Harvey Bernhard produced the 1976 motion picture, 'The Omen', about the son of Lucifer, born of the jackal, who came to Earth to claim his rights, and was raised as the scion of the Thorns, a family of tremendous wealth, position and power. Gregory Peck played an American ambassador to the court of St. James. The success of 'The Omen' led to its sequel, 'Damien: Omen II', shown in 1978 and the last of the original trilogy series, 'Omen III: The Final Conflict' shown in 1981.
Based on one of Jesus' disciple John's vision as recorded in the Book of Revelation, born-again Christian Robert Munger acted as a religious adviser to the producers. He told Laurinda Keys of the Associated Press in 1981, "There have been movies about the resurrection and others about the crucifixion, but until now (to 1980) no film has ever been made about the most climactic event in the history of mankind – the Second Coming of Christ.
"The Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Bible tells us that the Beast of Satan will be a charismatic leader who will hold sway over the world before being destroyed by the Messiah. Sam Neill (played Damien at 32 years of age in 1981) is everything the Bible says about the Antichrist. He's suave, handsome, intelligent. The thing that separates this from a horror picture is that the bad guys are not stupid guys with horns and fangs hanging out of their mouths and a little tag saying 'I am the devil.' They are charismatic, like (Adolf) Hitler was a spellbinding speaker, so people will say, 'What a wonderful man.'
"We are living now (at the start of 1980s) at a time in the history of the world when signs of the end of the world are becoming more evident. It's not just preachers who say that. You can ask scientists who will tell you the same thing for different reasons. There's a great interest in something like this, even among the most casual observers. This picture ends with Satan losing. At the end of this picture, Jesus Christ returns to the Earth and the Antichrist is wiped out.
"I don't think that's the kind of publicity he would want. I have a profound belief that I am doing the Lord’s work through these films and that He meant for me to get these films made. He wanted to expose all those millions of people to the Antichrist being defeated. I believe 'Final Conflict' has a chance to equal or surpass the success of 'Omen', because the climax has greater interest than the first one in a series. Christians often say it's gratuitous violence but there is not enough money at 20th Century-Fox to show all the violence in Revelation. It would cost $10 billion."
'The Omen' began with Damien celebrating his 5th birthday. Producer Harvey Bernhard told 'United Press International' in 1977, "My picture was the No. 1 box office hit of 1976. Since its release in July (1976) it has grossed about $110 million world wide and it's still going strong. We earned $80 million domestically and another $20 million in Japan alone. 'All The President's Men' did as well as we did in this country but not abroad.
"Our picture has international appeal because it's about the devil. Every country in the world understands the devil. But American politics in 'All The President's Men has limited appeal overseas. The figures just came in on our first week in Nairobi, Kenya. We racked up 145,000 pounds, which is unheard of there. The theaters were 92% full for all performances. Of course we'll be in the Top 10 box office pictures, if we’re not there already.
"There are 3 sets of box office figures. The first is film rentals – money that comes back to the studio after theaters have taken their cut. The 2nd is box office gross – the total amount of money people paid to see a film. The 3rd is profits compared to the cost of making a film, producing its prints and advertising. I subscribe to all 3 figures as guides to the success of a movie. And I think the Top 10 reflect all categories."
Robert Munger continued, "The theory this movie is based on is that actually the world right now (in 1981) is in Armageddon. All of the prerequisite events that were necessary for the coming of the Antichrist and return of the Jews to Israel, floods, earthquakes, the persecution of Christian believers. There were more Christians killed in Uganda under Idi Amin than in ancient Rome, and and there are more people in prison in Communist countries today (in 1981) for being Christians than there were under the Roman emperors. If you happen to live on this planet you're involved in this story. When you think about the possibility of all this happening, you'd better not forget it."
In the 1978 sequel, 'Omen II' set in Chicago some 7 years after 'The Omen', Jonathan Scott-Taylor played Damien at the age of 12. The casting director saw Jonathan on stage at the Old Vic in England and asked him to audition for the part. After he did a screen test, Jonathan was the "ideal choice". Jonathan told the Associated Press, "It certainly was not a wishy-washy role. Damien was a definite character, which made him enjoyable to play. It was interesting to go from being angelic to being evil.
"He definitely was not nice. It was also a difficult role to play, because I never know what the boy was thinking. I had no previous experience to draw from. The director, Don Taylor, was very helpful in making me understand the role. I needed some work to speak in more of an American accent. A diction coach helped me with the vowels. But I didn't have to speak entirely American because Damien had lived the first 7 years of his life in England and 6 in America."
In 'Omen II', about controlling the world food supply, William Holden played Damien's uncle. He told the Associated Press, "First of all, I think the script is better than 'The Omen'. Also, this is a different genre for me; I have never done a horror picture before, and I wanted to see what it would be like. I found out it's not different from any other kind of picture. The character I play is entirely innocent of the Antichrist, and the horror stuff is the creation of the director."
It was noted after 3 weeks of filming, director Don Taylor took over from director Richard Donner. William added, "That creeping feeling on the back of the neck, which you get from pictures like this, is not in the actor's realm. All the actor can do in a horror picture is try to establish the mood and hope that the audience's imagination will run away with it. You can get a lot of help from the man who scores the picture and puts in an oboe or a flute at just the right moment. Music can make all the difference."