Wednesday, September 9, 2015

William Friedkin - From Poverty to Hollywood Acclaim


Born to a low-income family in an impoverished area of Chicago, William Friedkin went on to become one of the star directors of 1970s American cinema. After graduating from high school, he began working in the mailroom of the local WGN TV station. It was during this time that he first saw Citizen Kane, the cinematic masterpiece that spurred his directorial ambitions. 

Early Life

Friedkin moved into live television directing and documentary filmmaking and led the development of more than 2,000 television programs throughout the 1950s, first garnering acclaim for his 1962 documentary, The People vs. Paul Crump. The film earned numerous festival accolades and ultimately resulted in the reversal of Paul Crump’s death sentence. This success caught the attention of David L. Wolper, a producer, who offered Friedkin his first Hollywood job. 


After heading west, Friedkin struggled to find his footing with his first fiction films, but he finally found success by returning to his roots as a documentarian. In 1971, he released his adaptation of the best-selling true crime novel The French Connection, an action thriller that earned critical acclaim and had a significant impact on the style of future cop movies. The French Connection received eight Academy Award nominations and took home five Oscars, including a Best Director trophy for Friedkin, leading author William Peter Blatty to recruit Friedkin to direct the adaptation of his popular supernatural thriller, The Exorcist. After overcoming obstacles related to the film’s budget and schedule, Friedkin released The Exorcist in 1973, drawing 10 Oscar nominations, thrilling audiences across the country, and solidifying his esteemed position in the history of American cinema.