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William Friedkin

William Friedkin (born August 29, 1935)[1] is an American lm director, producer and screenwriter best known
for directing The French Connection in 1971 and The
Exorcist in 1973; for the former, he won the Academy
Award for Best Director. Some of his other lms include
Sorcerer, Cruising, To Live and Die in L.A., Jade, Rules
of Engagement, The Hunted, Bug, and Killer Joe.

vision shows and documentaries.[12] His eorts included

The People vs. Paul Crump (made with Bill Butler in
1962) which won an award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and contributed to the commutation of Crumps death sentence.[11][13] Its success helped
Friedkin get a job with producer David L. Wolper.[11]

2 Career

Early life
As mentioned in Friedkins voice-over commentary on
the DVD re-release of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Friedkin directed one of the last episodes of The Alfred
Hitchcock Hour in 1965, called O Season.[14] Hitchcock admonished Friedkin for not wearing a tie while

Friedkin was born in August 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Rachael (ne Green) and Louis Friedkin. His father was a semi-professional softball player,
merchant seaman, and mens clothing salesman. His
mother, whom Friedkin called a saint, was an operating
room registered nurse.[1] His parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine.[2] His grandparents, parents, and
other relatives ed Ukraine during a particularly violent anti-Jewish pogrom in 1903.[3] Friedkins father was
somewhat uninterested in making money, and the family
was generally lower middle class while he was growing
up.[1] According to lm historian Peter Biskind, Friedkin viewed his father with a mixture of aection and contempt for not making more of himself.[1] According to
his memoir, The Friedkin Connection, Friedkin had the
utmost aection for his father.

In 1965 Friedkin moved to Hollywood and two years later

released his rst feature lm, Good Times starring Sonny
and Cher. Several other art lms followed, including
the gay-themed movie The Boys in the Band and most
notably The Birthday Party, based on an unpublished
screenplay by Harold Pinter, which he adapted from his
own play. Friedkin, however, did not want to be known
as an art house director, but rather for action and serious drama through stories about an America upended by
crime, hypocrisy, the occult, and amorality. All of which
he mounted up into his lms to reect what was going on
Friedkin attended public schools in Chicago. He en- in an America that was changing in the wake of Vietnam,
rolled at Senn High School, where he played basketball the Sexual Revolution, and Watergate.
well enough to consider turning professional.[4] Friedkin In 1971, his The French Connection was released to wide
was not a serious student and barely received grades good critical acclaim. Shot in a gritty style more suited for
enough to graduate,[5] which he did at the age of 16.[6] Ac- documentaries than Hollywood features, the lm won ve
cording to Friedkin, this was because of social promotion Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Direcand not because he was bright.[7]
Friedkin began going to movies as a teenager,[4] and has
cited Citizen Kane as one of his key inuences. Several
sources claim that Friedkin saw this motion picture as a
teenager,[8] but Friedkin himself says that he did not see
the lm until 1960, when he was 25 years old. Only then,
Friedkin says, did he become a true cineaste.[9] Among
the movies which he saw as a teenager and young adult
were Les Diaboliques, The Wages of Fear, and Psycho
(which he viewed repeatedly, like Citizen Kane). Televised documentaries, such as 1960s Harvest of Shame,
also were important in his developing sense of cinema.[4]

Friedkin followed up with 1973s The Exorcist, based on

William Peter Blatty's best-selling novel, which revolutionized the horror genre and is considered by some critics to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won the Best
Screenplay Award.

Following these two critically acclaimed pictures, Friedkin, along with Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich, was deemed one of the premier directors of
New Hollywood; but Friedkins later movies did not
He began working in the mail room at WGN-TV imme- achieve the same success. Sorcerer (1977), a $22 mildiately after high school.[10] Within two years (at the age lion American remake of the French classic Wages of
of 18),[11] he started his directorial career doing live tele- Fear, starring Roy Scheider, was overshadowed by the

blockbuster box-oce success of Star Wars, which had
been released exactly one month prior. Friedkin considers it his nest lm, and was personally devastated by its
nancial and critical failure (as mentioned by Friedkin
himself in the documentary series The Directors (1999)).
Sorcerer was shortly followed by the crime-comedy The
Brinks Job (1978), based on the real-life Great Brinks
Robbery in Boston, Massachusetts, which was also unsuccessful at the box-oce. In 1980, he directed the highly
controversial gay-themed crime thriller Cruising, starring
Al Pacino, which was protested against even during its
making and remains the subject of heated debate.


born infant.[21] He has been working on it on and o
ever since 1974, and, upon its completion, sat down with
Friedkin for a one-on-one interview in The Hungton
Post a few days after Blatty named Friedkin as attached
to direct. According to the author, his friend and director
has been eager to adapt the story for the last three years.

