During the shooting of The Amityville Horror, the studio strained to concoct stories of mysterious and unsettling occurrences on the set, probably because there were such stories surrounding the shooting of The Exorcist (1973) some years before. James Brolin later said that "We were being asked, 'Is there weird stuff going on?' and we were looking for stuff now. We'd have liked to tell them 'Oh yeah you wouldn't believe the stuff that happened yesterday my lunch fell off the table in my lap.' Well, that happened on the last picture."
During filming, director Stuart Rosenberg decided that Margot Kidder was not registering the proper level of fright during some intense scenes. For the scene of the glowing eyes at the window, Rosenberg held up, out of camera range, "a Day-glo orange stuffed velour pig with glass eyes" (according to Kidder). Of course, this action by the director only had the effect of causing Kidder to laugh hysterically.
During the publicity junket for the release of the movie, James Brolin and Margot Kidder visited the actual Amityville house, accompanied by the press. "It was much more condensed than the location we had in the movie, which was in Tom's River, New Jersey," Brolin later described. "I drove around... to the back side, and you could see, across the water several hundred feet, the house from the back side. And everything was white with yellow shutters except the boathouse door was flat black. That jarred me..."
James Brolin was never convinced that the story told in the book and film was true. "George [Lutz] is a good salesman he could sell a lot of Fords, this guy. You know a charmer. You had to believe him. The way he told the story was great. But he was such a good salesman, you realized that he could be selling you sand....So there was a lot of doubt there."
Margot Kidder was even more blunt in her assessment of the veracity of the story the Lutz family told. "I didn't buy that this really had happened." When asked by the press at the time if she thought the story was true or not, she didn't know how to answer. She turned to the writers for their answer to the question, which was "we'll never tell."
Brolin evaluated his performance from some years distance, and said, "When the lion supposedly bites me I have a scene in the chair where I go 'I'm coming apart!' - I thought that was a little over the top. Good actors just know how to go far, but not that sixteenth of an inch farther, and I went too far."
According to Kidder, the filmmakers rubbed Rod Steiger's head with honey to get the flies to crawl about on his face.
The script of The Amityville Horror called for a ghostly image to appear in the "red room" of the house's basement at the conclusion. The filmmakers wanted to suggest an image that vaguely resembled George Lutz rather than an exact one, so instead of having James Brolin perform the part, Brolin's non-actor brother was brought in and given a similar beard to wear.
Although The Amityville Horror was a huge hit, James Brolin did not get another film offer for two years. He blamed the intensity and violence in his portrayal of the George Lutz character.
Due to unwanted sightseers, the original look of the Amityville house has been altered over the years. The Dutch Colonial style structure had distinctive quarter-circle windows which resembled eyes. These windows have been redesigned into standard rectangles to deter fans from locating the Long Island house.
Flying Through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants by Sam Arkoff with Richard Trubo
For God's Sake, Get Out!, (2005). 21min. documentary on the making of The Amityville Horror.
Compiled by John M. Miller