William Friedkin (born August 29, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois) is a Jewish-American movie and television director, producer, and writer best known for directing The Exorcist and The French Connection in the early 1970s.
After seeing the movie Citizen Kane as a boy, he became fascinated with movies and immediately began working for WGN-TV after high school. He eventually began directing live television shows and documentaries including The People vs. Paul Crump which won several awards and helped to commute the death sentence of the film's subject.
Fed up with Chicago's notorious winters, Friedkin moved to Hollywood in 1965 and two years later, saw the release of his first feature film Good Times which starred Sonny and Cher.
Several other films followed (including the gay movie The Boys in the Band) although Friedkin didn't want to be perceived as an art house director, until 1971, when The French Connection was released to wide critical acclaim.
Shot in a gritty style more suited for documentaries than Hollywood features, it won five Academy Awards, including Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.
Friedkin followed it 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 one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.
By this point, Friedkin, along with Francis Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich, was thought of as one of the premier directors in Hollywood and many expected him to continue his string of blockbuster hits.
Unfortunately, Friedkin was never able to find large success again in his later movies, starting with Sorcerer, an American remake of the movie Wages of Fear starring Roy Scheider.
The movie had the misfortune of being released at the same time as Star Wars, which became the domineering box office champ. Throughout the 1980 ' s and 1990 ' s, Friedkin found his films released to lackluster reviews and ticket sales.
In 1985, shortly after the release of To Live and Die in L.A., Friedkin was sued by Michael Mann. Mann claimed that L.A. stole the entire concept of "Miami Vice." Mann eventually lost the lawsuit.
In 2000, The Exorcist was re-released in theaters with extra footage and grossed a shocking $40 million in the U.S. alone.
Friedkin has been married four times, including a short marriage to French actress Jeanne Moreau. He is currently married to film executive Sherry Lansing.