In 2011 Friedkin directed Killer Joe, a black comedy written by Tracy Letts, and starring Matthew McConaughey,
Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, and Thomas
Haden Church. Killer Joe premiered at the 68th Venice
International Film Festival, prior to its North American
debut at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. It
Friedkin suered a major heart attack on March 6, 1981. opened in U.S. theaters in July 2012, to favorable reviews
He had a genetically-caused defect in his circumex left from critics.
coronary artery, and nearly died. He spent months in In April 2013 Friedkin published a memoir, The Friedkin
Connection.[22] He was presented with a lifetime achievethe 70th Venice International Film Festival
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Friedkins lms re- ment award at [23]
ceived mostly lackluster reviews and moderate ticket
sales. Deal of the Century (1983), starring Chevy Chase,
Gregory Hines and Sigourney Weaver, was sometimes
regarded as a latter-day Dr. Strangelove, though it was 3 Personal life
generally savaged by critics. However, his action/crime
movie To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), starring William William Friedkin has been married four times:
Petersen and Willem Dafoe, was a critical favorite and
drew comparisons to Friedkins own The French Con Jeanne Moreau, married February 8, 1977,[24] and
nection (particularly for its car-chase sequence), while
divorced in 1979.[25]
his courtroom-drama/thriller Rampage (1987) received
a fairly positive review from Roger Ebert despite major
Lesley-Anne Down, married in 1982[26] and didistribution problems. The Guardian (1990) and Jade
vorced in 1985.[27]
(1995), starring Linda Fiorentino, received a somewhat
favorable response from critics and audiences. Friedkin
Kelly Lange, married on June 7, 1987,[28] and dieven said that Jade was the favorite of all the lms he had
vorced in 1990.[29]
made,[17] although he later denied this.[18]
Sherry Lansing, married on July 6, 1991.[30] They
In 2000, The Exorcist was re-released in theaters with exremain married as of April 2013.[31]
tra footage and grossed $40 million in the U.S. alone.
Friedkins involvement in 2007s Bug resulted from a positive experience watching the stage version in 2004. He While he was lming The Boys in the Band in 1970,
was surprised to nd that he was, metaphorically, on the Friedkin began a relationship with Kitty Hawks, daughsame page as the playwright and felt that he could relate ter of director Howard Hawks. It lasted two years, during
engagement, but the
well to the story.[19] The lm won the FIPRESCI prize at which the couple announced their
began a fourthe Cannes Film Festival.
year relationship with Australian dancer and choreograLater, Friedkin directed an episode of the TV series CSI: pher Jennifer Nairn-Smith in 1972. Although they anCrime Scene Investigation titled Cockroaches, which re- nounced an engagement twice, they never married. They
teamed him with To Live and Die in L.A. star William Pe- did, however, have a son, Cedric, born on November 27,
tersen. He directed again for CSIs 200th episode, Mas- 1976.[33]
Friedkin and his second wife, Lesley-Anne Down, also
In June 2010, author William Peter Blatty, promoting his had a son, Jack, born in 1983.[27] Friedkin is an
latest novel, revealed that Friedkin had committed to di- agnostic.[34]
rect the feature lm adaptation of his thriller, Dimiter.[20]
This would mark almost forty years since their previous
collaboration, The Exorcist, not counting the failed collaboration between the two on The Exorcist III. The idea 4 Filmography (as director)
for the book itself actually came to Blatty while sitting
in Friedkins oce in 1972 during the rst lms produc- 4.1 Documentary credits
tion, as he read an article concerning the then atheist-run
state of Albania executing a priest for baptizing a new The People vs. Paul Crump (1965)

The Bold Men

[25] Filing for Divorce. Newsweek. June 25, 1979, p. 99.

The Thin Blue Line

[26] Sanders, Richard. Director Billy Friedkin and LesleyAnne Down Make a Home Movie-Divorce Hollywood
Style. People. September 2, 1985. Accessed 2013-0429.

Mayhem on a Sunday Afternoon



[1] Biskind, p. 200.

