Exorcist Director William Friedkin Dead At 87

The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind The French Connection and The Exorcist died in Los Angeles.
Director William Friedkin is seen in 2017.
Director William Friedkin is seen in 2017.
Sylvain Lefevre via Getty Images

Oscar-winning director William Friedkin, best known for The French Connection and The Exorcist, has died at 87, it was reported on Monday.

The filmmaker died on Monday at his home in Los Angeles, his wife Sherry Lansing confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times.

His cause of death was heart failure and pneumonia, his wife, who is the former head of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, told The Times.

Friedkin rose to fame in the 1970s, with his crime thriller, The French Connection, earning him five Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director.

He went on to be nominated for Best Director again for his horror film, The Exorcist, in 1973. The film, which earned 10 Oscar nominations, has been hailed by critics as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

William Friedkin is seen on the set of "The Exorcist" in 1973.
William Friedkin is seen on the set of "The Exorcist" in 1973.
Ronald Grant Archive / Alamy

The film, which was the first horror movie to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, shocked audiences — sending some people running out of sold-out theaters — with the graphic depiction of a 12-year-old girl who had become possessed by the devil.

“What unites all my films ... is that they all involve people living on the edge of very intense situations that are forcing them into irrational behavior and a kind of last chance reaction to life,” Friedkin once said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I guess it’s because I find that situation in my own personal life very often.”

His later work didn’t achieve the same amount of success.

His 1977 thriller Sorcerer was neither critically or financially successful ― though its release was likely smothered by the blockbuster release of Star Wars shortly before. Still Friedkin, in a 2017 interview with IndieWire, said it was “the only film I’ve made that I can still watch”.

His 1985 political drama To Live and Die in LA, starring William Petersen and Willem Dafoe, did receive critical acclaim and was called a “comeback” for Friedkin by film critic Roger Ebert.

He also directed episodes for TV shows such as The Twilight Zone, Rebel Highway, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and “Tales from the Crypt.”

One of his last projects was directing The Devil and Father Amorth, a documentary about real-life exorcisms. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2017.


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