I've used up my time- but I know there are many more interesting questions, if you tweet them to me, I will definitely get to them as I can. Thanks to everyone for being a part of this: http://twitter.com/williamfriedkin

UPDATE: I'd like to correct something, I do not consider myself a "Hollywood director," I have never been a part of the system. I apologize for not being able to answer all the questions, it was simply a matter of time.

UPDATE: I'll be back again tomorrow (5/25) to answer some more of your questions. Follow me on Twitter; I'll tweet when I'm starting.

Hi Reddit. I'm William Friedkin and my new movie, KILLER JOE, comes to theaters July 27. The trailer's on Facebook, too. It's rated NC-17. I've been making movies since the 60s. Ask me your questions, and I'll try to answer them the best I can starting 10AM PST. Verification: https://twitter.com/WilliamFriedkin/status/204984256127184896 Here goes…

To all those who have been following this, I'm very grateful, and happy to do again in the future!! I'm all done ...for now.

Comments: 810 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

blendenflecke281 karma

Who's idea was it to film the chase scene in The French Connection without closing the streets? That must have made you insanely nervous as the director. Ballsy stuff!

IAmWilliamFriedkin421 karma

It was my idea. It was very risky and I would never do it again.

Glaeal210 karma

Do you think The Exorcist would actually make it past the MPAA in its current form if you tried to release it today?

IAmWilliamFriedkin300 karma


etrtr174 karma

The Exorcist is potentially one of the scariest and most well known movies of all time. Did you anticipate it having as much of an impact as it did? I've heard a lot of creepy stuff happened around production time as well.

IAmWilliamFriedkin270 karma

I had no idea. This has been exaggerated to the point of absurdity. There are strange things that happen on the set of every film... sometimes, even in your own workplace or home! I don't remember any incidents that were unusual. The one thing that did happen is that the entire set burned down one day. It took us almost 3 months to re-build it.

[deleted]139 karma

First of all, I can't believe Joey Gladstone's AMA is on the front page and this isn't.

Arguably your most famous work is the Exorcist. It honestly goes beyond a horror movie and is simply an excellent film and every time I watch it, it makes me think. It was followed up with several sequels, have you seen any of them? If you have, which one did you feel did justice to the first one? I personally think the Exorcist 3 was great.

Thanks for doing this, and I look forward to your new film!

IAmWilliamFriedkin300 karma

I haven't seen all of them. But the few minutes of each that I have managed to see seem to me to be awful ripoffs.

clash90117 karma

As a director, who influenced you the most in the film industry?

IAmWilliamFriedkin301 karma

Personally, I admire the films of Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers. I think they're very intelligent. A lot of their work has extended the possibilities of cinema.

AdamBertocci-Writer110 karma

Hi, thanks for doing this. "The Exorcist" is on my personal top ten list, I even visited the house and stairs when last in DC.

I've got two questions:

(1) For me, it's one of those rare projects that works well as both a book and a movie, with the book still feeling literary and the film still feeling cinematic, with neither medium feeling enslaved to the other even though the film is quite faithful. What do you think accounts for that? (Although no doubt Blatty writing both helped a bit, heh.) Put more eloquently, in your view, what are the most important lessons to take from "The Exorcist" in terms of the similarities and differences between literary and cinematic storytelling?

(2) Could you give some insight on the design and inclusion of the 'demon face'? On one level it's so simple, but geez, those quick cuts continue to haunt my nightmares.

IAmWilliamFriedkin155 karma

A movie must be a condensation of the story- you must make very focused choices on what they intend to keep or not keep. Also, a novelist can go from the past to the present to the future, in one sentence. A filmmaker cannot.

I had to make choices about what portions of the exorcist I could dramatize and what I felt could be jettisoned. There are a number of sub-plots and characters in the exorcist novel that I didn't deal with in the film.

You can read a book over a period of days, weeks, or months, you can go back to certain passages- but a film is usually experienced once-- unless you see it again-- for a period of a couple of hours.

[deleted]94 karma

It has been said that you fired a gun behind the mother in the Exorcist to get a more "real" scream of terror. Is this true? If it is, you are my favorite director of all time. If not, I still like your work.

