The image of Father Merrin arriving at the MacNeil home is one of the most enduring in horror cinema, first seen on The Exorcist‘s original poster. That poster was designed by Bill Gold, whose art for The Exorcist and films like Deliverance, Casablanca, Dirty Harry, and A Clockwork Orange is as iconic as the films themselves.
Today we’re sad to report that Gold, one of the most legendary movie poster artists of all time, passed away at his home in Connecticut yesterday. Gold was 97.
Just a couple years back, Gold talked to AFI about The Exorcist‘s iconic poster, noting that he was specifically instructed to be as vague and spoiler-free as possible with the art.
“I’d been specifically told by William Friedkin and Warner Bros. that we must not use an image of the girl possessed, or show anything that had any hint of religious connotation,” Gold explained. “They were very concerned about that. Friedkin was very involved, and he and Warners rejected all our other comps. They knew what they wanted and certainly picked the right image, which was used all over the world. And the movie, at the time, became the biggest hit in Warners’ history.”
He continued, “I picked the still of the priest, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), arriving at the house in Georgetown for the exorcism with a briefcase in his hand because it struck a chord with me. When you looked at this still, you knew somehow that whatever is about to happen inside that house is not going to be good! I adapted it by taking a lot of the detail out of the photo and turning it into a design, and after that no one wanted to see anything else.”
Learn more about Gold’s life and prolific career over on THR.