We’re sorry to report that author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty passed away on January 12, 2017, just five days after his 89th birthday. He was an author, best known for writing The Exorcist novel and screenplay.
Blatty was born January 7, 1928, to Mary and Peter Blatty. His parents were Lebanese immigrants who came to America on a cattle boat. His father left when he was a child, and through the course of his childhood Blatty, his siblings, and mother lived in nearly thirty different apartments because they would get evicted for not paying the rent. His mother supported them as best she could by selling homemade quince jellies. She was a devout Catholic and raised Blatty in the religion.
Blatty’s death was announced online on January 13 via Twitter by The Exorcist director William Friedkin, with the following message:
William Peter Blatty, dear friend and brother who created The Exorcist passed away yesterday— William Friedkin (@WilliamFriedkin) January 13, 2017
Blatty graduated Valedictorian of Brooklyn Preparatory, a Jesuit school and was given a scholarship to Georgetown. He completed his Masters in English lit at George Washington University. He struggled at the beginning of his career, working various odd jobs such as selling vacuum cleaners door to door, driving beer trucks, and selling tickets for United Airlines. He joined the Air Force, becoming head of the Policy Branch of the Psychological Warfare Division from 1951 to 1954. After leaving the Air Force, Blatty worked as the Public Relations Director for Loyola University and then the Director of Publicity for the University of Southern California.
He was promoting his first book, a humorous look at his time in the Air Force called Which Way to Mecca, Jack? when Blatty appeared on the Grocho Marx game show You Bet Your Life. Blatty pretended to be an Arab Sheik would could not remember how many wives he had. Grocho believed Blatty’s ruse, and the author won $10,000 dollars. He used the money to quit his job and spend a year writing a book. That book was The Exorcist.
The Exorcist, while fictional, was inspired by a story Blatty heard when he was a student at Georgetown, about the alleged demonic possession and actual exorcism of a little boy. Because of this, he set the novel in Washington D.C. It was number one on the New York Tijmes Best Seller List for 17 weeks and remained on the list for 57 weeks overall. After adapting The Exorcist into a film, which he also was a producer for, Blatty won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and two Golden Globes, for Best Screenplay and Best Picture. He eventually wrote a sequel called Legion which was the bases for The Exorcist III: Heretic. Blatty had no involvement in the first Exorcist movie sequel, which was not successful.
During his career, Blatty authored 12 novels, 4 non-fiction books, and 12 screenplays, two of which he directed. He won another Golden Globe for the screenplay The Ninth Configuration, based on his novel Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane. Blatty married four times in his life, and fathered eight children. He has been married to Julie Alicia Blatty since 1983, she is the mother of two of his children. He kept writing until the very end of his life.