William Friedkin, who directed the classic movies The Exorcist and The French Connection, has died aged 87.
His family has said in a statement that he died of heart failure and pneumonia.
The Oscar-winning director was seen as one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation and was part of the “New Hollywood” movement in cinema in the 1970s.
Friedkin was nominated for an Oscar for his 1973 supernatural horror film The Exorcist – one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema.
He had already won a best director Oscar for his 1971 crime thriller The French Connection.
Horror author Stephen King has paid tribute to Friedkin on X (formerly known as Twitter), writing: “Very sorry to hear of the passing of William Friedkin, a deeply talented filmmaker. THE EXORCIST is great, but for me the real classic was SORCERER.”
Hollywood actor Elijah Wood wrote: “Aww man… a true cinematic master whose influence will continue to extend forever. So long, William Friedkin.”
The Exorcist was based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel about a 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil.
The harrowing scenes of the girl’s possession helped make it a box-office sensation.
It wasn’t unusual to hear of viewers who were so scared they fled the cinema before it was over and some reported being unable to sleep for days afterwards.
It received 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Friedkin as director, and won two, for Blatty’s script and for sound.
The French Connection, released two years earlier, was based on a true story and followed the efforts of maverick New York City detective James “Popeye” Doyle as he tried to track down Fernando Rey – the mastermind of a large drug pipeline funnelling heroin into the United States.
It contains one of the most famous chase scenes ever filmed.
The movie also won Oscars for best picture, screenplay and film editing.
It led critics to hail Friedkin, then just 32, as a leading member of a new generation of filmmakers.
Friedkin would go on to direct movies and TV shows well into the 21st century.
However, he would never again come close to matching the success of those early works.
Other film credits included To Live And Die In LA, Cruising, Rules of Engagement, and a TV remake of the classic play and Sidney Lumet movie 12 Angry Men.
He most recently directed The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, which is scheduled to premiere at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.
He also directed episodes for such TV shows as The Twilight Zone, Rebel Highway and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Friedkin had started out his career in local television and documentary projects before moving to feature films.
He made his movie debut with the Sonny & Cher film Good Times in 1967.
Three years later, he directed “The Boys in the Band,” an LGBTQ cinema landmark about a group of gay friends in Manhattan.
Friedkin married his most recent wife Sherry Lansing in 1991.
He was earlier married to the journalist Kelly Lange, the British actress Lesley-Anne Down and the French actress Jeanne Moreau.
Friedkin leaves behind two sons – Jackson Friedkin, from his marriage to Down, and Cedric Friedkin – whose mother is the Australian dancer Jennifer Nairn-Smith.
Written by: Newsroom