William Friedkin, a renowned filmmaker known for his gritty, visceral style and fascination with characters on the edge, has passed away at the age of 87. He made a significant impact on the film industry with two iconic box-office hits of the 1970s, “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.” Friedkin’s wife, Sherry Lansing, confirmed that he died at his home in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles due to heart failure and pneumonia.
Friedkin’s breakthrough came with “The French Connection,” a riveting crime drama based on the true story of New York City police officers, Sonny Grosso and Eddie Egan, who dismantled an international heroin-trafficking ring in 1961. The film, shot on a modest budget of less than $2 million, delivered high-octane thrills and an unforgettable car-chase scene in Brooklyn. It won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Friedkin.
Following his triumph with “The French Connection,” Friedkin continued his success with “The Exorcist,” a horror film based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel. The movie, shot on location in Washington, D.C., became a massive hit, grossing over $200 million and earning multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It significantly changed the perception of horror films and paved the way for the rise of big-budget genre movies like “Star Wars” and comic-book adaptations.
Born on August 25, 1935, in Chicago, Friedkin began his filmmaking career in documentary work and later transitioned to feature films. Despite facing initial rejection for “The French Connection,” he proved his talent as a director and became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after filmmakers after his two major successes.
Friedkin’s impact on the film industry extended beyond his own works. “The French Connection” influenced gritty thrillers and police dramas, while “The Exorcist” elevated the horror genre’s status in Hollywood. Throughout his career, Friedkin’s passion for realism and unique camera work left an indelible mark on cinema.
The film industry mourns the loss of a visionary director who left a lasting legacy through his groundbreaking works. William Friedkin’s contributions will continue to inspire filmmakers for generations to come.