Friedkin in 2012 at the Deauville American Film Festival
August 29, 1935 |
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Occupation||Director, producer, screenwriter|
|Influenced by||Harold Pinter,
Joseph L. Mankiewicz,
Nicolas Winding Refn,
|Spouse(s)||Jeanne Moreau (1977-1979)
Lesley-Anne Down (1982-1985)
Kelly Lange (1987-1990)
Sherry Lansing (1991-present)
William Friedkin (born August 29, 1935) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter best known for directing The French Connection in 1971 and The Exorcist in 1973; for the former, he won the Academy Award for Best Director. Some of his other films include Sorcerer, Cruising, To Live and Die in L.A., The Guardian, Jade, Bug, and Killer Joe.
Early life 
Friedkin was born in August 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Raechael (née Green) and Louis Friedkin. His father was a semi-professional softball player, merchant seaman, and men's clothing salesman. His mother, whom Friedkin called "a saint", was an operating room registered nurse. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. His grandparents, parents, and other relatives fled Ukraine during a particularly violent anti-Jewish pogrom in 1903. Friedkin's father was somewhat uninterested in making money, and the family was generally lower middle class while he was growing up. According to film historian Peter Biskind, "Friedkin viewed his father with a mixture of affection and contempt for not making more of himself."
Friedkin attended public schools in Chicago. He enrolled at Senn High School, where he played basketball well enough to consider turning professional. Friedkin was not a serious student and barely received grades good enough to graduate, which he did at the age of 16. According to Friedkin, this was because of social promotion and not because he was bright.
Friedkin began going to movies as a teenager. One of his key influence was Citizen Kane. Several sources claim that Friedkin saw this motion picture as a teenager, but Friedkin himself says that he did not see the film until 1960, when he was 25 years old. Only then, Friedkin says, did he become a true cineaste. Among the movies which he saw as a teenager and young adult were Les Diaboliques, The Wages of Fear, and Psycho (which he viewed repeatedly, like Citizen Kane). Televised documentaries, such as 1960's Harvest of Shame, also were important in his developing sense of cinema.
He began working in the mail room at WGN-TV immediately after high school. Within two years (at the age of 18), he started his directorial career doing live television shows and documentaries. His efforts included The People vs. Paul Crump (made with Bill Butler in 1962) which won an award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and contributed to the commutation of Crump's death sentence. Its success helped Friedkin get a job with producer David L. Wolper.
As mentioned in Friedkin's voice-over commentary on the DVD re-release of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Friedkin directed one of the last episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965, called "Off Season". Hitchcock admonished Friedkin for not wearing a tie while directing.
In 1965 Friedkin moved to Hollywood and two years later released his first feature film, Good Times starring Sonny and Cher. In 1967 he directed a TV pilot for the ABC network called "The Pickle Brothers". It was written and produced by Dee Caruso and Gerald Gardner, and Quincy Jones did the music. Several other "art" films followed (including the gay-themed movie The Boys in the Band), although Friedkin did not necessarily want to be known as an art house director. He wanted to be known for action, serious drama, and for stories about an America turned upside down by crime, hypocrisy, the occult, and amorality, which he mounted up into his films. In addition, America was changing in the wake of Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, and Watergate. Friedkin wanted to reflect what was going on.
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 an 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 one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won the Best Screenplay Award.
Following these two critically acclaimed pictures, Friedkin, along with Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich, was deemed one of the premier directors of New Hollywood; but 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.
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 it 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 (1995), starring Linda Fiorentino, received somewhat favorable response from critics and audiences. Friedkin even said that Jade was the favorite of all the films he had made.
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. The film won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Later, Friedkin directed an episode of the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation titled "Cockroaches," which re-teamed him with To Live and Die In L.A. star William Petersen. He directed again for CSI's 200th episode, "Mascara."
In June 2010, author William Peter Blatty, promoting his latest novel, revealed that Friedkin had committed to direct the feature film adaptation of his thriller, Dimiter. This would mark almost forty years since their previous collaboration, The Exorcist, not counting the failed collaboration between the two on The Exorcist III. The idea for the book itself actually came to Blatty while sitting in Friedkin's office in 1972 during the first film's production, as he read an article concerning the then atheist-run state of Albania executing a priest for baptizing a newborn infant. He has been working on it on and off ever since 1974, and, upon its completion, sat down with Friedkin for a one-on-one interview in The Huffington Post a few days after Blatty named Friedkin as attached to direct. According to the author, his friend and director has been eager to adapt the story for the last three years.
Personal life 
William Friedkin has been married four times:
- Jeanne Moreau, married February 8, 1977, and divorced in 1979.
- Lesley-Anne Down, married in 1982 and divorced in 1985.
- Kelly Lange, married on June 7, 1987, and divorced in 1990.
- Sherry Lansing, married on July 6, 1991. They remain married as of April 2013.
