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William Friedkin, director behind 'The Exorcist,' dies at 87

August 7, 2023

William Friedkin received widespread acclaim for his films including "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection." He continued working into his 80s but suffered health issues in recent years.

A black-and-white photo of William Friedkin
William Friedkin passed away in Los Angeles on MondayImage: Susanna Saez/Agencia EFE/IMAGO

William Friedkin, the American director behind "The Exorcist," died on Monday. He was 87.

Friedkin passed away in Los Angeles after suffering unspecified health issues in recent years.

He had "been working until a few weeks ago" but "had been in declining health," said former "Hollywood Reporter" executive editor Stephen Galloway.

The director's son, Cedric Friedkin, confirmed to the Associated Press that he died after a long illness.

"He was role model to me and to (my brother) Jack," his son said. "He was a massive inspiration." 

An early-career Oscar-winner

When he was just in his 30s, Friedkin burst on to the scene in 1971 with gritty cop drama "The French Connection," for which he won an Oscar for best director.

He followed that with iconic horror film and box office hit "The Exorcist" in 1973, which follows a 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil.

The film, which attracted controversy for its shocking scenes, won two Oscars and spawned four sequels based on the same novel, but without Friedkin's participation.

One of the leading directors of the New Hollywood movement, Friedkin would continue directing well into his 80s, but he was never able to match the success of his early career.

"My films have always been a study of human behavior at its extremes," Friedkin told interviewer Tom Huddleston in 2012.

"They're not aimed at young people, they're aimed at adults. Is there a line I wouldn't cross? ... I don't know." 

zc/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)