Acclaimed filmmaker William Friedkin, best known for directing classics such as “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” is being mourned by Hollywood as “one of the most impactful directors of all time” after he died on Monday at the age of 87.
“The Exorcist” star Ellen Burstyn said in a statement, “My friend Bill Friedkin was an original; smart, cultured, fearless and wildly talented. On the set, he knew what he wanted, would go to any length to get it and was able to let it go if he saw something better happening. He was undoubtedly a genius.”
Francis Ford Coppola took to Instagram to pay tribute to Friedkin, who he called “a giant of a man.”
“William Friedkin was my first friend among the filmmakers of my generation and I grieve for the loss of a much-loved companion,” Coppola said. “His accomplishments in Cinema are extraordinary and unique. He is the only colleague I knew whose work actually saved a man’s life (‘The People v. Paul Cruimp’). Billy’s work represents true milestones in Cinema, a list which will never be forgotten; certainly ‘The French Connection,’ ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Sorcerer,’ but all of his films are alive with his genius. Pick any of them out of a hat and you’ll be dazzled. His lovable, irascible personality was cover for a beautiful, brilliant, deep-feeling giant of a man. It’s very hard to grasp that I will never enjoy his company again, but his work will at least stand in for him.”
“RIP to the legend William Friedkin,” director Eli Roth posted on Instagram. “One of the most impactful directors of all time and certainly set the course of my life in a different direction with ‘The Exorcist.’ He was so incredibly nice and supportive the few times I was lucky enough to meet him. Watch ‘Sorcerer’ if you’ve never seen it. He was one of a kind. Legend.”
“Working with William Friedkin was one of the great honors of my career,” actor Kiefer Sutherland, who stars in Friedkin’s upcoming final film, said in a statement to TheWrap. “My condolences go to Sherry and his family,”
“It was an honor to have numerous lengthy chats via Twitter with William Friedkin,” “The Black Phone” director Scott Derrickson wrote on Twitter. “He also sent word through his wife to one of my producers that he watched & loved The Black Phone— a gesture I will always treasure. The Exorcist and Sorcerer are 2 of the greatest films ever made.”
“Aww man…a true cinematic master whose influence will continue to extend forever. So long, William Friedkin,” actor Elijah Wood posted on Twitter.
“RIP William Friedkin, one of our very first guests on our podcast, The Movies That Made Me,” wrote “Gremlins” director Joe Dante on Twitter.
“RIP William Friedkin. Ballsy director. Made some of the greatest movies ever. One of the best conversations I’ve had on the show,” wrote Marc Maron on Twitter.
Friedkin gained fame as a filmmaker for his direction of two highly successful Hollywood blockbusters in the early 1970s, namely “The French Connection” in 1971 (which was the first action movie to win the Best Picture Oscar) and “The Exorcist” in 1973. Along with Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, and Hal Ashby, Friedkin was part of a new wave of Hollywood auteurs who emerged during this period known as the “New Hollywood.”
Friedkin’s death was confirmed to TheWrap by family friend Stephen Galloway who spoke to Friedkin’s wife, Sherry Lansing, herself an iconic leader of Paramount Pictures for many years. No cause of death was provided.
Friedkin had recently completed “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” starring Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Clarke. His now-final film will premiere in September at the 80th Venice International Film Festival.
Here are more tributes: