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 August 7, 2023

'The Exorcist' director William Friedkin dies at 87

Fox News Digital can confirm that American director William Friedkin, best known for the 1970s films "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection," passed away in Los Angeles on Monday. He was 87 years old.

Friedkin's representatives stated that he passed away at home from heart failure and pneumonia, according to a report by Fox News.

Chapman Institution Friends of Friedkin and his wife Sherry Lansing, Dean Stephen Galloway and Sherry Lansing, first confirmed his demise to Variety.

Galloway spoke with Fox News Digital regarding Friedkin and his legacy:

"He had an extraordinary life and few people achieved what he achieved. These are films that linger after decades, how many movies do that?" Galloway said.

"You look at some of his early work like ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The French Connection,’ the movie that he loved best, ‘Sorcerer,’ they could be made today."

Friedkin, born in Chicago in 1935, made his directorial debut in 1965 with "Off Season" on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour."

His first feature film, "Good Times," starred Cher and Sonny Bono, and he went on to direct "The Night They Raided Minsky's" and "The Boys in the Band" before making his career-defining films and becoming a part of the "New Hollywood" movement in the 1970s alongside directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese.

"When you look back, those films he made [they] are among the ones that remain the most important films in our culture," Galloway said of his career.

This month, the premiere of Friedkin's final film, "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," is scheduled to take place at the Venice Film Festival.

According to the production company Mubi, it stars Kiefer Sutherland and tells the story of a naval officer on trial for mutiny after taking command from a ship captain he believes is acting in an unstable manner and placing the ship and its crew in danger.

Galloway remarked that Friedkin had worked up until a few weeks ago despite "on and off issues with his heart over many years."

The 1971 film "The French Connection," based on Robin Moore's 1969 book about the seizure of 246 pounds of heroin smuggled via vehicle on a French ocean liner, is one of his two best-known works. It garnered five Academy Awards, including best director for director William Friedkin, best actor for star Gene Hackman, and best picture, and is regarded as an all-time classic and the pinnacle of 1970s cinema.

His other significant work, "The Exorcist," which depicts a mother (Ellen Burstyn) pleading with two priests to save her daughter (Linda Blair) from possession by an evil entity, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best director for Friedkin, and won two: for best adapted screenplay and for sound. It also spawned several sequels and is still regarded as one of the most terrifying films ever produced.

Despite the somber subject matter of many of his films, Friedkin was described by Galloway as "very, very funny, acerbically witty."

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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