William Friedkin began his career in the mailroom at WGN-TV, Chicago and within two years was directing live television. In eight years he directed more than 2,000 live programs. His first work in film was "The People Vs. Paul Crump", a documentary about a man who spent eight years on death row in the Cook County Jail. With it, Friedkin won his first award, The Golden Gate Prize at the San Francisco Film Festival. More satisfying than the award was Crump's commuted sentence due to the attention the film garnered.
The project so impressed station management that Friedkin was appointed head of a newly created documentary film unit. He continued to make documentaries, including several for producer, David Wolper: "THE THIN BLUE LINE", "MAYHEM ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON" and "THE BOLD MEN".
Friedkin's first feature film, "Good Times" (1968) also marked the screen debut of Sonny and Cher. This was followed by "The Night They Raided The Minsky's" (1968), "The Birthday Party" (1969), and "The Boys In The Band" (1970).
During the late 60's and early 70's with the youth movement, Woodstock and the Vietnam War, using drugs became an integral part of the counterculture. "The French Connection" (1971), a sharp, gritty exposé of the drug world, won Friedkin a Best Director Oscar and was voted Best Picture.
He followed that with "The Exorcist" (1973), one of the most horrifying pictures of all time. It received ten Academy Award Nominations. As with all moments that stand out in life, audiences still vividly remember the terror they felt watching the demonically possessed Linda Blair.
Other Friedkin pictures include: "Sorcerer" (1971), "The Brinks Job" (1979), "Cruising" (1981), "Deal Of The Century" (1983), and "To Live And Die In L.A." (1985).
In 1986 Friedkin returned to television with a two hour Movie of the Week titled, "C.A.T. Squad". NBC ordered A Second "C.A.T. Squad-Python Wolf" which aired in May of 1988.
Between the television shows Friedkin directed "Rampage" (1987), a feature film for which he also wrote the screenplay. The film deals with the death penalty and the complexity of the insanity plea. This picture was released in 1992.
In 1990, Friedkin returned to the horror genre with the release of "The Guardian". This was followed by an episode of HBO's "Tales From The Crypt", which Friedkin directed in 1992.
In 1993, Friedkin directed "Blue Chips" for Paramount Pictures starring Nick Nolte, Shaquille O'Neal and Mary McDonnell. "Blue Chips " was released after positive reviews in February, 1994.
Friedkin followed this by directing another Paramount Pictures feature, "Jade" (1995), written by Joe Esterhaus.
In early 1997, Friedkin directed a Showtime/MGM television remake of the clasic courtroom drama "Twelve Angry Men" which included legendary stars such as Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Armin Meuller-Stahl, Hume Cronyn and Ossie Davis. The DGA nominated Friedkin for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for Best Dramatic Special. It was also nominated for six Emmy awards.
On May 26, 1998 Friedkin made his remarkable operatic debut by directing Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Florence, Italy. Zubin Mehta conducted. It was a widely acclaimed critical success.
In May of this year, Friedkin finished principle photography on a military courtroom drama filmed on the East Coast and in Morocco. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel Jackson and will be released sometime next year.
Pioneering director William Friedkin was a guest on the show May 1, with guest host Anna Sale. He pointed out that on May 1, 1941, Orson Welles' masterpiece "Citizen Kane" opened. It's the film that made Friedkin want to become a filmmaker. He shared a few of his favorite things with us while he was here.
Academy Award–winning director William Friedkin talks about his career in movies and how Hollywood changed to capture the paranoia and fear of a nation undergoing a cultural nervous breakdown. His long-awaited memoir The Friedkin Connection is about making the films The French Connection, The Exorcist, and To Live and Die in LA, from the 1960s to today.
Academy-Award winning film director and music lover William Friedkin joins host Gilbert Kaplan on today's edition of Mad About Music. When he was just a little over 30, he became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar for the best director, for "The French Connection." He has gone on to direct more than 20 films, scaring us half to death with "The Exorcist."