Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Exorcist Director William Friedkin Dies At 87

William Friedkin, best known for directing the 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" has died. He was 87. 

The director's wife, Sherry Lansing, confirmed that Friedkin died in Los Angeles to The Hollywood Reporter. One of the most prominent American directors, Friedkin rose to fame after his 1971 adaptation of "The French Connection." The action flick went on to receive several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Following the film's critical and commercial success, Friedkin delivered "The Exorcist" for Warner Bros. Pictures in 1973. The horror picture became an international phenomenon and is widely considered to be one of the scariest films ever made. 

Friedkin followed up "The Exorcist" with 1977's criminally underrated "Sorcerer," which featured Roy Scheider in a lead role. The Oscar-winner continued to deliver hits, well into his 70s, giving Matthew McConaughey the role of a lifetime in 2011's seedy "Killer Joe." The director's upcoming film "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" will debut this September at the 80th Venice International Film Festival. 

William Friedkin is an American legend

For cinephiles around the world, William Friedkin stands out as one of the most important filmmakers to emerge from the American New Wave. The director was born in Chicago in 1935 and found himself directing an episode for "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" in 1965. Shortly afterwards, Friedkin directed his first feature in 1967, titled "Good Times." By 1971, Friedkin had become one of the most sought-after talents in Hollywood thanks to "The French Connection." 

During a conversation with IndieWire, Friedkin opened up about being successful at such a young age and navigating the demands of studios. "When I was directing, it was not necessary to be on the same page as the studio," he explained. "Every film that I made was a struggle to get made. For more than two years, nobody wanted to make 'The French Connection.' It was turned down twice by every studio, including Fox." The film, based on the novel of the same name, is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, populating the same conversations as "The Godfather," "Citizen Kane," and "Casablanca." 

While "The French Connection" nabbed Friedkin an Oscar, it's his horror classic "The Exorcist" which made him a beloved icon in American cinema. Not only did the film become a box office sensation — when adjusted for inflation, it boasts a global gross of more than $1 billion, per CNBC — it also became a beloved franchise. While speaking with The Guardian, Friedkin explained how making "The Exorcist" was a challenge, especially when it came to navigating the studio's demands. "The studio executives were just objects that I had to get by to do what I wanted," he explained. "I got fired about five times from 'The Exorcist!' My producer would get the phonecall and then simply hang up." 

Edgar Wright, Scott Derrickson, and more pay tribute to William Friedkin

While he's most well-known for "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection," William Friedkin boasted a number of other memorable films under his belt, making him one of Hollywood's defining creatives. With projects like "Sorcerer," the Al Pacino-starring "Cruising," and the creepy cult classic "Bug," Friedkin cemented himself as an ever evolving icon who wasn't afraid to push boundaries. Naturally, several of the director's peers and fans took to social media to pay tribute to him. "It was an honor to have numerous lengthy chats via Twitter with William Friedkin," wrote "Doctor Strange" director Scott Derrickson on Twitter. "He also sent word through his wife to one of my producers that he watched & loved The Black Phone— a gesture I will always treasure." 

"Friedkin was a blazing talent, a true visionary," wrote "The World's End" director Edgar Wright on Instagram. "For once, it's not hyperbole to say his groundbreaking techniques left an indelible mark on the industry." "The Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood also took to social media to praise the director, calling him "a true cinematic master whose influence will continue to extend forever." Marc Maron also paid tribute to the filmmaker on Twitter, saying, "Ballsy director. Made some of the greatest movies ever." 

"The Exorcist" director's influence continues to know no bounds. May he rest in peace.