In celebration of the 40th anniversary of “The Exorcist,” Linda Blair will be meeting and greeting fans at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con.
♦ Through Aug. 11 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont
♦ Tickets: $40-$90; ages 10 and younger get in free when accompanied by a paid adult (there is a limit of two children per paid adult ticket)
Updated: September 10, 2013 6:11AM
Not much scared Linda Blair back in 1973 as she innocently took on the role of 14-year-old Regan MacNeil in the horror film “The Exorcist.”
“Nah, it wasn’t like that at all,” Blair says during a recent interview. “It was such a professional film and every bit was so technical, from the makeup to the lighting to the 17-below temperature refrigeration units they brought onto the set. You just had to have the patience of a saint to get through a day on set.”
Now, some 40 years later, Blair says she still is not scared of much except for the plight of her beloved animals.
“I know Chicago is an animal-friendly city and I know many shelters are doing better because of wonderful volunteers,” she says, briefly excusing herself for a glass of water. “It’s not the animals’ fault if they walk into the wrong shelter. We still have so many animals in need so people must remember to adopt and not buy. We must continue to spay and neuter. People can always help by setting up blanket drives and food drives. Anything is better than doing nothing.”
Rescuing her first animal in 1977 after the death of her mother, Blair has made it her life’s mission to save the animals through the creation of the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation.
“When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was devastated like everyone else … but I got on an airplane and slept in the back of a truck for two-and-a-half weeks,” she recalls. “We had 350 animals in need and four days to get them off the property. We got them out of Louisiana and I came to California with 51 of them, not by choice but by need.”
Appearing at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con which runs to Aug. 11 in Rosemont, Blair says it’s this recent mission that most people know her for the most now. “I am going to have just as many fans come up to me because they liked a movie I did as will the ones who tell me I have changed their lives by encouraging them to get involved in rescue too. I feel like I’m starting to tap the surface to make a difference.”
It’s also this mission to make a difference that keeps Blair traveling across America, raising money in some unusual ways.
“I may have them in Chicago, but what I like to do is go to Trader Joe’s and buy cans of vegan split pea soup and autograph them,” she laughs, referring to the head-spinning, pea soup-puking point of the iconic film. “It becomes a funny novelty item and I can’t tell you how many people say they are going to put it up on their mantle. They get to donate to charity and get a forever keepsake at the very same time.”
Providing a four-day world in which heroes still exist, Chicago Comic Con will include appearances by headliners such as Lockport native and WWE superstar CM Punk, J. Scott Campbell (“Avengers vs. X-Men,” “Spider-Man”), Alan Davis (“Captain America,” “Thor”), Esad Ribic (“Wolverine”), Pasqual Ferry (“Fantastic Four,” “Hulk”) and many others.
“It’s an awesome way to hang out with 35,000 people just like you,” Wizard World chief executive officer John Macaluso says. “It’s no different than the Chicago Bear fan that is willing to sit outside in 10-below temperatures with a “C” painted on their bare chest. It’s the same kind of fan.”
“I love that fans are still enjoying the amazing movie it was,” Blair concludes about “The Exorcist.” “Forty years ago, people were so shocked and didn’t know what to make of it or me. I withstood the panic and the rumors and press and stories that weren’t true about me personally and I made a positive out of it. If the film teaches people anything, it’s to be the very best that you can be.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.