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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.
3

Your last couple of films were independents, was that a conscious choice?
What studio would want to do "Bug" or "Killer Joe"?

The Hurt Locker
Is that the reality of the situation in terms of getting original material done, the studio's not going to do it?
Well Darrin, why don't you tell him the story that you told me.

Darrin: Oh yeah, I met with a director a couple of weeks ago who had a great script, it was some sort of Elmore Leonard crosses and double crosses nonlinear narrative, really, really good script, and he told me the history of how he had taken it around to the studios. He's written, you know, he's a first time director but he had written a screenplay because he had made studio films in the past and he was basically getting a lot of lip service from executives until one woman just told him directly, "I'd rather go see the movie that this script is going to be than any of the movies that we're putting out this year, but I have strict orders from the parent company about what we can spend money on and what we can't and we can't spend money on this." What they're spending money on of course are superhero films and found footage films. Whatever there is that the trend is, or very few trends now, it is only that that they're putting money into. A film like this that would have easily been made into the studios, maybe even ten years ago, now have to be made as independents and I think they're budgeted at a million dollars. I've done a lot of work in the independent world, but the truth is the movies that I'm working on, when I started falling in love with movies, the late '70s and '80s, the kind of movies that I'm making now, strictly in the independent world and would only be considered in the independent realm, used to be made by the studios. "Being There" today would be an independent film, no question. You talk about a movie like "Bug," in the mid '70s one of the studios might have made it, but not now, not a chance.

William: The other thing is, even the independent world has made a lot of strides -- a movie like "The Hurt Locker" won an Academy Award over "Avatar" -- but it's not the same as it was when I began, when people like John Cassavetes was making independent films, he had to mortgage his house every time he wanted to make a film. Orson Welles had to go make a lot of money as an actor that he put into the films he really wanted to make, which wound up taking years to make and sometimes never got finished. So there weren't a lot of guys doing independent films before this recent decade. It's a lot easier to raise money for an independent film today then it was in the days of Cassavettes.

The Master Joaquin Phoenix
As a filmmaker, how does that shift really affect you?
I don't want to make films for the studios, if they don't want me to make their films. I don't want to make a film about a guy in a cape and a spandex shirt, you know and tights flying around and solving the crimes of the world, I have no interest in stuff like that, or a video game. You know I'm not saying they're bad, they're just not interesting to me...Look at the films that are being made, obviously a lot of people want to make them and see them but the films that were being in the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s were quite a bit different. You know, "Star Wars" changed the whole paradigm.

When you watch current films...
I don't.

There's nothing out there that interests you?
Very few things. I'll definitely want to see Paul Thomas Anderson's film called "The Master," and whatever the Coen Brothers do I'd probably be interested in. Not too many others.

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


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