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The screenwriter/director behind such classic films as The French Connection and The Exorcist. He was born on August 29, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother was a nurse and his father was a clothes salesman who died indigent.

Early Career
He began his career immediately after high school as a director with a local Chicago TV station, and reportedly worked on over 2,000 shows, showing a particular aptitude for documentary filmmaking. In 1965, he moved to Hollywood and continued his work in television, including an episode of the "Alfred Hitchcock Hour". In 1967, he graduated to feature films with his feature directorial debut, Good Times, starring Sonny and Cher. He moved on to some more ambitious projects in 1968, including the burlesque nostalgia piece The Night They Raided Minski's and the screen adaptation of playwright Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party.

The Rise and Fall
Friedkin made a name for himself with his adaptation of Mart Crowley's off-Broadway play about gay men The Boys In The Band. His next film, The French Connection, launched him into the highest ranks among American directors. With its gritty, hard hitting realism, The French Connection was hugely successful, winning five Oscars (including Best Picture, Actor, Director, Screenplay and Editing). Its mostly famous for its climactic car chase, which counts itself among some of the greatest chase scenes of all time, but the Oscar winning performance of Gene Hackman has drawn many accolades as well.

His next film was The Exorcist, an intense, well made adaptation of William Peter Blatty's best-selling novel that would go on to redefine the horror genre. The film, which depicts the demonic possession of a child, was a huge box-office success, and once again earned Friedkin an Oscar nomination for best director (and won an oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay). The film is often considered to be overrated, but it is still an undeniably creepy film with some fantastic visuals and good character development. In 2000, Warner Brothers re-released The Exorcist, attempting to entice viewers to theaters by adding about 12 minutes of "never before seen footage". Though Friedkin and Blatty had their disagreements during the original production, they both opposed the addition of extra footage, claiming that the original 1973 edition is the definitive cut.

After The Exorcist, Friedkin's career faltered. He produced a series of unsuccessful features, some of which bear his trademark intensity, but still couldn't find an audience. His 1980 film, Cruising, drew widespread protests from gay rights groups for its slick depiction of the connection between violence and gays.

Friedkin's style is very technical, often drawing on his documentary filming techniques to evoke a sense of realism. It is said that during the filming of The French Connection, the director concealed cameras during filming in order to capture an unsuspecting reaction from bystanders. He makes frequent use hand-held cameras, another documentary technique, to make action sequences more effective. He portrays the world as a grim mystery, showing human identity as ambiguous at best. Often, there are no good guys in his films. In The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A. the so-called bad guys appear as intelligent and refined businessmen, while the cops are portrayed as dangerous pathological slobs. The lack of success of his later flms suggests that his bleak outlook of life may have backfired.

Current and Future Projects
In recent years Friedkin has worked as much in TV as in movies, but this may be less an indicator of his failings than a sign that, in spite of his past successes, audiences are not happy with an artist that is so critical of the status quo.

He made a quiet return to the mainstream in the 1990s with a string of well made but not particularly gripping films including the Shaquile O'Neil vehicle Blue Chips, the Joe Esterzhaus-scripted Jade, the interesting remake of 12 Angry Men, and the military drama, Rules of Engagement.

He is currently working on a film called The Hunted, which sufferend a setback when lead actor Benecio del Toro broke his wrist last summer while filming a scene with co-star Tommy Lee Jones. Lately, he has also started to direct opera. He has staged Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Los Angeles, and coming up, he said, is Bela Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle."

He claims that his main influences are classical music composers (especially Shostakovich and Debussy) rather than other films, though he has professed a deep respect for Orson Wells' Citizen Kane. He also finds Marcel Proust "the most cinematic of writers and a quarry of ideas, and of visual ideas."

He was married at one time to actress Jeanne Moreau, and is currently married to film executive Sherry Lansing. He has two children.

Filmography* * excluding his work in television

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