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William Friedkin, the filmmaker behind 1973’s adaptation of novelist William Peter Blatty‘s The Exorcist, has died at 87.
Stephen Galloway, dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, and also the biographer of Friedkin’s producer wife, Sherry Lansing, confirmed the news to ABC Audio, explaining the filmmaker passed away in Los Angeles.
Galloway said, “Friedkin was truly one of the great American originals – the films he made back in the 70s, French Connection, The Exorcist, Sorcerer, they haven’t dated in any way. He was an absolutely remarkable original mind – right to the end he was as sharp as a razor, and funny.”
The Chicago-born Friedkin got his start in television and documentaries, logging his first film directing credit with the 1967 musical Good Times, starring Sonny and Cher. Just four years later, his big-screen adaptation of Robin Moore‘s gritty cop novel The French Connection earned four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Gene Hackman.
His next project, The Exorcist, went on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations, and it stands as one of the highest-grossing films of all time, adjusted for inflation.
Friedkin’s box office success faltered in the 1980s, though his 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. remains a cop genre classic.
He also worked with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones in the military thriller Rules of Engagement in 2000, and with Matthew McConaughey in 2011’s acclaimed Killer Joe.
Incidentally, Friedkin was still working behind the camera, with his final film, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial starring Kiefer Sutherland, set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.
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