IAmWilliamFriedkin226 karma

I would sometimes have the prop man fire blanks off the set to get a sudden reaction from the actors. This was originally done by the great American director George Stevens on his film, The Diary of Anne Frank to provoke a sense of fear in his actors, who were supposed to be hearing the Nazi sirens. There were, of course, no Nazi sirens on the set of the movie. When I heard about this technique, I thought it would produce similar results on a number of films I made. It's of course very difficult to say to an actor, "Now you are looking at the face of the demon" and expect him or her to be frightened, when he or she is in fact looking at the face of a 12 year old girl in makeup. The unexpected sound of a gun helps to produce the desired response.

Sinjun1386 karma

What's the biggest change you've had to adapt to in your years of film making?

IAmWilliamFriedkin197 karma

Really, for all filmmakers. The limited scope of the kind of films that can be made

When I started making films in the 60s and 70s, it was a much more personal cinema than it is now. The american film is, for the most part, adapted from comic books and video games now. Not exclusively, but for the most part.

It's not an obstacle, it's really a change in the zeitgeist. It's a change of what people are interested in, and a change of what studios want.

There was more of a variety of films being made in the 70s and there was less competition from other media- but today there's enormous competition.

kavorka285 karma

Why on earth didn't you want Gene Hackman originally for The French Connection? He's a great actor and was perfect for that role.

IAmWilliamFriedkin208 karma

His agent suggested him just before we started shooting the film, but he wasn't my first choice. He had mostly played supporting roles at the time, so I didn't think of him. But he turned out to be great in The French Connection and many other movies. I consider him a gift from the movie gods.

jollyjoes84 karma

If you didn't make movies, what would you want to be?

IAmWilliamFriedkin222 karma

Before I saw Citizen Kane when I was 20, I had no particular idea of what I wanted to do. I barely graduated high school and never went to university. My career has come about as a result of ambition, luck and the grace of God. Notice I didn't mention "talent".

ThePuffyShirt80 karma

The 70's in my opinion was a landmark decade for film making. What direction do you think film making is going these days? Is there anything you praise/dislike about present day film making or the film business in general?

Also, can you describe your emotions when you won the Best Director Oscar for The French Connection?

IAmWilliamFriedkin166 karma

The filmmaking of the 70s were really based on literature and the life experience of the filmmaker- and today, there's still adaptations of the classics- but for the most part, it seems like they're based on comic book ideas and video games- but it's not a criticism!

kablunk78 karma

Before you get overloaded with questions about The Exorcist, what's the scariest film you've seen?

IAmWilliamFriedkin163 karma

Without categorizing these films as "genre films": Diabolique (the original french version) Alien Psycho Onibaba by Kaneto Shindo

Phantomass66 karma

If you were an aspiring director today how much harder do you think it would be to crack it as a film maker?

IAmWilliamFriedkin152 karma

It's much easier today to get a film made than it was a while ago. The studios are really run by a lot of young people and they're more apt to look at films that people post on YouTube or something like a short film done for a festival- then they hire this director to do a major feature.

In the 70s and before, you really had to work your way up through all these ranks. There were these long apprenticeships, but today, someone who wants to make films can go out and buy a camera- shoot something- post it on YouTube and elsewhere and if there's true talent there, it's possible that their work can be discovered and they can make that jump into feature filmmaking.

ajhidell53 karma

Can you give us any updates on your SORCERER lawsuit? Also, which blu-ray of The French Connection do you approve of?

IAmWilliamFriedkin68 karma

I've sued Paramount and Universal to determine ownership which they presently claim they don't know. Their first response to the suit last week, was to ask that it be moved to federal court, which we've agreed to. It's now in the 9th district court of appeals.

tomcat2340 karma

Sorcerer is one of my favorite films. It's such an intense slog through hell. I'd love to see a director's cut!

(Also the trailer to Killer Joe looks great, can't wait to see it!)

IAmWilliamFriedkin83 karma

I'm trying to make prints available in both DVD and blu-ray, as well as have the film shown, to all these universities and film societies that want to run it first. That's my only purpose in bringing the suit, it does not involve money. There is no director's cut.

diarmada48 karma

Mr. Friedkin, can you please tell us anything about the making of Sorcerer that is not very well known...was it as insane as William Goldman (and Clagett) alleges?

