William Friedkin

Date Of Birth:
29 August 1935
Date Of Death:
7 August 2023
Place Of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
Best Known As:
The director of The French Connection and The Exorcist
William Friedkin was a filmmaker who made his career in the 1970s with the box office hits The French Connection and The Exorcist. He got his start in television, starting in the mail room of a Chicago station when he was sixteen years old and just out of high school. By the time he was 18, Friedkin was directing local programs of all kinds, both remotely and in the studio. His first attempt at filmmaking was a documentary inspired by the story of a wrongfully accused man on death row. Friedkin then made a silly (and profitable) feature with Sonny and Cher called Good Times (1967), and then spent a year working with Harold Pinter to produce the 1968 film version of the play The Birthday Party. Friedkin made two more features and was then given a small budget to film The French Connection (1971), a gritty cop drama made on the streets of New York City. The movie was a hit with critics and audiences and earned eight Oscar nominations. It won five — for best picture, best actor (Gene Hackman), best editing, best adapted screenplay and, for Friedkin, best director. Friedkin’s next feature was The Exorcist (1973), a controversial box office smash based on a bestselling novel. The film became a classic and spawned dozens of cinema rip-offs. Friedkin followed with Sorcerer (1977), a remake of the French film Wages of Fear (). Now considered a masterpiece by Friedkin’s fans, the film was dismissed by critics at the time and began a string of films to under-perform at the box office. The rest of his career Friedkin has worked steadily in film and television, with occasional hits among many misses. Friedkin’s other films include To Live and Die in L.A. (1980); The Guardian (1990); Jade 1995; the TV remake of 12 Angry Men (1997); Rules of Engagement (2000); The Hunted (2003); Bug (2006, starring Michael Shannon); and Killer Joe (2011, starring Matthew McConaughey).
Extra Credit

William Friedkin was married to actress Jeanne Moreau (1977-79), actress Lesley-Anne Down (1982-85), journalist Kelly Lange (1987-90) and film studio executive Sherry Lansing (1991-2023).

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