William Peter Blatty, the novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter behind "The Exorcist," has passed away age 89. The news was announced today by his friend, "The Exorcist" director William Friedkin.
William Peter Blatty, dear friend and brother who created The Exorcist passed away yesterday
— William Friedkin (@WilliamFriedkin) January 13, 2017
Blatty's widow, Julie Alicia Blatty, told The Associated Press that he died on Thursday of multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
Born in New York to Lebanese parents, Blatty attended a Jesuit high school in Brooklyn and studied at Georgetown University and George Washington University, before moving to Los Angeles. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he received his first big break in 1961 when he appeared on the Groucho Marx quiz show "You Bet Your Life," telling tall tales of his life as an Arab prince, and winning $10,000. The money helped Blatty to pursue his writing career.
In Hollywood, Blatty started out as comedy writer, working alongside director Blake Edwards on the 1964 Pink Panther movie "A Shot in the Dark." He went on to write a further half-dozen comedies as well as a dozen novels, including his 1971 bestseller "The Exorcist," which he subsequently adapted into the iconic 1973 movie of the same name.
After an ill-received sequel, Blatty returned to write and direct his own follow-up, "Exorcist III," in 1990, based on his novel "Legion." A TV series based on "The Exorcist" also premiered in 2016.
However, while the public often viewed Blatty's best-known work as a horror movie, this was a classification the writer was never entirely comfortable with, as his friend Friedkin revealed in a 2013 Hollywood Reporter article: "Over the years, I understand that people consider it a horror film, and that's where it lives in the public consciousness. But it has never been that to Blatty or myself."