While he was filming The Boys in the Band in 1970, Friedkin began a relationship with Kitty Hawks, daughter of director Howard Hawks. It lasted two years, during which the couple announced their engagement, but the relationship ended about 1972. Friedkin began a four-year relationship with Australian dancer and choreographer Jennifer Nairn-Smith in 1972. Although they announced an engagement twice, they never married. They did, however, have a son, Cedric, born on November 27, 1976.
Filmography (as director) 
- Biskind, p. 200.
- Pfefferman, Naomi. "'Killer Joe's' William Friedkin: 'I Could Have Been a Very Violent Person'." Jewish Journal. August 2, 2012. Accessed 2013-04-29.
- Friedkin, The Friedkin Connection, p. 1.
- Biskind, p. 201.
- Segaloff, p. 25.
- Wakeman, p. 372.
- Friedkin, Conversations at the American Film Institute..., p. 186.
- Emery, p. 237; Claggett, p. 3.
- Friedkin, The Friedkin Connection, p. 9.
- Stevens, p. 184.
- Walker and Johnson, p. 15.
- Derry, p. 361; Edmonds and Mimura, p. 211.
- Hamm, p. 86-87.
- "Off Season 1965". IMDb. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
- "Vertigo: The Legacy Series" Universal, 2008
- Biskind, p. 413.
- William, Linda Ruth (2005). The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 140. ISBN 0-253-21836-5.
- "EXCL: Bug Director William Friedkin".
- "Crazy by William Peter Blatty", authorsontourlive.com, June 30, 2010
- "William Friedkin : Director, producer and screenwriter : A Quiet Little Thriller", The Huffington Post, July 6, 2010
- Friedkin, William. The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.
- "William Friedkin to receive Venice honour". BBC News.
- Martin, Judith. "Personalities." Washington Post. February 9, 1977, p. B3.
- "Filing for Divorce." Newsweek. June 25, 1979, p. 99.
- Sanders, Richard. "Director Billy Friedkin and Lesley-Anne Down Make a Home Movie-Divorce Hollywood Style." People. September 2, 1985. Accessed 2013-04-29.
- "Names in the News." Associated Press. August 15, 1985.
- "Director William Friedkin Marries News Anchor Kelly Lange." Ocala Star-Banner. July 29, 1987, p. 2A. Accessed 2013-04-29.
- Ryon, Ruth. "Still Anchored in the Hills." Los Angeles Times. May 31, 1992. Accessed 2013-04-29.
- Anderson, Susan Heller. "Chronicle." New York Times. July 11, 1991. Accessed 2013-04-29.
- Teetor, Paul. "'The Exorcist' Director William Friedkin Tells All in His No-Bullshit Memoir." Los Angeles Times. April 11, 2013. Accessed 2013-04-29.
- Segaloff, p. 98.
- "William Friedkin - Biography." Movies.Yahoo.com. 2013, accessed 2013-04-29; "Failing Better Every Time." Sunday Independent. July 1, 2012.
- Segaloff, p. 251.
- "Venezia 68: International competition of feature films". Venice. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
- Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. ISBN 0684809966
- Claggett, Thomas D. William Friedkin: Films of Aberration, Obsession, and Reality. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2003. ISBN 0899502628
- Derry, Charles, ed. Dark Dreams 2.0: A Psychological History of the Modern Horror Film From the 1950s to the 21st Century. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2009. ISBN 9780786433971
- Edmonds, I. G. and Mimura, Reiko. The Oscar Directors. San Diego: A.S. Barnes, 1980. ISBN 049802444X
- Emery, Robert J., ed. The Directors: In Their Own Words. Vol. 2. New York: TV Books, 1999. ISBN 1575001292
- Friedkin, William. The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. ISBN 978-0061775123
- Friedkin, William. Conversations at the American Film Institute With the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation. George Stevens, Jr., ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-030727347
- Hamm, Theodore. Rebel and a Cause: Caryl Chessman and the Politics of the Death Penalty in Postwar California, 1948-1974. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2001. ISBN 0520224272
- Segaloff, Nat. Hurricane Billy: The Stormy Life and Films of William Friedkin. New York: Morrow, 1990. ISBN 0688078524
- Stevens, Jr., George, ed. Conversations at the American Film Institute With the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-030727347
- Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, 1945-1985. New York: Wilson, 1988. ISBN 0824207572
- Walker, Elsie M. and Johnson, David T., eds. Conversations With Directors: An Anthology of Interviews From 'Literature/Film Quarterly'. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2008. ISBN 9780810861220
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: William Friedkin|
- William Friedkin at the Internet Movie Database
- William Friedkin at the Internet Broadway Database
- "From 'Popeye' Doyle to Puccini: William Friedkin" NPR's Robert Siegel interviews Friedkin, 14 September 2006
- EXCL: Bug Director William Friedkin
- The Reeler interview with Friedkin