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October, 1, 2016

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Linda Blair on the blessing and curse of 'The Exorcist'

LOS ANGELES -- Former child star Linda Blair frightened the wits out of a generation of moviegoers as the possessed pre-teen with a penchant for projectile vomiting in iconic horror movie "The Exorcist."

But four decades on, you get the feeling she'd be happy never to answer another question about her 1973 portrayal of the demonic Regan MacNeil, a role that will always define her.

AFP caught up with Blair at the red carpet opening of Universal Studio's "Halloween Horror Nights" festival in Southern California, where she had been invited ostensibly to promote a new "Exorcist"-themed haunted house.

But the 57-year-old is a hard woman to keep on topic, and every question about arguably the best-known horror film in history returns her to her much bigger passion -- her animal welfare work.

The verbal backflips she performs to bring the conversation back to her activism are as impressive as her famous character's 360-degree head spin.

"This is a party for me, for the film, for my animals, because everything as far as merchandise goes to the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation on my percentage," she tells AFP.

"So this is a celebration to make their lives better while everybody else can appreciate and enjoy this amazing opportunity."

Blair has 68 acting credits to her name, although the only one you could be confident of the average filmgoer knowing is "The Exorcist."

She grew up in rural Connecticut, where she inherited a deep love of nature and animals from her parents, and had been modeling in New York and appearing in commercials when the audition for "The Exorcist" came up.

Punishing

The film went stratospheric, grossing an eventual $440 million, and Blair was thrust before the world's media on a punishing promotional tour and expected to field questions on Heaven, Hell, God and the Devil at the tender age of 14.

She was Oscar-nominated, won a Golden Globe and appeared in a succession of films over the coming years, including disaster movie "Airport 1975" and an unloved "Exorcist" sequel.

Arrested for conspiracy to possess cocaine at 18, her promising career hit the skids and she was restricted mainly to appearances in B-movies as the critical acclaim was replaced with "Golden Raspberry" awards for bad acting.

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Linda Blair poses on arrival for "Halloween Horror Nights" at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California on Friday, Sept. 16. (AFP)

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