legal issues in the late 1970s, getting arrested for drug possession and conspiracy to sell drugs at age 18. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.
Blair has spoken openly about past health issues like hernia surgery and controversies like her racy photo shoots. She lives in Coto de Caza, California, California and continues her passion for animal welfare advocacy. Despite ups and downs, her iconic career as a 1970s scream queen remains her defining legacy.