William Peter Blatty, who wrote the legendary 1971 novel and script for The Exorcist, died yesterday at the age of 89, the Associated Press reports. The cause of death, according to his widow Julie Alicia Blatty, was a form of blood cancer. After working in Hollywood as a screenwriter, Blatty wrote the now-iconic tale of demonic possession while collecting unemployment; it was turned into a film in 1973 with the help of director William Friedkin.
The Exorcist was a complete change in tone from his initial work — Blatty started out as a comedy writer, penning punch lines for stars like Peter Sellers before he crafted what many call the ultimate horror novel of our time. To this day, his novel and the subsequent film adaptation remain his most memorable achievement: “I can’t regret The Exorcist,” he told the Washington Post just before the film’s 40th anniversary in 2013. “It’s done so much for me and for my family. And it’s given me a great deal of freedom to write what I want.”