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William Friedkin Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (22) | Personal Quotes (28)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 29 August 1935Chicago, Illinois, USA
Nickname Hurricane Billy
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Friedkin's mother was an operating room nurse. His father was a merchant seaman, semi-pro softball player and ultimately sold clothes in a men's discount chain. Ultimately, his father never earned more than $50/week in his whole life and died indigent. Eventually young Will became infatuated with Orson Welles after seeing Citizen Kane (1941). He went to work for WGN TV immediately after graduating from high school where he started making documentaries, one of which won the Golden Gate Award at the 1962 San Francisco film festival. In 1965, he moved to Hollywood and immediately started directing TV shows, including an episode of the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962); Hitchcock infamously chastised him for not wearing a tie.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: John Sacksteder <jsack@ka.net>

Spouse (4)

Sherry Lansing (6 July 1991 - present)
Kelly Lange (7 June 1987 - 1990) (divorced)
Lesley-Anne Down (1982 - 1985) (divorced) (1 son)
Jeanne Moreau (8 February 1977 - 1979) (divorced)

Trade Mark (3)

Frequently uses a hand-held camera in action sequences
[Car Chase] His films often feature a pivotal car chase (The French Connection (1971), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), Jade (1995)).
Frequently works with William Petersen

Trivia (22)

The night he won his Academy Award for directing The French Connection (1971), he was riding with his manager when their Rolls-Royce broke down several miles from the ceremony. They had to hitch a ride from a driver at a gas station in order to arrive in time.
His video for Laura Branigan's song "self control" has never been shown in its entirety on MTV. Friedkin's uncut version features a brief shot of a female breast.
Was going to work with Peter Gabriel on a film project, but Gabriel was caught up with work with his former band Genesis on the album "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway". The project was called off.
He was believed to be the youngest person to win the Best Director Oscar, at age 32. Later, he was discovered to have actually been born in 1935, and was 36 at the time. The record returned to Norman Taurog.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 372-375. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
After The Exorcist (1973) he was planning on making a film about aliens and Atlantis. However, after Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) went into production, he abandoned the film and made Sorcerer (1977) instead.
While on his first directing assignment for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962), he was reprimanded by Alfred Hitchcock for not wearing a tie.
Joe Eszterhas, in "Hollywood Animal: A Memoir," Joe Eszterhas claims that Friedkin's wife Sherry Lansing, the boss of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group, made Eszterhas issue a statement that he supported Paramount's hiring of Friedkin as director for his Jade (1995) script. In truth, Eszterhas did not want the former Oscar-winner, whom he considered a washed-up has-been, to direct the picture, but he deferred to Lansing's wishes.
Began his career in the mailroom of WGN-TV in Chicago. Within two years he was directing live television.
In 1985 he was sued for plagiarism by Michael Mann, who claimed that To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) stole the entire concept of Mann's TV series Miami Vice (1984). Mann lost the lawsuit.
He directed 5 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Jason Miller, Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair. Hackman won an Oscar for The French Connection (1971).
Does not like to work with storyboards.
Was offered the chance to direct The Exorcist (1973) by producer William Peter Blatty after Blatty screened The French Connection (1971). Warner Bros. had been pressuring him to use another director but after seeing Friedkin's film, Blatty decided he wanted the film of his novel to be infused with as much energy as Friedkin had brought to "The French Connection".
His two most famous films, The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), both begin in a foreign country, in which something in that country is brought over to America and then dealt with by American "authorities" in that field. "The French Connection" has drugs coming from France and then dealt with by American narcotics officers; "The Exorcist" has a demonic presence (from an idol) coming from Iraq to America, and dealt with by American priests.
Has two sons: Jackson Friedkin with Lesley-Anne Down and Cedric Friedkin with Australian dancer Jennifer Nairn-Smith.
Directed his first opera, "Salome" by Richard Strauss, at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich (2006).
Profiled in "Conversations with Directors: An Anthology of Interviews from Literature/Film Quarterly", E.M. Walker, D.T. Johnson, eds. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008.
He had once been considered by fellow filmmaker Michael Mann for the original role of Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter (1986).
Ex-stepfather of Jérôme Richard.
According to writer/director Larry Cohen, composer Bernard Herrmann was approached by Friedkin to score The Exorcist (1973). After screening the movie to Herrmann, Friedkin said, "I want you to write me a better score than you wrote for Citizen Kane (1941)", to which Herrmann replied, "Then why don't you make a better movie than 'Citizen Kane'?".
In an interview in Linda Ruth Williams' book "The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema", Friedkin said that Jade (1995) his favorite of all his films.
Often goes to extreme lengths to get the desired realism in his scenes. Infamous examples include the illegal car chase from The French Connection (1971) (which employed a stunt driver racing amidst unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians), and his effective tactics to get certain reactions from his actors in The Exorcist (1973) (discharging firearms close to the actors' ears, slapping them in the face, violently yanking them with ropes, etc.).

