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Exclusive: William Friedkin Talks Making 'Killer Joe,' The Problem With Exorcism Movies, 'Sorcerer' & Much More

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist July 26, 2012 at 11:59AM

Deep fried, dangerous, obscene, hilarious and hugely entertaining, while not for the faint of heart, William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" proves the director hasn't lost the energetic spirit that put him on the map in the 1970s with films like "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist." And indeed, it might be his most controversial film since that latter pic. The film's violence and nudity might have made some folks at the MPAA squirm, but it was undoubtedly a climatic sequence involving fried chicken that pushed them over the edge.

The Exorcist
Speaking of angels and demons, there's been a lot of exorcism films in the last few years.
They're all shit!

What are the exorcism movies doing wrong?
I don't see those so I shouldn't comment. Well I'll tell you one thing they're doing wrong, exorcism is rare, very rare. There were three cases that the Catholic church acknowledged in the 20th century in America. In other places in the world there are guys, not necessarily priests, ordained by the Catholic church who are doing three or four exorcisms before breakfast, but exorcism is a very, very rare procedure and not easily sanctioned by the Catholic church. That's one of the things we try to point out in the film, that it was not commonplace and that demonic possession still, to a lot of people, seems like religious bunk. But I've read the New Testament, I continue to read the New Testament and it just casually mentioned Jesus from time to time would drive out evil spirits and perform exorcisms, and in almost every case, in every case where it's dwelled on, he tells his disciples not to talk about it, not to mention it. Not to go around and tell people about it, because he did not want to be thought of as a magician, or a trickster. So look, evil exists within all of us, I’m certain it exists within you, I know it exists within me so there is a constant struggle to get rid of that evil that is within each of us and sometimes it's a losing battle. Most of the people who kill people, serial killers or mass murderers, they're not members of the mafia or something, they're guys who just flip out and lose it and then their neighbors say geez he was a nice guy, I never would have thought this guy could be the Yorkshire Ripper, or the BTK killer. That guy was very well known in his community, wife and kids, he was a deacon in the church, he was a dog catcher, he was a traffic cop, he was very well known in the community, he had a secret life. Look at Jerry Sandusky. I mean where does that come from? This guy was deeply respected all around Penn State. And then you read that Joe Paterno sanctioned it, didn't say anything? Yeah, there's good and evil in everybody. And a lot of the times that evil is allowed to run free because it isn't convenient for somebody to blow the whistle or perform an exorcism.

Live And Let Die
I've read that you've always wanted to do a Bond film.
I was asked to do a Bond film many years ago but they didn't want me to shoot the action. They wanted me just to shoot the actors. They had three or four crews that went around shooting the action scenes. And that's all I would have wanted to do in a Bond film was the action.

So if they came to you today and asked you to do second unit, you'd be there?
Probably, if the ideas were original, oh sure. I love the action in the Bond movies, that's what they're all about, not some guy in a tuxedo saying shaken, not stirred. Anybody can direct that. The action scenes are amazing in the Bond films. Mr. Broccoli called me, after "The French Connection," and invited me to do the next Bond. I don't remember which one it was [ed. likely "Live And Let Die"] and I said "Oh yeah, thank you, absolutely." Then in the course of the conversation he told me he had three or four crews doing the action scenes, I wouldn't have to worry about those, so I politely declined.

William Petersen
You did some "CSI" a year or two ago, there's a lot of directors doing stuff on cable, does that appeal to you?
If I liked the script. I did "CSI" because it was Bill Peterson and he came to me to do his last show. I had never seen the shows. It was on for nine years then and I'd never watched them but he and I remained friends and he said he was doing his last year and would I come in and do the last show and I did it. They sent me some videos of some of the other shows and I got the idea. Then I had a lot of fun doing it, it's a great crew over there, wonderful crews putting this stuff on. Then they invited me, after he left, to do the 200th episode with Laurence Fishburne, which I did and really enjoyed.

So it doesn't matter to you if it's film or TV, it's the story?
And the characters or, you know, I've got to relate to something and I don't care. If I found a play that was being done in a church basement I would do it if I liked it.

This article is related to: William Friedkin, Killer Joe, The Master, The Exorcist, Sorcerer

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