Thanks so much, I've been a loyal fan for over 30 years!

IAmWilliamFriedkin85 karma

The first time we built the suspension bridge in the Dominican Republic, the river ran dry, we moved the location and built the bridge again over a 12-foot high rushing river in the jungles of Mexico. By the time we started to film, the water level decreased to 2 feet high, so we had to dam the river in order to relocate the water to our location and we had to create a rainstorm in order to mask the fact that the river was so low.

ryanmccauley48 karma

Billy!! I had a great time working with you and the crew on Killer Joe. Would you consider returning to Louisiana for your next project?

IAmWilliamFriedkin58 karma

It would depend totally on the subject matter - if it was appropriate. There are wonderful crews and good actors there!

gza_swords43 karma

Who's your favorite actor/actress you like working with or hope to work with?

IAmWilliamFriedkin101 karma

These are the actors I wish I’d worked with: Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, James Cagney and Paul Newman. They’re all gone now, of course.

elbowguru39 karma

I'm a huge fan of all your films, "The French Connection" is easily in my top 3 favorites. I'd like to ask you two questions:

I'm curious, will we ever see a special edition release of "Sorcerer" on Blu Ray or DVD? Some may call it blasphemous, but I consider it better than Clouzot's.

Do you know much about the original story of "The Exorcist" that took place in St. Louis in the 40's? Many of those reported events took place in the house where I was born and grew up in.

EDIT: Links in comments below for those that have questions or are curious about the house I lived in.

Thanks, can't wait to see the new film!

IAmWilliamFriedkin42 karma

I know pretty much everything about that case, it was in 1949 and a portion of the exorcism took place at Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis. It originated in Silver Spring, Maryland. A young man who was the victim at the age of 14 is still alive.

JoeyTheLipsFagan32 karma

Your films have incredible, offbeat music selections. Everything from "Tubular Bells" to Wang Chung to Jeff Beck & Nile Rodgers add to your films in startling ways. How do you choose the artists to score your films? Is it an open collaboration from the beginning, or do you usually bring in the musical element after shooting?

IAmWilliamFriedkin43 karma

It really varies- Sorcerer and To Live and Die in LA were actually inspired by the music of their composers. The Exorcist score is made up of fragments from various pre-recorded pieces of classical music that I felt were appropriate.

With other films of mine, such as Killer Joe and The French Connection, I sought out their composers after I had finished the film.

[deleted]31 karma


IAmWilliamFriedkin90 karma

Not really at this moment. But budget is not the most important thing- only the story.

lolololori25 karma

Hi, thanks for doing this. I noticed, you're on Twitter, and now Reddit - what's next? More importantly, is online and digital is the new way to go for filmmakers? You think it makes things better or worse?

IAmWilliamFriedkin55 karma

It's interesting and exciting to share thoughts with people from around the world who have similar or different interests from mine on a daily basis.

I_am_not_a_murderer25 karma

The movie Killer Joe looks awesome. What was it about Matthew that made you want to cast him? Was he your first choice?

IAmWilliamFriedkin50 karma

The first quality I look for in an actor is intelligence; the ability to understand and portray the character in a way that's compatible with my vision.

Matthew knew and understood this character, having grown up in that part of Texas, where the story is set.

Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church were my first choices as well. But I was unaware of Juno Temple until she sent in an unsolicited audition tape.

Frajer22 karma

Do you feel like you're part of a creative comeback for Matthew? What is he like to work with?

IAmWilliamFriedkin83 karma

This is a departure from his other films, but it's a direction he now wants to continue. He's a terrific actor who has been mostly cast for his good looks, which I think has limited him and made him rich.

handpoppit19 karma

What are your thoughts on the crap that passes for horror these days?

IAmWilliamFriedkin63 karma

I see few if any of them these days, so I can't offer a real opinion- but I did like The Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity series.

IdMaster15 karma

Hi Mr. Friedkin big fan of The Exorcist and The French Connection.

  1. One of my Professors said he worked on The Exorcist as a PA when he was younger and that you wrote him a letter of recommendation to USC. His name is Mick Curran do you remember him by any chance?

