The release of 'The French Connection' and 'The Exorcist' in quick succession during the 1970s led critics to hail Friedkin as a leading member of a new generation of Hollywood filmmakers
The Oscar-winning director who shot to global stardom with the release of the 1973 film, 'The Exorcist,' William Friedkin, has died at the age of 87.
The US filmmaker died on Monday in Los Angeles, his family and representatives confirmed to the press.
The Exorcist was a Hollywood blockbuster 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 and a splendid cast, including Linda Blair as the girl, Ellen Burstyn as her mother and Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller as the priests who try to exorcise the devil, helped make the film a box-office sensation.
It was so scary for its era that many viewers fled the theatre before it was over and some reported being unable to sleep for days afterwards.
The film received 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Friedkin as director, and won two, for Blatty’s script and for sound.
But it was two years prior that he won his first Oscar for 'The French Connection'.
The movie, based on a true story, deals with the efforts of maverick New York City police Detective James “Popeye” Doyle to track down Frenchman Fernando Rey, mastermind of a large drug pipeline funnelling heroin into the United States. It contains one of the most thrilling chase scenes ever filmed.
The movie also won Academy Awards for best picture, screenplay and film editing and led critics to hail Friedkin, then just 32, as a leading member of a new generation of filmmakers.
Born in Chicago on 29 August 1939, Friedkin began working in local TV productions as a teenager.
Friedkin continued working until his death. His new film, 'The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,' starring Kiefer Sutherland is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival next month.
"Working with William Friedkin was one of the great honours of my career," Sutherland said in a statement. "My condolences go to [his wife] Sherry and his family."