For sheer cinematic punch, it’s hard to equal the films of director William Friedkin – The Exorcist (1973), The French Connection (1971), SORCERER (1977) and To Live and Die In L.A. (1985) are such great yet hard-hitting pleasures to watch, so downright addictive, that it’s easy to forget what a meticulous craftsman Friedkin is on every level.
A veteran of live television in the 1950s, Friedkin trained in documentary filmmaking in the mid-1960s – training that led to the unnerving, you-are-there realism of The French Connection and the terrible beauty of The Exorcist and SORCERER. “What I try to do before each film is immerse myself totally in many tangential phases of that subject before I make it – so I’m literally swimming in it before I expose a frame of film,” Friedkin has observed.
In 1971, his The French Connection was released to wide critical acclaim. Shot in a gritty style more suited for documentaries than Hollywood features, the film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Friedkin followed up with 1973′s The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel, which revolutionized the horror genre and is considered by some critics to be the greatest horror movie of all time. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won for Best Screenplay and Best Sound.
His action/crime movie To Live and Die In L.A., won the Audience Award at the Cognac Film Festival. Starring William Petersen and Willem Dafoe, it was a critical favorite and drew comparisons to Friedkin’s own The French Connection.
Friedkin started directing operas in 1998 with a widely-acclaimed production of Berg’s Wozzeck at Maggio Musicale in Florence. He followed that in 2002 with a double bill of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at Los Angeles Opera. In 2004 at Los Angeles Opera, he directed R. Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. Other operas include: 2005, Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah at the New Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv, and Verdi’s Aida at the Teatro Regio Torino in Torino, Italy; 2006/07, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle/Gianni Schicchi – Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center, and Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, Germany, new productions of Strauss’ Salome and the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Das Gehege; 2008, a double bill of Suor Angelica/Il Tabarro at Los Angeles Opera. 2011 marked Mr. Friedkin’s return to Maggio Musicale, Florence with Leos Janácek’s The Makropulos Case. In 2012 he directed Offenbach’s The Tales Of Hoffmann at Theater An der Wien, Vienna, Austria.
Within the last two decades, Friedkin has returned to his early roots in television drama with the highly acclaimed 12 Angry Men (1997), and has directed episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He has also directed such searing action films as Rules Of Engagement (2000) and The Hunted (2003); Bug (2006) and his most recent film, Killer Joe (2012) starring Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch.