William Friedkin: Hollywood Master

Friedkin 063 3146109411 O - William Friedkin: Hollywood Master

In order to have a career as long and storied as The Hollywood Masters’ guest William Friedkin, one must be resilient–even in the face of bronchitis and a lively crowd of students. Despite being under the weather, Friedkin managed to be his gregarious self, which led to a raucously funny and introspective night with Stephen Galloway.

On His Early Inspirations
Friedkin grew up viewing movies just as pure entertainment. That all changed when he caught a revival of Citizen Kane, which he likened to painters seeing a Vermeer for the first time. “It’s still a quarry for filmmakers in that everything about it is as well done as can be done. I’m talking about the acting, writing, direction, cinematography, editing, the design, everything.  It’s a quarry for filmmakers in the way that James Joyce’s Ulysses is a quarry for writers. ” He also cited Blow Up and Belle Du Jour as films he constantly revisits.

Don’t Try This At Home
Friedkin’s two most famous films, The French Connection and The Exorcist, both were made under strange circumstances. The director, who is often known for doing everything possible to get the movie he wants to make, even went so far as to slap a priest who was acting in The Exorcist to get the man into character. But it was the story of the filming of the now iconic train chase in The French Connection that received the most gasps as the director revealed it was filmed over 26 blocks with a car going 90 mph with no permits.

Sorcerer’s Revival
After massive successes like The French Connection and The Exorcist, Friedkin’s film Sorcerer was a pretty big flop when it arrived in 1977. However, it remains the only film Friedkin has ever done where he wouldn’t change a single thing about the movie, which is good for film fans as the movie is about to get a re-release both in theaters and on Blu-ray after critics began reevaluating the film. Friedkin remarked that he had no idea why the film was or wasn’t successful in the first run, but that he learned endurance was the most important quality for a filmmaker to possess.

Tips for Young Filmmakers
Friedkin took several student questions ranging from his work adapting material to what films inspire him. As the night drew to a close he encouraged the students to take advantage of the tools at their disposal. “You have to follow your vision and you can do more than I could ever do at your age. You have at your fingertips, all of you guys, the grammar of cinema available to you.  The best source of where it’s going to come from is from you – not from somebody else, from you.  Maybe somebody else you’re working with.  You can make it and you can get it shown.”

The Hollywood Masters is a new series that examines the careers of award-winning filmmakers and successful executives, with The Hollywood Reporters Stephen Galloway and presented by LMU School of Film and Television.