Happy 81st birthday to legendary film director William Friedkin!
Friedkin is best known in horror circles as the Golden Globe Award-winning director of The Exorcist (1973), a film that was nominated for 10 Academy awards and that even walked away with two of them. Friedkin also directed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1965), The Twilight Zone (1985) and Tales From the Crypt (1992). His other horror film projects include 1990’s The Guardian and the vastly underrated Bug (2006). Not only a horror director, Friedkin also won five Oscars for his gritty film The French Connection in 1971.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on August 29, 1935, Friedkin played basketball for Senn High School, where he was so good, he considered going professional. Just imagine if he had taken that path – we never would have had one of the scariest horror movies ever made! Friedkin became entranced with the idea of filmmaking (thank goodness) after watching the 1941 film Citizen Kane and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). He got a job in the mail room at WGN-TV and by age 18 was already directing live television shows and documentaries. Young Friedkin won a San Francisco International Film Festival award for his documentary The People vs. Paul Crump (1962), a production that eventually lead to the commutation of Crump’s death sentence. It was this film that eventually got him the job with Roots (1977) producer David L. Wolper.
This was the beginning of Friedkin’s directorial career. He made both The French Connection and The Exorcist one after the other, and after the high critical acclaim and awards, became one of the Hollywood’s most promising directors. Although none of his other films would ever reach the level of love and admiration that his first two received, Friedkin soldiered on. It seems as though turning William Peter Blatty’s beset selling novel into a film has cursed the director. Over and over again, his films were overshadowed or misunderstood. Could Captain Howdy be punishing him from the depths of Hell?
Who knows. But one thing is for certain – the horror community at large loves the man for giving us this terrifying film. We all know where we were the first time we watched The Exorcist. The day that pea soup sales went directly down the toilet.
On that note, why not send him a tweet @WilliamFriedkin and wish him a Happy Birthday!