Born on January 22, 1959, in St. Louis, Missouri, Linda Blair was cast as a teen in the horror film The Exorcist, in which she played a demonically possessed girl. The actress received a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for her role, and the film became a major, much-talked-about hit. Blair went on to do TV-movie work as well as more genre films, and later became an animal activist.
Actress Linda Denise Blair was born on January 22, 1959, in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in Westport, Connecticut. The daughter of a job-placement executive and a real estate agent, Blair began modeling and acting at age 6, appearing in commercials and PSAs.
Role in 'The Exorcist'
In her early teens, Blair was cast in a role that would largely define her professional career. She played the character Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist, a story in which a girl is violently taken over by a demon. Based on a William Peter Blatty novel, the film was directed by William Friedkin and co-starred Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller; it opened in late 1973 and became known for its gruesome, body-chilling depictions of possession, sparking intense audience reaction and dialogue.
Blair received a supporting actress Golden Globe for her role and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. The Exorcist as a film radically redefined the horror genre and became the top blockbuster of its day, only outranked at one point by Jaws and the first two Star Wars films and eventually going on to earn more than $440 million globally.
Additional Film Work
Blair's next big role was in the arresting and heartbreaking 1974 NBC TV-movie Born Innocent, in which she played a sensitive teen runaway who becomes hardened in a state girls' home. Later that same year she was featured in Airport 1975, a drama/disaster pic with an ensemble cast lead by Charlton Heston and Karen Black.
For the duration of the decade, Blair starred in other TV movies like Sweet Hostage, Sarah T.: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (both 1975) and Wes Craven's Summer of Fear (1978) as well as the 1979 Canadian film Wild Horse Hank and domestic big screen venture Roller Boogie (1979). She also returned to her Regan MacNeil role in The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), which didn't fare as well as its predecessor.
TV Roles and 'Grease'
Blair continued to star in genre action/thriller film productions throughout the '80s and early '90s, while also having guest spots on TV programs like Murder She Wrote, MacGyver, Perry Mason and Married With Children. She returned to horror with the 1990 spoof Repossessed, co-starring Leslie Nielsen, and had an uncredited cameo appearance as a reporter in 1996's Scream.
In 1997, Blair took to the Broadway stage as part of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre revival of the musical Grease, taking over the role of Betty Rizzo. She appeared in a handful of projects during the early 2000s as well, including the Griffin Dunne comedy Lisa Picard Is Famous (2001) and the television series The Scariest Places on Earth, which she hosted.
Activist and Vegan
In addition to helming her own western clothing line, Blair is an equestrian and activist who started the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation in order to provide adoption services for animals and raise awareness about animal cruelty. Blair also penned with Sunny J. Harris the 2001 book, Going Vegan!.
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