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William Friedkin (1935)

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  Summary  

William Friedkin 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. His film, Bug won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

  Biography  

 career
After seeing the movie Citizen Kane as a boy, Friedkin became fascinated with movies. He began working for WGN-TV immediately after high school. He eventually started his directorial career doing live television shows and documentaries, including The People vs. Paul Crump which won several awards and contributed to the commutation of Crump's death sentence. As mentioned in Friedkin's voice-over commentary on the DVD re-release of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Friedkin also 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. 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 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. Friedkin's directorial 'ethics' however, came into serious question when filming the now notorious scene where Linda Blair smacks Ellen Burstyn, causing her to fly backwards into a break-away table. Even after warning Friedkin the stuntman was "pulling her too hard," Friendkin prompted him to pull her harder, resulting in a permanent back injury for Burstyn.
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 as one of the premier directors of New Hollywood. Unfortunately, Friedkin's later movies did not achieve the same success. Sorcerer , 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 .

Sorcerer was shortly followed by the crime-comedy The Brink's Job , 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 to this day.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Friedkin's films received mostly lackluster reviews and moderate ticket sales. Deal of the Century , 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. , 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 received a fairly positive review from Roger Ebert despite major distribution problems. The Guardian and Jade , 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.

Friedkin has also done features drawing attention to artists as different as Fritz Lang and Barbra Streisand.

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.

Later, Friedkin directed an episode of the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation entitled "Cockroaches," which re-teamed him with To Live and Die In L.A. star William Petersen. He would go on to direct again for CSI's 200th episode, "Mascara."

In June 2010, author William Peter Blatty, promoting his latest novel, revealed that Friedkin has 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 new-born 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
Friedkin was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Rae and Louis Friedkin, a semi-professional softball player, merchant seaman, and men's clothing salesman. He has two sons: Jack (with actress Lesley-Anne Down) and Cedric, whose mother is Australian dancer and choreographer Jennifer Nairn-Smith. He has been married four times, to Kelly Lange, Lesley-Anne Down, and a short marriage to French actress Jeanne Moreau. He is currently married to former film executive Sherry Lansing.

Justin Green, in the 2009 edition of his 1972 graphic novel Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, says Friedkin is his first cousin.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "William Friedkin", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.