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Overview for William Friedkin
William Friedkin

William Friedkin


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Also Known As: Died:
Born: August 29, 1935 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: Director ...


"I always aim at the stars and sometimes I hit Dresden. But I set out, as Wernher Von Braun did with every rocket, to take it to the moon." --William Friedkin on aiming his films at the widest possible audience to Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1989.

Although it never aired on the small screen, Friedkin's first TV film, "The People vs. Crump", was instrumental in saving the life of its subject, a man who had spent several years on death row.

"I never made the film ["Cruising"] to have anything to do with the gay community other than as a background for a murder mystery. It was not meant to be pro or con, gay rights, or gay anything. It was an exotic background that people, I knew, hadn't seen in a mainstream film. That's what intrigued me about it. I had never seen it, but heard about it and decided to go around to the various clubs and saw what was going on. I decided to write the story based on what I'd seen and on a story that one of the 'French Connection' cops told me that he'd experienced when he was sent as a decoy in the gay world to catch a killer who was targeting gays. That situation really screwed him up. It made him start to question his sexuality. Some of the best stuff was cut out of it. It was compromised severely. It should've gone out as an 'X' picture, but they couldn't." --Friedkin quoted in Venice, August 1997

"I burned a lot of bridges. I treated Diller and Sheinberg and Eisner with contempt. The more powerful they got, the easier it was for them to remember the way I had carried on with them. Those people on the elevator going up were the ones I met going down. There was a lot of resistance to my doing films at some of these studios.

"I never set out to make a bad film. I thought in each case they were going to be as good or better than anything I had done. I went through this long period of wondering why I wasn't being received in the same way. Now I've reached the point where I know why. These films just weren't any fucking good. They have no soul, no heart--they don't even have any technical expertise. It's as though someone reached up inside of an animal and pulled the guts out. The thing that drove me and still keeps me going is 'Citizen Kane'. I hope to one day make a film to rank with that. I haven't yet." --Friedkin to Peter Biskind in Premiere, May 1998

On his ruthless treatment of Mercedes McCambridge (vocal double for Satan) on the set of "The Exorcist": "I had her tied to a chair for a month while we recorded. I squeezed her, I tortured her, I shoved raw eggs and whisky down her throat and made her chain-smoke so we could get the sounds we wanted. She was a lapsed Catholic and a reformed drunk, so it really whipped her out of shape. She had two friends of hers who were priests, and when she'd start to blubber after takes, they'd give her counseling. Did it bother me? Nah, I was just making a movie." --Friedkin to The Guardian, October 18, 1998

About meeting Alfred Hitchcock: "Hitchcock came over and I told him I was really honored to meet him and I extended my hand. And he gave me his hand like a royal hand show. He handed it to me like a dead fish to shake and he said: 'Mr. Friedkin, I see that you're not wearing a tie.' And I thought he was putting me on. I said: 'No sir, I didn't put on a tie today.' And he said: 'Usually our directors wear ties.' And he walked away.

"... a few years later ... I was at the Directors Guild Awards in Los Angeles and the film ["The French Connection"] had won and I came down the platform with this director's award in my arms. It was in a banquet room and there at the first table was Hitchcock. I had a tuxedo with one of those flashy string bow ties, and I went down to Hitchcock, holding my award and I snapped my tie and said: "How do you like the tie, Hitch?' And he sort of stared at me. Of course he didn't remember at all." --Friedkin quoted in The Guardian, October 22, 1998.

On the famous car chase from "The French Connection": "We'd been shooting for a number of days on elements for the chase, and it occurred to me that we didn't have anything really dangerous, and not a lot of speed. Bill Hickman, who was the stunt driver on 'Bullit', was our man, and one night I got him drunk and told him, 'You know, Bill, you're a pussy. You've shown me nothing, and I don't think we have much of a chase.' He immediately rose to the challenge and said, 'You wanna see some hairy driving? Have you got the balls to get in my car?' So next day we strapped a camera to the front of the car, I got in the back with a handheld, and my memory is that he just drove through 26 blocks of traffic ... just kept his foot on the gas. One take. And this one take is cut into ... the chase over and over, Bill going in the wrong lane and cutting off opposing traffic. It's only by the grace of God we didn't kill ourselves or somebody." --quoted in Sight and Sound, January 2000.

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