By Franck Lovene
Cannes (France) (AFP) - William Friedkin, the director of the horror classic "The Exorcist", has revealed that he was allowed to film a real exorcism at the Vatican earlier this month.
The 80-year-old American filmmaker told a masterclass at the Cannes film festival late Thursday that he was invited by Rome's exorcist to record the event.
"I was invited by the Vatican exorcist to shoot and video an actual exorcism which... few people have ever seen and which nobody has ever photographed," he said.
Friedkin said he was taken aback at how close the ceremony was to the exorcism depicted in his 1973 film.
"I was pretty astonished by that. I don't think I will ever be the same having seen this astonishing thing...
But the Vatican denied "making any such invitation. The Vatican (itself) does not have an exorcist," a spokesman told AFP.
Each Catholic diocese has an exorcist and papal universities regularly organise training for the exorcism.
"People often confuse any Catholic initiative/organisation/person with the Vatican. Perhaps this is the case here," he added.
The director said he intended to shoot "The Exorcist" -- based on a bestselling novel by William Peter Blatty -- as a horror movie, but the more he learned the more it became a story of the supernatural instead.
While the book was based on the 1949 case of an American teenager called Roland, Friedkin said the Catholic "archdiocese of Washington DC asked Blatty to change the gender (in the novel) so as not to draw attention to the young man..."
"I do believe in the teachings of Jesus," Friedkin added, whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine.
"I believe they are incredibly profound and beautiful and we know that this character existed... the supernatural aspect I leave to each person's conscience and belief system," he added.
"I don't intend to join a church and yet what amazes me... is the fact that this man (Jesus) over 2,000 years ago preached in the desert, on street corners and in synagogues and there is no recording of his voice... yet billions of people have believed in the idea of Jesus Christ.
"There must be something in there," said Friedkin, who also made "The French Connection", and was with Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich one of the leaders of the "New Hollywood" group of filmmakers in the early 1970s.