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William Friedkin, the Oscar-winning director of ‘The French Connection’ and ‘The Exorcist’, passed away in Los Angeles on Monday, Variety reported. He was 87.
Dean of Chapman University Stephen Galloway, a close friend of Friedkin’s wife Sherry Lansing, confirmed his demise.
The Venice Film Festival will host the world premiere of his last movie, ‘The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,’ starring Kiefer Sutherland.
In the 1970s, Friedkin achieved A-list fame alongside Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, and Peter Bogdanovich as a member of a young, daring group of filmmakers.
Friedkin brought a lot of energy to the horror and police thriller genres, which he specialised in, by fusing his experience in television, particularly in documentary film, with a cutting-edge style of editing.
‘The French Connection’ was filmed in a documentary style and featured one of cinema’s most justifiably famous car chase sequences. The movie won several Oscars, including those for best picture, director, and actor (Gene Hackman), and it established the police genre for years to come in movies and television.
After ‘The French Connection’ achieved critical acclaim, ‘The Exorcist,’ released in 1973, amassed a staggering USD 500 million at the global box office and, along with ‘The Godfather,’ helped usher in the blockbuster era of cinema.
‘The Exorcist,’ a heavily stylized thriller based on William Peter Blatty’s book about the demonic possession of a young girl, had a similar impact on the horror subgenre as ‘Connection’ had on police thrillers.
In the category of best director, it earned him a second Oscar nomination.
Friedkin began his career in the WGN mailroom in Chicago, where he quickly worked his way up to directing television programmes and documentaries.
During those early years, he claimed to have directed about 2,000 TV programmes, including the 1962 documentary ‘The People vs. Paul Crump,’ which followed the release from the death row of a man.
He received a Golden Gate Award for it at the San Francisco Film Festival, which helped him land a position overseeing the documentary division at WBKB and later a position helming documentaries for producer David L. Wolper.
Friedkin, a Chicago native, attended Senn High School, where he struggled academically but worked hard to advance his basketball skills to the professional level. But because he was never taller than six feet, he decided to switch to journalism, as per Variety.
The director, who had spent years working in the documentary medium, made numerous appearances in documentaries about films and filmmakers over the years, including ‘A Decade Under the Influence’ and ‘Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master.’
He was married to Lesley-Anne Down, Jeanne Moreau, and Kelly Lange, a newsreader. Two sons and his fourth wife Lansing are his only survivors