Exorcist Prequel Commands Neeson

Liam Neeson has agreed to star in the untitled prequel to The Exorcist — and you just know we have to give him hell about it. After all, the Irish actor nearly quit the biz altogether after the blue-screen tedium of The Haunting and Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, which he filmed back-to-back. Apparently, however, the Oscar-nominated thespian has gotten over his allergy to special-effects-driven films. Or maybe he just couldn't pass up the chance to fill Max Von Sydow's shoes as a younger version of the Father Merrin character the Swedish actor played in the original film.

"We are thrilled to have such a talented and prestigious actor as Liam on board," James G. Robinson, Chairman and CEO of the Warner Bros.-based Morgan Creek Productions said in a statement today. The horror prequel will start filming early next year in the U.S., England, and Africa, with John Frankenheimer at the helm.

Neeson's turn as Leonardo DiCaprio's pa in Gangs of New York is benched until next year, when he'll also be seen with Harrison Ford in the submarine drama K-19: The Widowmaker.