[Interview] Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin Talk ‘The Exorcism’ and ‘Halloween III’

The new meta horror movie The Exorcism arrives in theaters today, and we recently talked to Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin about what possessed them make an exorcism movie about the making of an Exorcist remake, a deeply personal subject, as Miller is the son of actor Jason Miller, who starred as Father Damien Karras in the original 1973 film The Exorcist and told stories of unexplained happenings on the set.

From Miramax, producer Kevin Williamson (Scream franchise) and Outerbanks Entertainment, the film is directed by Joshua John Miller and written by Miller and M.A. Fortin, the creators of the hit series Queen of The South and the writers and producers of The Final Girls. The film stars film stars Academy Award®-winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator, The Mummy, The Pope’s Exorcist), Ryan Simpkins (Fear Street Trilogy), Sam Worthington (Avatar: The Way of Water), Chloe Bailey (Praise This), Adam Goldberg (The Equalizer), and David Hyde Pierce (Frasier).

The Exorcism follows Anthony Miller (Crowe), a troubled actor who begins to unravel while shooting a supernatural horror film. His estranged daughter (Simpkins) wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if there’s something more sinister at play.

The film marks the sophomore outing as director for Miller after an extensive career acting, producing, and writing. He began his career as the son of Tom Atkins’ character in the 1982 sequel Halloween III: Season of the Witch and then as one of the leads in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire classic Near Dark. Miller brings decades of knowledge of horror films to the table, as well as familial connections in his father, Jason Miller, who portrayed Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist (1973), and his mother, Susan Bernard, who was a Scream Queen.

Kevin Williamson (Scream franchise) is an executive producer, and Fortin tells us that he was interested in working with them, being a fan of their prior work.

“It was almost an accident, I think in way,” Fortin said of the origin of this film. “We sort of stumbled into it. It came out of a conversation with Kevin Williamson that Josh was having. He was a fan of The Final Girls and he was interested in figuring out how to take our sort of compulsion for meta horror into a different territory that hadn’t already been seen. Like slasher meta horror had already been done to death, and I mean, certainly he created the crown jewel of slasher meta horror. So then Josh had a response and that sort of got the whole ball rolling.” 

Of the meta aspects that incorporate so much of his own personal life into The Exorcism, Miller tells us, “I think what I like about genre is you can tell stories about your personal life, about the world, and you can kind of weave them in in a way that feels nuanced, as opposed to maybe an historical drama. I like that borderland between a genre movie and a drama, and I think that there were certain issues that were very personal for me that I wanted to explore.” 

“Look, franchises are the most successful thing right now. Well, I take that back, they’re changing, thank God. But I think when we made this movie, it was sort of, ‘Well, how do we make a movie these days?’ And I think if you’re able to have some kind of historical title or something of that time, we had an easier chance of getting something made. So not to be too cynical about the process, but there was definitely an aspect of art and business in that. How can we do something really cool but also get it made? 

“I think the idea of making a movie that had sort of meta aspects about the original Exorcist or a type of movie that has that legendary mythology – Why not? Especially since it’s so personally tied to me, and Mark (Fortin) is such a horror lover, as well. It just felt like a natural, but I also think that there’s something in the culture that feels very real to me that we crave this time that we used to live in, so we take these things that are nostalgic because we’re – Today’s pretty sad and complicated, but we crave the past. We crave these elements that are no longer here, and these worlds that have gone.”

Fortin interjects, laughing, “Being scared in more comforting ways.” 

Miller continues, “Yeah. And I think that meta is about nostalgia, because you’re deconstructing something from the past in a lot of ways. We’re taking an old classic movie, and we’re deconstructing it. And maybe looking back isn’t good. Maybe sequels are a bad idea. Maybe remakes are a bad idea. I think in some ways we wanted to say that. Stop remaking movies. Stop sequels. Look what will happen. You will go to Hell.” 

In our video conversation last week, we also spoke briefly about Halloween III and its recent reappraisal as a seasonal classic, despite initial fan disappoint upon its theatrical release.

“It’s such a good movie,” Miller tells HDN of Halloween III. “I love that movie. It’s so cool. When I first watched that movie at a screening when I was a kid, I was like, ‘Oh, God’. I knew it was so weird. And then watching it now as a horror lover, and seeing people’s reaction to it, I actually think it’s a really cool movie. It’s having a whole renaissance, which is cool.”

You can watch our full exclusive interview with Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin below.

The Exorcism is in theaters now.

Related: [Interview] Ryan Simpkins Talks ‘The Exorcism’, Meta Horror, Faith in Art, and Halloween

Related: [Interview] Adam Goldberg Talks ‘The Exorcism’ and Getting Married on Halloween

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Matt Artz

Founded Halloween Daily News in 2012 and the Halloween International Film Festival in 2016. Professional writer/journalist/photographer since 2000.