William Friedkin (1935-2023)

William Friedkin
William Friedkin

William Friedkin (August 29, 1935 – August 7, 2023) was an acclaimed American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He gained recognition for directing notable films such as “The French Connection” (1971) and “The Exorcist” (1973), the former of which earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. Friedkin’s filmography also includes “The Boys in the Band” (1970), “Sorcerer” (1977), “Cruising” (1980), “To Live and Die in L. . (1985), “Blue Chips” (1994), “Jade” (1995), “Rules of Engagement” (2000), “The Hunted” (2003), “Bug” (2006), and “Killer Joe” (2011).

In 1965, Friedkin relocated to Hollywood and released his debut feature film, “Good Times,” featuring Sonny and Cher. He continued to make artistic films, such as the adaptation of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band,” as well as “The Birthday Party,” based on an unpublished screenplay by Harold Pinter, which he adapted from his own play. However, Friedkin aimed to establish himself as a director of action and serious drama, exploring themes of crime, hypocrisy, the occult, and amorality within the changing landscape of America influenced by the Vietnam War, the Sexual Revolution, and Watergate.

In 1971, Friedkin achieved critical acclaim with the release of “The French Connection. The film, shot in a raw and documentary-like style, garnered five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. He followed this success with “The Exorcist” in 1973, a groundbreaking horror film based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel. Regarded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, “The Exorcist” received 10 Academy Award nominations, winning Best Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing.

Friedkin’s achievements in the early 1970s solidified his position as one of the prominent directors of New Hollywood, alongside Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich. Together, they formed an independent production company called The Directors Company at Paramount. However, Friedkin departed from the company, which was subsequently closed by Paramount. While his later films did not reach the same level of success, his action/crime film “To Live and Die in L. . (1985), featuring William Petersen and Willem Dafoe, received critical acclaim and drew comparisons to his own work in “The French Connection,” particularly for its gripping car-chase sequence. In 2011, Friedkin directed “Killer Joe,” a dark comedy written by Tracy Letts and starring Matthew McConaughey. The film premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and later debuted at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. In April 2013, Friedkin released his memoir, “The Friedkin Connection. He was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 70th Venice International Film Festival in September.

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