Unoriginal sins: why does Russell Crowe keep making exorcism movies?

Estimated read time 5 min read

This week, a new Russell Crowe movie is released. The film concerns a demon that comes to inhabit a person, and the struggles of a priest to cast the demon out. You might have seen its poster, in which Russell Crowe wears a dog collar and clutches a crucifix.

If that sounds familiar, it might be because it has only been a matter of months since the last time that Russell Crowe starred in a film about a demon that comes to inhabit a person, and the struggles of a priest to cast the demon out, that had a poster in which Russell Crowe wears a dog collar and clutches a crucifix. That film was The Pope’s Exorcist. This new one is called The Exorcism. Do keep up.

If you think it’s slightly inexplicable, to the point of outright derangement, for Russell Crowe to make two films about the same thing, with more or less the same title, where he pretty much wears the same costume, and the poster for each of them uses the same font, then you might have a point. This sort of thing just hasn’t happened in recent memory.

Imagine if right after Timothée Chalamet starred in Dune, he rushed off and made another completely unrelated sci-fi movie about a worm-loving messiah figure called The Duning, or if Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt commemorated their last day of filming on the set of The Fall Guy by signing up for an exactly identical action comedy called Here Comes Mr Whoopsie.

Even Nicolas Cage, in the midst of his prolific “Look, I’ll make any film you give me” stage, didn’t make two films as identical as The Exorcism and The Pope’s Exorcist. Even when he made two different films about two different men who can both see slightly into the future and use their skill to stop two different ends of the world (Next and Knowing), he had the good sense to give a couple of years between the two.

Not so Russell Crowe. No. At some point, we can safely assume that Russell Crowe put on a dog collar, held a crucifix, yelled at a demon and felt such a serene sense of calm wash over him that he decided this would be his entire career from now on.

Sure, Crowe is currently experiencing a Cage-like increased workrate, which means that two of his films and one of his TV shows were released between The Pope’s Exorcist last year and The Exorcism this week. And, sure, the content of the films is a little different, in that one is about an exorcist and the other is about an actor who plays an exorcist and then gets possessed and then does an exorcism anyway. But still, what the hell happened?

Well, let’s not lay the blame entirely at Crowe’s feet. Originally, The Exorcism wasn’t called The Exorcism. When he signed up to star in it, all the way back in 2019, it went by The Georgetown Project. In fact, the film was shot in 2019, and probably would have been released much sooner had Covid not hobbled a round of reshoots. Post-production then took a long time to complete, to the point that it wasn’t actually completed until January.

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It wasn’t until principal photography on The Exorcism had been wrapped for three years that Crowe signed up to star in The Pope’s Exorcist. That film had a much smoother turnaround. Crowe joined the film in June 2022, filming began two months later and everything was wrapped up three months after that. And, by all accounts, it was an unexpected success. The Pope’s Exorcist made its budget back four-and-a-half times over, and spent more than a week as the most-watched film on Netflix.

So, had it not been for Covid, there could have been four whole years between Russell Crowe’s two exorcist films. Had that been the case, barely anyone would have noticed. And maybe, just maybe, Crowe is slightly a victim of his own success here. This is just a punt, but you get the feeling that The Exorcism has gone out of its way to ape the publicity material of The Pope’s Exorcist because it wants to ride the latter’s coat-tails a little. Maybe this is all just an unlucky coincidence.

Either way, what’s done is done. Whatever the circumstances that led to this event, it looks to all the world as if Russell Crowe wants to pump out a relentless stream of identical exorcism movies until the end of time. So now it’s time for him to strike while the iron is hot. By my calculations, he has just 14 months to film and release the concluding part of what has the potential to be one of the weirdest unofficial trilogies of all time. Exorcists in Space, anyone?


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