Feature

Friedkin’s forceful direction

The director of The Exorcist and The French Connection can be a tough man to work for.

William Friedkin can be a tough man to work for, said Jeff Dawson in The Sunday Times (U.K.). The director of The Exorcist and The French Connection once admitted that, were he not a director, he’d have been a serial killer. “It’s a bit of an exaggeration,” says the 76-year-old. “But from time to time, I’ve had the impulse to kill.” While filming The Exorcist, he allegedly fired a gun behind the head of lead actor Jason Miller to enliven his performance. On the set, he delivered a hard slap to the face of Father William O’Malley—a genuine priest, not a trained actor—to capture the correct look of shock he wanted. It was a trick “the old-timers used to use all the time,” he says. “[O’Malley] thanked me for it and blessed me for it.” Nowadays, Friedkin would like to slap around some of the producers and studio bosses running Hollywood. “When I started, films were largely influenced by literature. Films today are largely based on comic books and video games. You don’t have to think anymore.” But he reserves his biggest tirade for the onslaught of 3-D and the special-effects showmanship of directors like James Cameron. “You want to see the pyramids in 3-D?” he growls. “Go the hell over to Egypt.”

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