Legendary Hollywood director William Friedkin, best known for directing the Oscar-winning films The French Connection and The Exorcist, passed away on August 7th, 2023 at the age of 87. Regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of the early New Hollywood era, Friedkin leaves behind an enduring cinematic legacy.
William Friedkin Early Life and Career
Friedkin was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1935. He began his career directing documentaries and live television shows in the 1960s before transitioning to feature films. His directorial debut came with 1967’s Good Times starring Sonny and Cher.
William Got Breakthrough With The French Connection
In 1971, Friedkin achieved his big breakthrough with the gritty police drama The French Connection. Starring Gene Hackman as a detective hunting drug smugglers, the film was noted for its documentary-style cinematography and thrilling chase scenes. It swept the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Actor for Hackman, and Best Director for Friedkin.
When William Directed the Horror Classic ‘The Exorcist’
Just two years after The French Connection, Friedkin directed the hugely influential supernatural horror film The Exorcist. With its shocking imagery and themes of demonic possession, The Exorcist terrified audiences and became one of the most popular and dissected horror movies of all time. Like The French Connection, it earned Friedkin an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
Legacy as an Influential Auteur
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Friedkin continued working on bold, genre-bending films that carried his distinctive directorial vision. Movies like Sorcerer, Cruising, and To Live and Die in L.A. displayed his versatility across crime, action, and psychological drama.
Friedkin’s contributions extended beyond just his critically acclaimed films. He helped move Hollywood into a new era of grittier, more naturalistic filmmaking. His intense, visceral style inspired generations of directors in his wake.
William Friedkin will be remembered as a true auteur who redefined multiple genres and left an indelible stamp on American cinema. His daring artistic legacy will continue to be studied and appreciated for years to come.