Personal Quotes (28)

By the time a film of mine makes it into the theaters, I have a love-hate relationship with it. There is always something I could have done to make it better.
The French Connection (1971) was really made in the editing room. One of the easiest sequences to do was the chase scene. It was relatively easy to do because everything was worked out minutely, carefully planned and checked in advance. Of course, there were some human errors and we did wreck a couple of cars before we were through.
[after directing The French Connection (1971)] Each picture I've done so far has been for different reasons. The Birthday Party (1968), for instance, was purely a labor of love. I wanted to do [Harold Pinter]. Others were to advance my career, to get better assignments. I have no regard for and no knowledge of the value of money, I'm not saying that's a virtue, just a fact. For me, the greatest thrill in the world, the only thrill, is getting 20 seconds on the screen that really gases you.
I consider myself just another member of the crew, the highest paid member of the crew.
Directing is the provenance of younger guys. When I broke into film, I had no specific genius. I was just young. That's how I did it. The studios feel that movies are all about a youth movement, and they always have. That's why Orson Welles got to make Citizen Kane (1941) at 25. It's also why Billy Wilder at the end of his career, when he was smarter, wittier and more energetic than most directors half his age, couldn't even get a meeting.
I frankly am not on the same page with most of the films that are being made by the studios now. I certainly can't think of any that I wish I had directed. This is not to degrade these pictures they're making today, like Spider-Man 3 (2007). I'm just not seeking them out, nor are they seeking me out.
The first thing I look for in an actor is intelligence. I don't really care what they have or haven't done before, so long as they're physically right for the part, or can be, and they have the intelligence to dig in and find out who the character is.
There's a kind of desperation to the characters I'm interested in. They're all in extremely heightened states in a heightened situation. And in the course of my films, we're exploring all of their fears -- the rational and the irrational.
[on the 1960s and 1970s] America was going through a national nervous breakdown. It started with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and then the assassination of Martin Luther King, then Robert F. Kennedy, then the onset of the Vietnam War in which America stumbled very badly and has never really recovered. The 1960s ended with the Charles Manson murders - the murder of Sharon Tate and a bunch of people for no apparent reason at all by a bunch of drug-infested people who were aimless and sort of adrift from the American culture. We [film directors] were reflecting what we could perceive, which was paranoia everywhere and irrational fear. Certainly, my films of the 1970s reflected just that.
[on Easy Rider (1969)] It was made for very little money by people who were complete unknowns and it was a great success. It was about the American drug culture. The studios in Hollywood were looking for other young filmmakers to make other such films.
[on Cruising (1980)] It's just a murder mystery, with the gay leather scene as a backdrop. On another level it's about identity: do any of us really know who it is sitting next to us, or looking back at us in the mirror? But the vitriol that the film was greeted with still confounds me.
[on the restoration of Cruising (1980)] When we got the negative from Warners, it was almost totally out of synch. There were sound tracks missing, the picture was out of synch with the sound. The negative looked like they'd held the six-day bike races on it, and it was awful. But because of the digital process, we were able to go in and time every single frame again from the start and sonically clean the picture, so it had no scratches, no splices, no anything. Then we remixed the soundtrack into a 5.1 mix. The sound is now perfect. If there's anything about the film that now achieves perfection, it's the soundtrack. It took months to do it.
The Charnier character in The French Connection (1971) is a much more admirable human being than Popeye Doyle. That's the thin line between the policeman and the criminal, and between good and evil.
[on Citizen Kane (1941)] It's kind of a quarry for filmmakers, like James Joyce's "Ulysses" is a quarry for writers. It seemed to me, on reflection, to synthesize all of the art forms: photography, lighting, acting, music, editing, and writing. And I realized, soon after, that film could really transcend the other arts and synthesize them.
[on his first movie, Good Times (1967), a vehicle for Sonny Bono and Cher] If I had made that film in Rumania under the [Nicolae Ceausescu] regime, I would've been assassinated!
Today, movies are as visual as they've ever been, but they don't make any sense! They've got no heart, very little story. The dialogue is very often a little bit above a grunt...now, for the most part, people just stare at the screen for two hours and it's like opium for the eyes and you're not moved at all...it's an escape from reality. So there it is.
The most beautiful location in the world doesn't mean sh*t next to Steve McQueen's face.
I rehearsed The Exorcist (1973) for a month and the best performances I ever saw of it were left in the rehearsal room. When we finally got to the shooting, it wasn't as fresh.
The day after I won the Oscar was the only time I ever went to see a psychiatrist. I was profoundly unhappy, I told him I won an Oscar and I didn't think I deserved it.
I'd rather work with tree stumps than actors.
[I was] a punk teenager in Chicago and didn't know a damn thing about anything.
[on Matthew McConaughey] He could charm the mustard off a hot dog.
I don't know, for example, if some other actor than Matthew McConaughey had done Dallas Buyers Club (2013), he would've won an Academy Award for that. If it was an actor who didn't have to lose forty pounds, who knows? But McConaughey was a on a trajectory. It's a matter of timing and choices and the grace of God. Success in this business has a lot more to do with luck than anything else, being in the right place at the right time.
Most of my films, when I see them again, I would do everything over and in some cases, would just shitcan the entire thing. Not so with Sorcerer (1977). I can still watch it with some enjoyment. I still get pleasure out of it.
[on doing "Sorcerer" after "The Exorcist"] I was looking for a grittier subject that was more in line with the films that I felt the closest kinship to: action-adventure films that were really offbeat but very profound.
[on adapting "The Wages of Fear" into "Sorcerer"] I believed that the story was timeless because it involved four guys who are basically enemies but who had to work together or blow up. It seemed to me that that was a metaphor for the world, and still is. You have all these countries that either have to find a way to come together and cooperate or the world will be destroyed.
[on "Sorcerer"] There are just things over which we have no control, and that's one of the themes of 'Sorcerer.' It's the main theme - that no matter how difficult your struggle is, there's no guarantee of a successful outcome.
[on "Sorcerer"] 'Sorcerer' is the only film I've made that I wouldn't change a frame of.

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