• William Friedkin

William Friedkin (born 29 August 1935) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter best known for directing The French Connection in 1972, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. The following year he was nominated for his directing The Exorcist (1973). His recent film, Bug (2006) won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Career

After seeing the movie Citizen Kane as a boy, Friedkin became fascinated with movies and began working for WGN-TV immediately after high school. He eventually started his directorial career doing live television shows and documentaries, including The People vs. Paul Crump which won several awards and contributed to the commutation of Crump’s death sentence. As mentioned in Friedkin’s voice over commentary on the dvd re-release of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo, Friedkin also directed one of the last episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” in 1965, called “Off Season”.[1] Hitchcock admonished Friedkin for not wearing a tie while directing.[2] In 1965 Friedkin moved to Hollywood and two years later released his first feature film, Good Times starring Sonny and Cher. Several other “art” films followed (including the gay-themed movie The Boys in the Band), although Friedkin didn’t necessarily want to be known as an art house director.

In 1971, his The French Connection was released to wide critical acclaim. Shot in a gritty style more suited for documentaries than Hollywood features, the film won five Academy Awards, including Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.

Friedkin followed up with 1973’s The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty‘s best-selling novel, which revolutionized the horror genre and is considered by some critics to be the greatest horror movie of all time. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Following these two critically acclaimed pictures, Friedkin, along with Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich, was deemed as one of the premier directors of New Hollywood. Unfortunately, Friedkin’s later movies did not achieve the same success. Sorcerer (1977), a $22 million dollar American remake of the French classic Wages of Fear, starring Roy Scheider, was overshadowed by the box-office success of Star Wars, which was released around the same time. Friedkin considers it his finest film, and was personally devastated by its financial and critical failure (as mentioned by Friedkin himself in the documentary series The Directors (1999)).

Sorcerer was shortly followed by the crime-comedy The Brink’s Job (1978), based on the real-life Great Brink’s Robbery in Boston, Massachusetts, which was also unsuccessful at the box-office. 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 to this day.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Friedkin’s films received 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 was generally savaged by critics. However, his action/crime movie To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), starring William Petersen and Willem Dafoe, was a critical favorite and drew comparisons to Friedkin’s own The French Connection (particularly for its car-chase sequence), while his courtroom-drama/thriller, Rampage (1987), received a fairly positive review from Roger Ebert despite major distribution problems. The Guardian (1990) and Jade starring Linda Fiorentino received minor success by critics and audiences. Friedkin has also done features drawing attention to artists as different as Fritz Lang and Barbra Streisand.[3]

In 2000, The Exorcist was re-released in theaters with extra footage and grossed $40 million in the U.S. alone. Friedkin’s involvement in 2007’s Bug resulted from a positive experience watching the stage version in 2004. He was surprised to find that he was, metaphorically, on the same page as the playwright, and felt that he could relate well to the story.[4]

Later, Friedkin directed an episode of the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, entitled Cockroaches, which re-teamed him with To Live and Die In L.A. star William Petersen. He would go on to direct again for CSI’s 200th episode, Mascara.

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