William Friedkin Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (31)  | Personal Quotes (40)

Overview (3)

Born in Chicago, 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>

Family (3)

Spouse Sherry Lansing (6 July 1991 - present)
Kelly Lange (7 June 1987 - 1990)  (divorced)
Lesley-Anne Down (1982 - 1985)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Jeanne Moreau (8 February 1977 - 1979)  (divorced)
Children Jackson Friedkin
Cedric Nairn-Smith
Parents Louis Friedkin
Rae Friedkin

Trade Mark (4)

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
Infamous for his volatile, provocative behavior on film sets

Trivia (31)

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.
He 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," 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 five 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. The boys' nanny was Lala Sloatman.
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) is 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.).
In 1997 it was announced that "The Ripper Diaries", a film he was scheduled to direct with Anthony Hopkins starring, had been put on hold.
He claims that he didn't become a true fan of cinema until the age of 25 when he saw Citizen Kane (1941).
He was a very talented basketball player in his youth and considered pursuing that as a profession.
He was not a very good student in high school and only barely graduated.
Has cited The Babadook (2014) as the scariest movie he's ever seen.
With the death of Mike Nichols, Friedkin is the earliest surviving Best Director Oscar winner. Everyone who won before 1972 has passed on. (2018).
He has directed two films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973).
Attended high school with writer/director Philip Kaufman.
He wanted Steve McQueen for the lead on Sorcerer (1977), but Steve's condition was that his wife had a part, which Friedkin wouldn't accept.
One of his uncles was Detective Sergeants Harry Lang, famous for nabbing Chicago gangster Frank Nitti.

Personal Quotes (40)

