The renowned director of the 1970s, William Friedkin, known for films like “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” has passed away. His wife, Sherry Lansing, was a former CEO of Paramount Pictures.
Friedkin won the Best Director Oscar for “The French Connection” in 1972 and was nominated again for the same trophy just two years later for the mind-bending horror “The Exorcist,” a style-defying hit that received ten nominations and secured two statues.
Friedkin’s first directorial credit came in 1965 with the TV film “The Bold Men,” but it was the 1970 film “The Boys in the Band” that marked his entry into cinema. It’s still considered ahead of its time for its exploration of homosexual themes and heralded the start of a golden era for Friedkin as a filmmaker.
Among Friedkin’s significant works are “Cruising,” a 1980 film starring Al Pacino, and “To Live and Die in L.A.” He co-directed “To Live and Die in L.A.” with Willem Dafoe in 1985. He also directed “Bug” in 2006, which starred Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, and Harry Connick Jr., as well as “Rules of Engagement” in 2000, which starred Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.
One of his less successful films was “Jade,” featuring David Caruso (“NYPD Blue”) and Linda Fiorentino, which was a notorious erotic thriller flop in 1995.
As a director, Friedkin’s most recent work was the 2017 film “The Devil and Father Amorth.” According to his IMDb page, an upcoming film was still awaiting release, titled “The Canine Mutiny Court-Martial,” featuring Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Clarke, and Jake Lacy.
As a lasting testament to the impact of “The Exorcist,” which was based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, the franchise is set to release an entirely new installment this October, 50 years after the release of the first film. Ellen Burstyn stars in the movie.
Interestingly, Friedkin once revealed to cinephile Quentin Tarantino that his original intention wasn’t to make a horror film with “The Exorcist.” He said, “I think that the audience considers it a horror film. I won’t disagree with that. But when I made it, I never thought of it as a horror film. I thought of it as a powerful, emotional, disturbing story.”
For the 40th anniversary of “The Exorcist” in 2013, he even spoke with NPR, admitting that he was far from his first choice to direct the story of demonic possession.
“Before it came to me, that film was turned down by Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Penn, and Mike Nichols.” “I was the last person to receive it, and I only received it because I won an Academy Award for ‘The French Connection.'”
Friedkin was married four times: to French actress Jeanne Moreau from 1977 to 1979, British actress Lesley-Anne Down from 1982 to 1985, journalist Kelly Lange from 1987 to 1990, and Hollywood film producer Sherry Lansing, with whom he was married from 1991 until his passing.