William Friedkin, the renowned director best known for his Oscar-winning 1971 film “The French Connection” and the 1973 horror classic “The Exorcist,” has died at the age of 87.
Friedkin passed away on Monday in Los Angeles. Stephen Galloway, the dean of Chapman University’s film school and a close friend of Friedkin’s wife, former studio boss Sherry Lansing, verified the information to USA TODAY.
In the recently finished director’s last film, “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” Kiefer Sutherland portrays Phillip Queeg. The film will make its debut at the Venice International Film Festival in September.
In the 1970s, a new group of filmmakers, including Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, and the rebellious Friedkin, reinvented the craft of filmmaking.
Based on a true incident, the movie “The French Connection” follows detective James “Popeye” Doyle of the New York City Police Department as he tries to find Fernando Rey, a Frenchman who is the head of a significant heroin trafficking network.
It features one of the most exciting vehicle chase scenarios ever captured on camera between a commuter train and a car, which was carelessly captured on New York City streets without a permit.
The movie earned Friedkin, who was just 32 years old at the time, an Academy Award for best director along with awards for best picture, screenplay, and film editing. Critics hailed Friedkin as a key figure in this budding generation of filmmakers.
He next released “The Exorcist,” an even larger hit based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling book about a 12-year-old girl who is possessed by the demon.
A stellar ensemble, led by Linda Blair as the child, Ellen Burstyn as her mother, and Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller as the priests attempting to exorcise the demon from her, together with the graphic sequences depicting the girl’s possession, all contributed to the movie’s success at the box office.
Many moviegoers left the cinema before it ended because it was unusually terrifying for its day, and some said they couldn’t sleep for days afterwards.