William Friedkin, director of acclaimed movies like

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William Friedkin, the director who won an Oscar for “The French Connection” and shocked audiences with “The Exorcist,” has died. He was 87.

His publicist confirmed in a statement to CBS News that Friedkin died Monday at his home in Los Angeles from heart failure and pneumonia. 

Friedkin was best known for his work on “The French Connection,” which won him his Oscar, and “The Exorcist,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar. “The French Connection” also won Academy Awards for best picture, screenplay and film editing. 

In his 2013 memoir, “The Friedkin Connection,” the director wrote that he never thought of quitting. 

“It takes talent, imagination, and a feeling for the zeitgeist to find a subject that touches a nerve. What I still want from a film — or a play, a painting, a novel, a piece of music — is exhilaration,” he wrote. “I want to be moved and surprised at some revelation about the human condition. I think about the love affair I’ve had with Cinema. Images or fragments pop into my consciousness like fireflies. When I’m able to capture their brief flash, they illuminate a dark corner of memory.”

Friedkin was also known for his work on “Killer Joe,” “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Sorcerer” and “The Boys in the Band.” His most recent work was 2017’s “The Devil and Father Amorth,” a documentary about exorcism. His final production is a remake of the Herman Wouk novel and stage drama “The Caine Mutiny-Court Martial,” which stars Kiefer Sutherland. It’s set to premiere at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.

The director started his career directing TV movies. His first big screen film was 1965’s “Good Times,” a comedy starring Sonny and Cher.

Director William Friedkin and his wife, producer Sherry Lansing
Director William Friedkin and his wife, producer Sherry Lansing, at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Feb. 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.

David Livingston / Getty Images


Friedkin is survived by his two sons and his wife, the producer Sherry Lansing. The pair met at an Oscar party and were married for decades. Friedkin had previously been married to Jeanne Moreau and Lesley-Anne Down, both actors, and Kelly Lange, a TV news anchor.

The director was born in Chicago in 1935. His mother was a nurse and his father, who was always busy working, “owned nothing and made fifty dollars a week” until he was laid off, Friedkin wrote in his memoir. The family lived on welfare.

He saw his first movie, “None but the Lonely Heart,” at the age of 6. 

Flowers were set to be placed on Friedkin’s Walk of Fame star in Hollywood on Monday afternoon. 

“Oscar-winning Director William Friedkin is known for some of the most historic films in the movie genre. We are saddened that such a huge talent is gone and he will be missed and always remembered for the great contributions he made to the movie industry,” Walk of Fame producer Ana Martinez said. “We placed his Walk of Fame star next to the star of his wife, film studio executive Sherry Lansing on August 14, 1997.”

He was mourned by author Stephen King, actor Elijah Wood and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro in social media posts.

“The world has lost one of the Gods of Cinema,” del Toro posted. “Cinema has lost a true Scholar and I have lost a dear, loyal and true friend. William Friedkin has left us. We were blessed to have him.”



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