Listen: William Friedkin Talks Clashing With Bernard Herrmann, Making 'French Connection' & More On 'The Treatment'

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by Charlie Schmidlin
June 12, 2013 10:45 AM
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One of the foremost cinematic raconteurs who continues to create compelling works for discussion, director William Friedkin most recently scored a modest hit and showcase for Matthew McConaughey with “Killer Joe,” and also oversaw a restoration of his 1977 suspense drama “Sorcerer.” Friedkin compiled many anecdotes from within and outside the film world for his memoir, “The Friedkin Connection,” and in a radio discussion with Elvis Mitchell, he hinted at some of the contents.

The conversation took place on Mitchell's show “The Treatment,” and suitably zig-zagged across Friedkin's history, with the director recounting such events as his encounter with Jean-Michel Basquiat, and his split from composer Bernard Herrmann after they clashed on “The Exorcist” (“Thank you for letting me meet an interesting person,” Friedkin said to him). He also describes his thoughts when Eddie Egan and Sonny Gross, the real-life inspirations for Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider's cop characters, wanted to play themselves in “The French Connection.”

“They saw themselves as massive heroes, and I didn't quite see it that way. I saw them as good street cops that had a mixture of good and evil. They only wanted to be presented without any warts. 'The French Connection' is not about heroes; It's about the thin line between the policemen and the criminals.”

As for the newly restored “Sorcerer,” inspired by Henri-George Clouzot's classic “The Wages of Fear” and mismarketed as an action-packed thriller, Friedkin says he sees the film, not as a remake, but “a new treatment of a classic text,” similar to “Death of a Salesman” or “Hamlet.” In terms of the film's title, Friedkin confirms it's a nod to Miles Davis' 1967 album of the same name, a fact that the director was able to tell him.

But to catch that story and more, check out the full interview on KCRW, and be sure to take a look at our Essentials list for Friedkin's immense body of work.

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