While veteran director/screenwriter Paul Schrader (he wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and directed the Oscar-winning Affliction) initially directed Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, getting this film out to the public turned into something of a mission. Once Morgan Creek, the production company that commissioned the film decided to not release it, they turned to The Adventures of Ford Fairlane director Renny Harlin to make it again with all the horror clichés in place — blood, guts,sexy woman getting possessed. After that movie tanked both Morgan Creek and Schrader saw the chance to get his version out there. Dominion offers many themes Schrader is known for — a man questioning his faith, the role violence plays in corrupting a good person and the conflict between passion and control.
The L Magazine: So how did you manage to get this to happen after it seemed lost forever — not on the Renny Harlin DVD or anything?
Paul Schrader: Ten years ago it would not have happened. It would have been a lost film. But there were several factors in play that changed the economic terrain. One was the fact that there was the potential for revenue for lost films like this with the DVD. When Bill [William Peter Blatty — author of the original Exorcist novel on which the series was based] directed Exorcist III for Morgan Creek it was taken away from him and they put a different ending on it. He tried to do a version [for the DVD] with the original ending but it was gone. I could pursue this version because of the potential DVD revenue if only as a supplemental disc. Thanks to the internet and my current web-based fan sites I was able to keep the myth alive so my version was not forgotten by the hardcore fans; there was curiosity, lots of talk about my film. So between the DVD and the internet gossip I was able to fertilize the field for potential release.
The L: What attracted you to making this film in the first place — besides money?
PS: It was not even that much money. But I was attracted to doing it for three reasons. I loved the twist on the whole notion of the possessed person who is beatified and turns into Lucifer, the source of light. It was an original idea and it got away from the [William] Friedkin version; it was in the Caleb Carr script. I also loved the character of Merrin [the conflicted priest who fights the demon played, by Stellan Skaarsgard] who is in many ways, the kind of character I make films about. The third factor was that this film was already in motion; the train had left the station — it had a script, a start date, locations, and a cast. When John Frankenheimer had stepped out, I stepped in. Three months after I did, I was shooting. Usually it takes four, five or six years to do a project; it was almost an irresistible opportunity. It’s not that I didn’t make the movie they wanted me to make, it’s just that they changed their mind.
The L:The movie that was made was consistent with what you would make…
PS: That’s true. Filmmaking consists of hundreds and thousands of decisions being made very quickly. At end of it all you look and say I guess that’s who I am. These decisions you make distinctly and automatically — add them all up and that’s your personality.
The L: Did the original have a big impact on your life?
PS: I am a big fan of that film and remain a fan. With this film, my goal was to get as far away [from the original] as I could. I didn’t want to get anywhere near it; it’s a film classic and still stands up as it is.
The L: Was there more you would have done with your version?
PS: I would have liked to have had an entire score instead of pieces of music and have spent more time on the CGI and re-shot a few scenes. All of that pales besides the fact that the film exists.
The L: How do you feel about this film finally getting out — vindication?
PS: More than that, the dominant feeling is really one of relief. Once you’ve made a film that has been discarded, you can’t convince anyone that it was any good. You spend the rest of your life trying to explain what you’ve done. I just dreaded doing that. So more than anything else it feels like a millstone has been removed from my neck.