  2. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing aspiring directors today and what advice would you give them?

IAmWilliamFriedkin40 karma

Finding and being able to express your own individual voice, rather than rip-off somebody else, is probably the biggest challenge.

lukewarm_leatherette15 karma

Killer Joe is the second Tracey Letts stage to screen adaptation you are directing, after your chilling and beautiful work with Bug. What attracts you to Letts' work and how is it working with him as a screenwriter? Would you consider directing any other adaptations of his?

I also want to thank you for The Exorcist and for opening up to Reddit.

IAmWilliamFriedkin16 karma

Our world-views are similar. I think he's one of the very best dramatists in America and I hope we can find something of mutual pursuit.

errl_dabbingtons13 karma

Hi, Mr. Friedkin, it's an honor to speak with somebody as respected as you. Here's my question: Since you have been involved in arguably some of the finer pieces of cinema, how do you feel about the current state of films (specifically mainstream American blockbusters)? Are you planning on bringing back the golden age of American cinema with "Killer Joe"? What is next for the esteemed William Friedkin?

IAmWilliamFriedkin40 karma

Thank you. I'm working on a thriller from an original story of mine to be filmed in Europe in January. Meanwhile, I just finished my memoirs for Harper Collins, which will be released next spring. There will also be an e-book where you can view the scenes I've shot as I describe how they were done.

swiley198313 karma

What was it like directing the last-aired episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour? Did Hitch himself have much or any creative input?

Also, are you related to writer/director/producer David Friedkin? (He also directed a number of Hitchcock TV episodes.) I don't see either of you mentioned in each other's bios.

IAmWilliamFriedkin31 karma

It was the 10th and final year of the Hitchcock Hour, he had little (if any) creative input. The episode I did wasn't very good.

robbd712 karma

Big fan of your work, from the Exorcist to Bug. What made you decide to go with NC17?

Also, many people I know felt misled by the trailer for Bug, the film is much more dark and brooding than the trailer portrayed. Do you agree?. Do you have any stories of battling with networks over marketing or perhaps what you had to go through to get your film released in NC17?

Thank you again for doing this.

IAmWilliamFriedkin40 karma

To conform to the MPAA's response to the film, I would've had to have destroyed it. Fortunately, LD Entertainment, the distributors, share my view. The ratings board has given far more lenient ratings to films that are far more disturbing than Killer Joe. Why? Because they can. But Mickey Liddell, the distributor, agrees with me. There's no point in destroying the film in order to save it.

Gambit113810 karma

As an aspiring screenwriter, I was curious how involved were you in the development process for The Exorcist? Did you work intensively with Blatty in adapting the script from his novel? As a director, did you rely more on Blatty's script or novel in developing the visual style of the film?

What films in the past couple years were you most impressed by?

Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters and directors?

Love your work and best of luck on Killer Joe.

IAmWilliamFriedkin10 karma

For the visual style, it was completely on the novel. We worked together for at least six months on the script- during that process, I would express my ideas to him- but the screenplay was totally twice.

aatx122810 karma

What are your thought on director's cut , or final cuts released on blu-ray or dvd. Do you see it as cheapening what is exhibited in theaters, or as another opportunity for directors to work out what ever issues he or she had with the theatrical version.

IAmWilliamFriedkin42 karma

I think more often it's a way of expressing a filmmaker's original intent. But that doesn't mean it's a better version. I have read Scott Fitzgerald's original version of "The Great Gatsby". And it's not better. In fact, it's worse than what he finally published. There are 9 additional scenes that I shot for The French Connection. Later in the editing room, I took them out because I thought they were unnecessary and hurt the pace of the film. I would never want to see them re-integrated. A so-called Director's Cut is often no more than a marketing tool.

invincibubble9 karma

Vulture reported today that the director of Martha Marcy May Marlene wants to make a tv series out of The Exorcist.

What are your thoughts on how The Exorcist might work as serialized drama?

IAmWilliamFriedkin14 karma

I have no way of knowing that, anything is possible. It would be of no interest to me.

ragalotti9 karma

how would you say your approach to directing has changed over your career? do you feel more free to do what you want now that you have established such an extensive, admired career for example?