[2] Pfeerman, Naomi. "'Killer Joes' William Friedkin: 'I
Could Have Been a Very Violent Person'. Jewish Journal.
August 2, 2012. Accessed 2013-04-29.
[3] Friedkin, The Friedkin Connection, p. 1.
[4] Biskind, p. 201.
[5] Segalo, p. 25.
[6] Wakeman, p. 372.
[7] Friedkin, Conversations at the American Film Institute...,
p. 186.
[8] Emery, p. 237; Claggett, p. 3.

[27] Names in the News. Associated Press. August 15, 1985.

[28] Director William Friedkin Marries News Anchor Kelly
Lange. Ocala Star-Banner. July 29, 1987, p. 2A. Accessed 2013-04-29.
[29] Ryon, Ruth. Still Anchored in the Hills. Los Angeles
Times. May 31, 1992. Accessed 2013-04-29.
[30] Anderson, Susan Heller. Chronicle. New York Times.
July 11, 1991. Accessed 2013-04-29.
[31] Teetor, Paul. "'The Exorcist' Director William Friedkin
Tells All in His No-Bullshit Memoir. Los Angeles Times.
April 11, 2013. Accessed 2013-04-29.
[32] Segalo, p. 98.
[33] William Friedkin Biography.
2013, accessed 2013-04-29; Failing Better Every Time.
Sunday Independent. July 1, 2012.
[34] The Exorcist & The French Connection Dir. William
Friedkin on Religion, Crime & Film on YouTube

[9] Friedkin, The Friedkin Connection, p. 9.

[10] Stevens, p. 184.

[35] Venezia 68: International competition of feature lms.

Venice. Retrieved August 28, 2011.

[11] Walker and Johnson, p. 15.

[12] Derry, p. 361; Edmonds and Mimura, p. 211.

7 Bibliography

[13] Hamm, p. 86-87.

[14] O Season 1965. IMDb. p. 2. Retrieved September 8,
[15] Vertigo: The Legacy Series Universal, 2008
[16] Biskind, p. 413.
[17] William, Linda Ruth (2005). The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 140.
ISBN 0-253-21836-5.
[18] William Friedkin Interview on YouTube
[19] EXCL: Bug Director William Friedkin.
[20] Crazy by William Peter Blatty,,
June 30, 2010
[21] William Friedkin : Director, producer and screenwriter :
A Quiet Little Thriller, The Hungton Post, July 6, 2010
[22] Friedkin, William. The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir.
New York: HarperCollins, 2013.
[23] William Friedkin to receive Venice honour. BBC News.
[24] Martin, Judith. Personalities. Washington Post. February 9, 1977, p. B3.

Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the

Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
ISBN 0-684-80996-6
Claggett, Thomas D. William Friedkin: Films of
Aberration, Obsession, and Reality. Los Angeles:
Silman-James Press, 2003. ISBN 0-89950-262-8
Derry, Charles, ed. Dark Dreams 2.0: A Psychological History of the Modern Horror Film From the
1950s to the 21st Century. Jeerson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-3397-1
Edmonds, I. G. and Mimura, Reiko. The Oscar Directors. San Diego: A.S. Barnes, 1980. ISBN 0498-02444-X
Emery, Robert J., ed. The Directors: In Their Own
Words. Vol. 2. New York: TV Books, 1999. ISBN
Friedkin, William. The Friedkin Connection: A
Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. ISBN

Friedkin, William. Conversations at the American
Film Institute With the Great Moviemakers: The Next
Generation. George Stevens, Jr., ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-0-307-27347-5
Hamm, Theodore. Rebel and a Cause: Caryl Chessman and the Politics of the Death Penalty in Postwar
California, 19481974. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2001. ISBN 0-520-224272
Segalo, Nat. Hurricane Billy: The Stormy Life and
Films of William Friedkin. New York: Morrow,
1990. ISBN 0-688-07852-4
Stevens, Jr., George, ed. Conversations at the American Film Institute With the Great Moviemakers: The
Next Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
2012. ISBN 978-0-307-27347-5
Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, 19451985.
New York: Wilson, 1988. ISBN 0-8242-0757-2
Walker, Elsie M. and Johnson, David T., eds. Conversations With Directors: An Anthology of Interviews From 'Literature/Film Quarterly'. Lanham,
Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-81086122-0

External links
William Friedkin at the Internet Movie Database
William Friedkin at the Internet Broadway Database
From 'Popeye' Doyle to Puccini: William Friedkin NPRs Robert Siegel interviews Friedkin,
September 14, 2006
EXCL: Bug Director William Friedkin
The Reeler interview with Friedkin
Master Class at La Cinmathque franaise on December 4th 2013
William Friedkin papers, Margaret Herrick Library,
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


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