'Exorcist,' 'French Connection' director William Friedkin dies at 87

Director William Friedkin has died at age 87. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
1 of 5 | Director William Friedkin has died at age 87. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning director William Friedkin died Monday in his Bel Air, Calif., home. He was 87.

Friedkin's wife, former Paramount Studio head Sherry Lansing, told The New York Times Friedkin died of heart failure and pneumonia. Chapman University Dean Stephen Galloway, a friend of Lansing's, confirmed the death with Variety and Deadline.


Friedkin's 1971 cop drama The French Connection was a landmark of gritty '70s cinema whose car chase, against a train, is frequently cited on lists of cinema's greatest car chases. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, director, Gene Hackman's performance, the screenplay and editing.

Hackman returned for The French Connection II in 1975, with John Frankenheimer directing. Meanwhile, Friedkin's own follow-up was the horror landmark The Exorcist.

Based on William Peter Blatty's book, The Exorcist often is listed as the scariest movie ever made. It also spawned two sequels and two prequels, none directed by Friedkin.

Another sequel, The Exorcist: Believer, comes out this October. However, Friedkin did authorize an extended version of the original film in 2000 that reinstated deleted scenes.

Warner Bros. is releasing the original Exorcist on 4K UHD on Sept. 19. Friedkin also sat down for an interview for Alexandre O. Phillipe's documentary Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist.


Friedkin's 1977 film Sorcerer, a remake of The Wages of Fear, also is a fan favorite. He recently spoke about his 1980 film, Cruising, to an audience at Beyond Fest in October.

Friedkin revisited law enforcement in 1985's To Live and Die in L.A. which also boasted intense car chases and gritty portrayals of the Secret Service combatting counterfeiters. Friedkin returned to horror in 1990's The Guardian.

He continued directing the '90s erotic thriller Jade, the military courtroom drama Rules of Engagement, the chase movie The Hunted, and smaller thrillers Bug, Killer Joe and his last, 2017's exorcism documentary The Devil and Father Amorth.

Before French Connection, Friedkin was directing television and films including an adaptation of The Boys in the Band, Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party and the Sonny and Cher vehicle Good Times.

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Lee Sun-kyun arrives at a photocall for "Parasite" during the Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 22, 2019. The South Korean actor died at the age of 48 on December 27. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

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