Academy Award-winning filmmaker William Friedkin has sadly passed away at the age of 87. The filmmaker, who directed such films as “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” died on Monday (Aug. 7) in Los Angeles, per his wife, former producer, and studio head Sherry Lansing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
‘The Exorcist’ & ‘The French Connection’ Director William Friedkin Passes Away
The groundbreaking filmmaker also helmed such films as “Sorcerer” in 1977, “To Live and Die in L.A.” in 1985, and “Bug” in 2006. His iconic 1973 horror movie, “The Exorcist,” became the first movie nominated for Best Picture. The classic film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Ellen Burstyn, Best Actor for Jason Miller, and Best Director for Friedkin. The film won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for writer William Blatty, who also wrote the original novel the film was based on of the same name.
In 1972, Friedkin won his first and only Oscar for Best Director for the classic 1971 action-thriller, “The French Connection,” which starred Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider. The film also won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor for Hackman, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing.
Friedkin was part of a new generation of renegade filmmakers who did groundbreaking work throughout the 1970s, upending the studio systems and creating new films that were edgy, provocative, and antiauthoritarian. The esteemed Alfred Hitchcock once chided Friedkin for not wearing a tie on the set of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” for which Hitchcock hired Friedkin to direct an episode of the show in 1965. Later in the 1970s, Friedkin passed Hitchcock on the way to the stage and podium the night he won the Director’s Guild Award for “The French Connection.” During the event, he reportedly passed the legendary filmmaker and snapped his snap-on bowtie saying, “How do you like the tie, Hitch?”
Friedkin was said to have revered such filmmakers as Hitchcock and Orson Welles. “Citizen Kane” reportedly significantly impacted Friedkin when he first saw the film at 25. Friedkin was also an essential inspiration for the contemporary generation of filmmakers, such as Damien Chazelle, who became the youngest director to win an Academy Award for his film “La La Land.” THR notes that Chazelle previously made a trip to visit the filmmaker at his home in Bel-Air.
THR also notes that Friedkin and “The Exorcist” author Blatty viewed the story as a drama rather than a horror story and felt it deserved to be explored through a serious lens. Friedkin would later revisit the theme of exorcism for his final film, the 2017 documentary “The Devil and Father Amorth.” The film followed the oldest-living exorcist, and Friedkin is said to have personally shot the exorcism for the documentary feature.
As previously reported by The Blast, director David Gordon Green and producer Jason Blum are creating a director sequel to Friedkin’s original 1973 film with the new movie, “The Exorcist: Believer.” The film will feature Oscar-winner Burstyn, who reprises her role in the original film as Chris MacNeil. Chris is the mother of Regan, the young girl previously possessed by a demonic entity, Pazuzu. It will be hitting theaters in October. It will be the first film as part of a new trilogy.
Friedkin was honest about mistakes he made throughout his career, such as once tossing a drawing by Basquiat in the trash. Also, he once turned down the chance to direct a music video for Prince.
Friedkin was married several times throughout his life, including to actresses Jeanne Moreau, Lesley-Anne Down, and newscaster Kelly Lange. In July 1991, he married Lansing, and the two remained together until his passing. Friedkin is survived by his wife Lansing, his sons Jack Friedkin [from his marriage to Down], and film editor Cedric Nairn-Smith.