New 'Exorcist' Trilogy In The Works, Starring Leslie Odom Jr. With Ellen Burstyn Returning [Updated]

Update: Universal has sent over an official press release, which includes a few clarifications. Read our original article with the updates pointed out below.

A brand new Exorcist trilogy is in the works at Universal. Recent Oscar nominee Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami) will star, and Ellen Burstyn, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in 1973's original Exorcist, is returning to the franchise after skipping the subsequent sequels and prequels. David Gordon Green is set to direct the first of these new movies, and he will also serve as a screenwriter. Universal is clearly pleased with the work Green has done reviving the Halloween film franchise with a new trilogy, because they're taking a page from that same playbook here.

According to The New York Times, Universal is expected to officially announce the new Exorcist trilogy at some point this week, and the studio paid some serious money to make these movies: it reportedly shelled out more than $400 million all told, which rivals the staggering amount Netflix paid to make two new Knives Out movies with Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig. Blumhouse's Jason Blum and Morgan Creek's David Robinson are among the producers of this new trilogy.

Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley teamed up with NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock for this deal, and while the first entry in this new trilogy is expected to hit theaters on October 132023, one possible outcome is that the second and third entries debut directly on Peacock.

Update: In the press release, Blum praised Universal for being "committed to theatrical exhibition and will also serving streaming viewers well by bringing an exciting franchise like the Exorcist to Peacock too," which makes us wonder if they're looking to do a day-and-date release, or if it will just come to Peacock quickly. Scott Teems (The Quarry), Danny McBride (Halloween Kills), and David Gordon Green wrote the story for this film, and the script is being written by Green and Peter Sattler (Broken Diamonds). The New York Times report implied Green would be directing all three films, but this press release just says he'll be directing "the first film" and does not reveal if he'll be helming all three.

David Gordon Green has been talking about how his new Exorcist movie would be a direct sequel to the original film, and now we know a little more about the plot: Leslie Odom Jr. "will play the father of a possessed child. Desperate for help, he tracks down Ms. Burstyn's character," and Pazuzu, the demonic entity who possessed Linda Blair's character in the original, is evidently "not thrilled" to see her mother again.

We Have Some Questions

I have three primary questions. First up: why on Earth does a new Exorcist trilogy need to cost north of $400 million? As the NYT points out, the streamers have changed the game in Hollywood to some degree by paying talent huge sums of money up front and keeping all of the profits on the back end, instead of more traditional deals in which actors and directors took smaller payments early and reaped financial windfalls if the film crossed certain thresholds at the global box office. So I understand that Universal wanted to lure Green, Odom, and Burstyn in...but $400 million? Whew, that seems like a lot. But hey, good for them! Get paid, everyone.

Second: why is the demonic spirit "not thrilled" to see Burstyn's character after all these years? Burstyn played the mother of a possessed daughter who essentially sought out help and found it in the form of a pair of priests, who came to her house and performed a violent and protracted exorcism. She didn't participate in the exorcism in any significant way – it's not like she had some sort of magical ability to tap into the supernatural and shake the demon to its core. So why does it care about her at all? To the demon, she's just some random woman it had a few conversations with one time.

And third: will this plot about a father tracking down Burstyn's character to help his possessed daughter play out across all three films in this trilogy? That seems like a very long time for such a seemingly simple story to play out, so is the plan for other people to star in the sequels and take the story in a different direction? I suppose we'll find out soon enough, but for now, color us a little confused by all of this.