Philip D’Antoni, ‘French Connection’ Producer, Dies at 89

D’Antoni, who won a Best Picture Oscar in 1972, was known for producing films with legendary car chases

The French Connection
Twentieth Century Fox

Philip D’Antoni, producer of the first R-Rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, “The French Connection,” died last week of kidney failure, according to his son-in-law, Mark Rathaus. He was 89.

D’Antoni made his name in the ’60s and ’70s as a producer of films with iconic car chases. In “French Connection,” New York detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) chases down a subway train holding a wanted sniper with a stranger’s Pontiac. D’Antoni was also producer on the famous 1968 crime film “Bullitt,” which is known for a climactic car chase through the streets of San Francisco with Steve McQueen behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang.

After those films, D’Antoni also served as producer on several more crime movies and TV shows, including ABC’s “Strike Force,” and the 1973 Roy Scheider film “The Seven-Ups,” the latter of which he also directed.

Like “Bullitt” and “French Connection,” “Seven-Ups” features a major car chase, with Bill Hickman getting chased by Scheider in a pursuit on the streets of New York in a pair of Pontiacs. In all three films, Hickman was involved as a stunt driver in the chase sequences.

New Hollywood filmmaker William Friedkin, who directed “The French Connection,” honored his friend and collaborator on Twitter.

D’Antoni is survived by his wife, five children, and nine grandchildren.