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 Romania under the Ceausescu regime [Nicolae Ceausescu], 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 shit 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 40 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 (1977) after The Exorcist (1973)] 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 (1953) into Sorcerer (1977)] 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.
There are just things over which we have no control, and that's one of the themes of Sorcerer (1977). It's the main theme--that no matter how difficult your struggle is, there's no guarantee of a successful outcome.
Sorcerer (1977) is the only film I've made that I wouldn't change a frame of.
There are not a lot of films that frighten me. There are a lot of films that I've seen that I know intend to frighten me, but not a lot that do. And the horror genre has certainly not really been elevated over the years. They're mostly repetitive, sort of copies of something else. All the exorcism films, all the vampire films, you know, there's very little original stuff out there. There are a few. There was a great one a few years ago called Let the Right One In (2008) (Let the Right One In), which I thought was marvelous. I also really liked The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007). I thought these were very unique films that delivered. But I think that for the most part they're not of that caliber. They're mostly repetitive; imitators.
It's only in recent years that people have elevated a film like Psycho (1960) to the status of a classic. When it came out in 1960 it was pretty much roundly denounced as a scary film but not of much value. Because in those days the horror genre was really sort of a rock bottom, you know, fringe thing. And [Alfred Hitchcock] himself had never made a film as violent or terrifying as that. He's the master of suspense but not violence, certainly not horror. Most of his films you'd have to say are not horror films, they're suspense films and thrillers.
I've never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook (2014). It will scare the hell out of you as it did me. Psycho (1960), Alien (1979), Diabolique (1955), and now The Babadook (2014).
[on cinematographer Robby Müller] I'd seen and admired his work, especially in Paris, Texas (1984), and that was the look I wanted. He had this great foreigner's eye for the [United] States, particularly the West Coast, and it was so fresh. He wasn't shooting cliches. He captured all those details usually overlooked in American films, and I wanted to do something that was very different from The French Connection (1971), which was mainly shot on gray days and with a hand-held look. (...) He loved backlighting with the sun, and using very little coverage, and it suited the film perfectly. (...) His work's timeless. He taught me all about composition, and in the end I adopted his style - that's how big an influence he was. [2013, Variety]
I was at Technicolor and a guy said, "We just finished a print of Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), do you wanna have a look at it?" And I looked at half an hour of it and I thought it was as bad as seeing a traffic accident in the street. It was horrible. It's just a stupid mess made by a dumb guy - John Boorman by name - somebody who should be nameless but in this case should be named. Scurrilous. A horrible picture.
[about the favorite movies he made] I'm very happy with Jade (1995), Rules of Engagement (2000), Killer Joe (2011), Bug (2006), The Exorcist (1973) . . . I would have to say Sorcerer (1977) and The French Connection (1971). Those come immediately to mind. And To Live and Die in L.A. (1985). And it's not that I achieved them, or realized them perfectly, but I did come very close to my vision of them in the execution.
If you're going to make a film or an album of music or a painting, you cannot afford to stop and think what other people will think of it. You've got to take into consideration what your editor thinks, if, say, you're a writer. But I don't have anyone to answer to. I make a film because I want to. Sometimes they're successful, sometimes they're not, but the way I think about my films is always very personal. [2018]
Any schmuck with an iPhone is a film critic today. What qualifies someone to be a film critic? Why should I believe one person's review over another's? What would prompt me to accept criticism? [2018]
I don't like to spell things out for an audience. I don't like to have the audience know where the next scene is gonna be or where the next shot is gonna be - that's something called 'show and tell.' A typical example of that would be when one character says to another, 'I'm gonna meet you around the corner in a half an hour.' And the next cut is to - around the corner in half an hour! A lot of films are structured this way. The audiences are told where they're going and when they're going there, and then you go there! I like to have events just unfold without the audience's expectation of what's coming, or what it's leading to. That's what I prefer in all the of the arts. The films that I most value; films like Citizen Kane (1941), All About Eve (1950) , The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) and Paths of Glory (1957), and any number of others; are films that are unpredictable in their structure. You have no idea where this story is going. You have no idea, for example, in Citizen Kane, that the meaning of Rosebud will ever be determined for the audience but not to the characters in the film. Or that in Treasure of Sierra Madre, the Bogart character is going to get killed. Or that in All About Eve, Eve Harrington is going to be played the same way that she's been playing all the other characters in the film. It's a wonderful irony. I think that that kind of ironic, unpredictable quality is seldom achieved in film, and not anymore almost at all. There are several examples today that I could cite; the work of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman is completely unpredictable. And so, in films and art, I most value the ironic and the unpredictable.
I can't tell you that I actually understand the true nature of any character I've ever depicted in a film. I just believe that there are tremendous complexities to people. And that's what I try to show.
I like to cover a whole movie without repetitious angles. The average film, which owes a debt to television, is usually covered in a very basic 'in the box' way. Today you can look at a lot of films or most television shows, and you can sit there and snap your fingers to the rhythm of the cut. You know from experience when the cut is gonna come, and often, where it's gonna be. You often know what the next shot is, because the editor and the director have established a cutting pattern that becomes boring and predictable! And I perceived a long time ago, that a director whose work I really admired, the Italian Neo-Realist, Michelangelo Antonioni - his films used to never use the same shot twice. He would never do that over-shoulder close-up jive. He would cover a scene one way, and it was simple - there'd be no repetition of angles within the scene, and then he'd cut to the next scene. It was sort of like the way you read a good book. Your eye scans the page from left to right, and you scan until gradually the words disappear and become thoughts, images and real dialogue. If a book was indicating a pattern of dialogue that kept repeating itself in a boring way - you'd put the book down. And Antonioni and Kubrick to a great extent, are the only other filmmakers that never repeated angles. They would find the right angle for a shot and a scene, and then move on.
Of course, in hindsight, I realize that Cruising (1980) was not the best foot forward that you can put, as an argument for the acceptance by heterosexual people, of the gay lifestyle. It was never meant to be emblematic of anyone's lifestyle, but it did exist; and to me it was a background for a murder mystery. Period. Yet, it became a cause célèbre for others to try and show that certain insensitive people, like 'myself', were using the mainstream media to slander gay people - which could not have been further from the truth.

See also

Other Works |  Publicity Listings |  Official Sites

View agent, publicist, legal and company contact details on IMDbPro Pro Name Page Link

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed