As a kid in Chicago, director William Friedkin liked to frighten little girls with scary stories. When he grew up, he scared the rest of us with a little girl — Regan MacNeil, who is possessed by the devil in his horror classic The Exorcist. And in The French Connection, he put knots in our stomachs with one of the great movie chases in American cinema. When Friedkin directed these films in the 1970s, he was breaking all the rules. In his new memoir, The Friedkin Connection, the 77-year-old director describes how he brought a new look — and a new feel — to Hollywood films.
He also writes about his earliest influences, including the first movie that inspired him as a young man: Citizen Kane. “I went in at noon, and I watched it five times that day,” Friedkin says of actor-director Orson Welles’ classic. “And I couldn’t believe it. When I came out, it was like standing in front of a Vermeer or a Rembrandt. That’s the effect it had on me.” Before Kane, movies were just entertainments for Friedkin. Kane was something different. “I didn’t know what the hell it was, but that’s what I wanted to do.” —Friedkin, Who Pushed Film Forward, Looks Back
How did you come to direct The French Connection?
The producer owned the rights to the book, which he brought to me in galleys more than two years ago. He had known that I had wanted to do a thriller, and I was very interested in the story. I thought it was marvelous. I had done a lot of documentaries that had sort of delved into this area. But I really wasn’t hooked on it until I went back to New York and met Egan and Grosso and started to hang out with them. Then we went through two disastrous screenplays over about nine months. They didn’t work out at all, didn’t have the chase in them, the writer just wasn’t sympathetic to the characters, the atmosphere, the life, etc. He got nothin’ on paper. So the project was dead. National General went out of production right in the middle of all these lousy scripts we had. The project was dead for about ten months. No studio would touch it. We finally got a script that we were happy with and took it to Fox. Dick Zanuck and David Brown, who were running Fox, liked the script, met with us, and said Go. We started shooting November 30 of 1970. Principal photography was about 65 days. The budget was $2,200,000. —Police Oscar: The French Connection (and an interview with William Friedkin), Film Quarterly, Summer 1972
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Fritz Lang Interviewed by William Friedkin (1974). From running away from home, to surviving by his wits, to making his classic films Metropolis and M, to meetings with criminals and murderers — one killer kept the hands of victims under his bed, to his meeting with the Nazi Mad Man, to Hollywood and after, Lang, looking rather like Dr Strangelove, describes his hugely fantastic life. —Paul Gallagher
A document of exceptional historical value, allowing cinema lovers to hear the Master in his own words. Friedkin is a fittingly discreet yet searching interviewer, and at the time of this had just shot (or was about to shoot) THE EXORCIST! Fritz Lang is everything you imagine him to be, even this late in his life, elegant and picky with words, with a great memory for detail. The whole thing is shot in gorgeous black and white, with very good quality sound and picture. One only hopes the vaults remain opened for more of this incredible material.
Cinéastes de notre temps: Le dinosaure et le bébé, dialogue en huit parties entre Fritz Lang et Jean-Luc Godard (1967).
Fritz Lang à la Cinémathèque de Paris, 1965.
“HOLLYWOOD’S BEST FILM DIRECTORS” is a half hour show that offers a distinctive peek inside the creative minds of Hollywood’s best directors. A personal and insightful look into the lives, influences and original style of today’s top film directors. A fascinating profile that explores each directors unique process for creating some of the most memorable and enduring movies of our times.
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Michael Mann
- Milos Forman
- Ron Howard
- William Friedkin
- Curtis Hanson
- Michel Gondry
- Atom Egoyan
- Terry Gilliam
- Bryan Singer
- James Mangold
- George Lucas
- James L. Brooks
Please enjoy some of our programs in this screening section. These are no trailers, what you can watch are the full length shows.
The Exorcist Pressbook (Warner Brothers – 1973-4)
The Fear of God, aired by the BBC in 1998 and produced by renowned Exorcist journalist Mark Kermode, the documentary stands as the best – and really the only ‘official’ documentary – about the making of The Exorcist. It features one of the last ever interviews with Jason Miller before his death as he speaks about playing Father Karras, and brings together all of the cast and crew to discuss how they came to create one of the greatest horror films of all time all those years ago. The documentary was featured on the 25 Year Anniversary editions of The Exorcist.
The Exorcist Pressbook (Warner Brothers 1973) + the only ‘official’ doc about the making of The Exorcist is.gd/GutQlt— LaFamiliaFilm (@LaFamiliaFilm) November 19, 2012
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Fritz Lang explains how his meeting with Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Mad Man of Nazi propaganda, made him flee Germany the very same day.
Director of Metropolis and M, Lang had been called to see Goebbels over his undisguised attack on Hitler in his 1933 film, The Testament of Dr Mabuse - which the Nazis had banned. Instead of the expected interrogation and inevitable incarceration, Doctor Goebbels offered Lang the unexpected position of Head of the National Socialist Film Studios. Goebbels explained that both he and Herr Furher hoped the director would accept. Goebbels then offered his advice on the ending of The Testament of Dr Mabuse, which he had found unsatisfactory. Instead of Mabuse going mad, it would have been better if the mobs had destroyed him with their wrath.
It’s a good story, even if the facts don’t add up. One that’s worth retelling - just to hear Lang build up the dramatic tension with his powers of descriptive narration.
In case you missed it:
According to the great director Fritz Lang, it was his meeting with Joseph Goebbels, the Mad Man of Nazi propaganda, that led him to flee Germany the very same day.
As Lang tells it, this fateful meeting came sometime around Goebbels’ ban on Lang’s 1933 film, The Testament of Dr Mabuse, which was outlawed for its veiled attack on Hitler and his vile policies. Amongst the oft quoted similarities between Lang’s film and the insane Furher, was Dr. Mabuse’s devilish plan for a 1,000 years of crime, and Hitler’s desire of a 1,000 year Reich. The unstated connection between brutal criminality and looney-tunes Nazis was there for all to see.
It’s a good story, but one that has little bearing on fact, as it now appears that the meeting never took place. Goebbels’ diaries have no mention of the alleged meeting, and Lang’s escape from the jackboot of National-Socialism didn’t happen until several months after the alleged job offer from Dr Joe.
More damaging in hindsight was Lang’s failure to make any reference to his own Jewish ancestry. His mother, Paula was Jewish, though she converted to Catholicism after marrying Lang’s father, Anton. Instead Fritz described himself as an “Austrian director”, at a time when the persecution of those of Jewish faith was a brutal reality on the streets of Germany. Indeed describing himself as an “Austrian director” could have been construed as aligning himself with the birth country of the Furher.
Later, while living in the safety of the United States, Lang said in his entry for Current Biography - “While many famous Jewish directors had to flee Germany because of the ‘Aryan’ work decrees, Lang, a Christian, fled only because he is a believer in democratic government.”
Okay, so Lang could argue that man made laws had no rule over him, as he believed in the Higher Court of his Christian God. Fine. But why persist in re-telling a fanciful tale forty years on?
Almost everyone tells lies, and the lies are not important. Some people are loved because of their ability to tell great lies, and we listen expectantly for them to tell their biggest and best whoppers. And so it is with Lang, as he tells tale after tale in this entertaining and immensely watchable interview with director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin. From running away from home, to surviving by his wits, to making his classic films Metropolis and M, to meetings with criminals and murderers - one killer kept the hands of victims under his bed, to his meeting with the Nazi Mad Man, to Hollywood and after, Lang, looking rather like Dr Strangelove, describes his hugely fantastic life.
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Exorcist blu-ray release last year was the famed Owen Roizman footage from behind the scenes finally being shown for the first time. Never-before-seen footage of cast and crew working diligently in silence (the footage has no sound) to make one of the most famous horror films of all time makes for eerie viewing. Especially exciting for Exorcist fans who had desired such rare snippets for decades.
The footage was ultimately put to use in the documentary Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist, which was top of the special features checklist for the jam-packed Exorcist blu-ray.
While the Raising Hell documentary itself was a fascinating watch (albeit still second to Mark Kermode’s brilliant The Fear of God), I would have loved the option to just watch the rare footage, without the modern-day interviews inter-cutting between snippets. So, I took it upon myself to cut all of said rarities into one uninterrupted video.
A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
Decade Under the Influence,” a feature-length version of a three-part series to be shown on the Independent Film Channel in August, is a breezy, uncritical, frankly nostalgic documentary about Hollywood in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. It was a time when the studios, reeling from their failure to attract the new generation of filmgoers, briefly threw their gates open to outsiders — mainly young directors formed by film schools and highly conscious of the European art film tradition.
Directed by the screenwriter Richard LaGravenese (“The Fisher King”) and the director Ted Demme (“Blow”), who died last year, the film is a standard-issue parade of talking heads interspersed with clips. It does little but reinforce the romantic notions about 70’s filmmaking that seem to have taken root among the current generation of Hollywood’s young Turks.
Here, indeed, are the usual suspects: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper and Paul Schrader, each trying to account in his own way for the fleeting moment of artistic freedom with which all their careers began.
Mr. Schrader presents the most cogent, and certainly funniest, explanation of the 70’s boom in personal filmmaking: the studios, stunned by big-budget bombs like “Hello Dolly” and “Star,” were willing to give money to anyone who could tell them he could provide what the new audience wanted. And since these young directors had no track record to speak of, there was nothing to prove they could not.
The picture, which opens today in New York, has the undiscriminating temperament of a fan, blithely placing Mr. Coppola’s magnificently made “Godfather” on the same plane as Mr. Hopper’s slapped-together, and today all but unwatchable, “Easy Rider.” As the clips mount up, the sense of smug, generational entitlement on which many of these films depended becomes depressingly clear: here, in clip after clip, are cocky young men (Jack Nicholson, Elliott Gould, Dustin Hoffman) venting their self-righteousness on cardboard establishment figures, a suspiciously large number of them played by women. (The excerpt from “M*A*S*H,” in which Mr. Gould and Donald Sutherland bully a couple of nurses, seems particularly egregious.)
The decade did, of course, produce two enduring feminist stars: Julie Christie, who speaks in the film with the radiant sincerity that has always been hers, and Jane Fonda, who does not appear but is ably represented by her best director, Sydney Pollack. Curious, then, that both are represented in “A Decade Under the Influence” by films in which they played prostitutes, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “Klute.”
“A Decade Under the Influence” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian) for its language and images of sexuality, violence and drug use.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme
R, 108 minutes
Source: The New York Times
The French Connection Audio Commentary
Director William Friedkin talks about making the classic crime thriller, The French Connection.
Academy Award Wins:
Best Director - William Friedkin
Best Actor - Gene Hackman
Best Adapted Screenplay
Academy Award Nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Roy Scheider