Friday, April 26, 2013
(Note: You will also find this write-up on my other blog, EXORCIST REPOSITORY, which contains follow-up information - and pictures of the "possessed" child - in the aftermath of my investigation into the "real" story behind "The Exorcist")
Director William Friedkin will likely always be most known for two pivotal movies: THE EXORCIST and the film whose title he parodies with THE FRIEDKIN CONNECTION, THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
Mr. Friedkin warns us right off the bat that this is not a typical, “tell-all” memoir. True enough, that; there are no decadent Hollywood behaviors described (unless he’s talking about scenes in his films) and no “kiss and tell” aspects are to be found. Good. Didn’t need that anyway. It is his work which should be celebrated and not any Caligula-like excesses.
In discussing the pre-production and casting of THE EXORCIST, Mr. Friedkin talks about Linda Blair winning him over in her audition for the part of Regan MacNeil. He queries her about her thoughts on the infamous masturbation sequence in the script. He asks her if she knows what masturbation is and she asks, “Is it like jerking off?” “Have you ever done that?”, he asks Linda. She replies, apparently without blinking, “Sure, haven’t you?” Wow, after an exchange like that I guess I would have cast her as Regan, too.
Mr. Friedkin writes a bit about the so-called Exorcist “curse”, in which an unexplained (even to this day) fire broke out on the set and delayed filming for weeks. This is the kind of story that newspapers and gossip rags ran with at the time, more grist for the publicity mill.
I was a bit disappointed to see that Mr. Friedkin did not mention anything about how Evangelist Billy Graham had supposedly declared that a demon was living within an actual print of the film. However, maybe Dr. Graham’s contention was a bit “out there” – even for the director of THE EXORCIST. Besides, this was a movie about the triumph of good over evil – God vs. Satan. The fact that God wins here seems to have been overlooked by a lot of people. Therefore, I heartily disagree with the assertion that the movie is “evil”. It’s about evil getting its ass soundly thrashed and then handed right back.
Mr. Friedkin goes on to describe the bickering between himself and William Peter Blatty during the film’s production and then years later when they were re-inserting footage for DVD that was left out of the original cut. However, both men can look back now and laugh about their disagreements.
William Friedkin also went on to do other films, probably none of which got such worldwide attention as THE EXORCIST. The movie CRUISING may have come close, but for reasons that I’m sure were not intended.
CRUISING, by the way, is only one of two movies that made me want to crawl into a bathtub for days on end to wash the movie experience completely off. The other movie that made me feel that way was the Nicolas Cage film, EIGHT MILLIMETER.
Mr. Friedkin tells some interesting tales about his career to include his latest movie, KILLER JOE.
THE FRIEDKIN CONNECTION is well worth reading if you are a fan of his work. Even if you are not, you will likely find something to admire or interest you within these pages.
Many thanks to Stephanie Salah of Harper Collins Publishing for seeking me out through my EXORCIST REPOSITORY blog (www.exorcistrepository.blogspot.com) and for her kindness in sending me a review copy of this book.
Posted by Mike Madonna at 5:05 PM