IAmWilliamFriedkin18 karma

I may have gotten a little better at it, from experience. But that's for the audience to decide. I've only made - I think 15 or 16 films over 45 years of doing it. But I've certainly learned from each one, whether it be techniques, or the ability to communicate easier with actors.

WreckSpecks9 karma

First just want to take the time to thank you for doing this and making great films. A few questions I have.

I just recently watched Cruising and thought it was very good. Were you surprised by the backlash of the film at the time of the release?

I am 24. My friend and I co-wrote a horror film which we were able to find funding for. He is directing and we shoot in July. Any advice for two young first time filmmakers trying to make a meaningful entry into the genre, and make more films?

IAmWilliamFriedkin17 karma

I thought it would be controversial but I didn't realize HOW controversial!

TheGesus9 karma

These days, hidden details in a film or a DVD can be referred to as "Easter eggs." I suppose you would have just called them craft back in the day.

I remember seeing The Exorcist in a theater in high school, seeing what I thought was graffiti scrawled on the wall of an exterior staircase, hearing that you or your editor had spliced images into extended scenes to prime the audience for emotional reactions.

How much of that was urban legend, and what exactly do you recall doing? Do you remember why you arrived at the point of making those conscious decisions? (I see elsewhere you said you believe films condense stories and you wanted that particular movie to carry the same impact the novel made on you, so perhaps those approaches were influential to you.)

By the way, I always loved the extended realism of the Popeye Doyle car chase through heavy bridge traffic in The French Connection. I'm sure you've been complimented on that many times, but it had a realism to it that I associate with some of the most masterful mid-1970s films (The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, Straw Dogs, Taxi Driver).

IAmWilliamFriedkin16 karma

None of that is true actually. If there was graffiti on the walls surrounding that staircase, it was there before we filmed it. And I remember specifically graffiti wasn't as "artistic" back then.

Whenthenighthascome8 karma

How does it feel to be one of the many many people who started out in cinema through Citizen Kane? Do you still love it as much today? Could you tell us how the transition from High School to full productions took place? Filmmaker myself, extremely honored.

IAmWilliamFriedkin12 karma

I've seen that film more than 200 times, since 1955- I've continued to be inspired and amazed by it. It synthesizes everything that came before it and it points the way to the future.

It was released in 1941, but there have been many filmmakers since who, like me, continue to be affected by it.

Jackandahalfass6 karma

Looking back at Minsky's, I've heard it wasn't your favorite thing to work on at the time, has time given you some perspective/positive memories of that experience?

IAmWilliamFriedkin11 karma

I have few, if any positive, memories of it. But when I made the DVD recently, having not seen the film for 40 years, I thought it had some pleasant and amusing moments.

suffynose5 karma

Thank you for doing this, it's great to get a chance just to read your answers. There seemed to be a string of devil movies to come out and be extremely popular in the late 60's & 70's (yours, Rosemary's Baby, and the Omen), could you maybe talk about why that was? Also, is there anyone you would like to work with today?

IAmWilliamFriedkin10 karma

Undoubtably because of the success of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist. I've seen few of any of them, so I can't comment on many of them.

damnclem3 karma

Huge fan of your work.

You won an Oscar for The French Connection (definitely in my top 3 all time), what inspired you to make a movie about such a touchy subject; and since you've stated that Gene Hackman wasn't your first choice for Popeye Doyle, who was?

IAmWilliamFriedkin3 karma

Believe it or not, our first choice was Peter Boyle. I thought the story was fascinating and original at the time, but it was the contrast between the two cops and the two French guys that most intrigued me. Though the cops represented law enforcement, they were bad-ass. And the two French dope smugglers were otherwise gentlemen.

CT0212792 karma

I really like your movies and some of the stylistic choices you have made, my personal favorite being To Live and Die in L.A. As an aspiring screenwriter, how much of the writers original vision usually ends up making the final cut? Also, how often do "happy accidents" occur when an actor will go off script and ad-lib and it turns out to be better than what was scripted. Thank you for doing this and continue to make great movies!

IAmWilliamFriedkin3 karma

I wrote that script and revised it constantly during the process of filming it. There were many spontaneous contributions from the actors that were not scripted and I always welcome and relish that.