Marcel Vercoutere, the FX mastermind behind The Exorcist died on April 16th due to complications from dementia. He was 87.
Born in Detroit to a French father and Belgian mother, Marcel was eager to fight in WWII, enlisting at age 17. He returned to Michigan after he finished his tour, got his high school diploma, married, and headed out to Los Angeles.
Once on the West coast, he started working at the studios sweeping stages, and doing welding and carpentry. This led him into special effects, explosives, car stunts, and the other exciting aspects of films we love so much. His resume consists of less than a dozen credits, including Deliverance and Police Academy 6, but the project he is best-known for is one of the greatest in the history of horror cinema. The Exorcist.
Most notably, Marcel created the robotic double of Linda Blair with the rotating head. "He had made this unbelievable robot and everything about it worked — it almost had facial expressions," said the film's cinematographer, Owen Roizman. While on set, Roizman realized the dummy didn't have breath... just like that, Marcel added it. In addition to the head-turning robot, Marcel was responsible for the levitating bed and creating Regan's bedroom, which was refrigerated to achieve the "icy" look that director William Friedkin wanted for the scenes where Regan is possessed.
"If I had to name one person behind the camera whose contributions meant the most to the film, it would be Marcel Vercoutere," Friedkin said in an emailed statement.
Source: LA Times