October 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT

It’s Halloween, and some might say: “What an excellent day for an exorcism …”

It has been nearly 40 years since The Exorcist started terrifying moviegoers, and despite countless imitators and special-effects advancements made over that time, the 1973 film remains unparalleled as a terrifying and disturbing cinematic experience.

Stories from how it was made are almost as unsettling.

Director William Friedkin, who earned an Oscar nomination for the film, sat down with me for a Q&A this week after a screening of the film for the ICM Partners talent agency to discuss some of the most infamous legends surrounding the movie.

What’s surprising is how much of the story was inspired by true events – as difficult as they are to believe – as well as the sometimes bizarre lengths the cast and crew went through to bring William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel to the screen.

Most chilling is the true story Friedkin learned at the start of the production…

NEXT PAGE: The lost diaries from a true-life exorcism

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