William deduct makes a connoctlon with Bonlclo Del Toro

William of range

Having once made Linda Blair’s head spin, WILLIAM FRIEDKIN has well and truly exercised his wild days of speed and thunder as he returns with thriller The Hunted. Words: Richard Mowe

18 THE LIST 5-19 Jun 2003

ight the fuse and stand well back. The touch

paper for director William liriedkin is

contemporary Hollywood and its stillborn offspring. and it‘s not long before he is fanning the flames of his own discontent.

Friedkin finds it hard to think of a film that has given him much pleasure in the last ten years. but knowing there is a Scottish connection in the room he cites Shal/mt- (have. His admiration appears genuine: ‘lt infused the genre with fresh blood] he says. Then there was Shine and the Ray Liotta/Jason Patric 70s cop drama homage Nan: Then suddenly he goes rather quiet.

It‘s all so different from when he started out in the l‘)h()s. ‘The big studios now. including the so—called independents. are owned by big corporations which means there is a corporate sensibility everywhere. A movie that today comes out of the States is conceived no differently than an automobile or a can of Coke: how much sugar do you need to make it palatable‘.’ When I began. that wasn't the case. The guys who owned the studios were not millionaires. they were people who had built up a company doing things they believed in. They lost money but that was no big deal. and they made so many films they could recover their

money from the ones that worked.‘

Today. he suggests. the corporation would much rather take a hundred million dollars and put it all on one film than make 20 films. ‘lt's what's called high- stakes gambling. It is a product and has to please the broadest number of people. which means it cannot be abrasive in any way. If it shakes people up in their thinking then it won't sell; and that is what the audience have been conditioned to accept. It is like opium: it has to take them out of their humdrum lives for a couple of hours rather than contribute anything to those lives.‘

Friedkin. 68. heaves an almost audible sigh of relief. as if a burden has been lifted. He has always been a director who has argued passionately for his ideas. His model is Orson Welles who went to war every day on Citizen Kane and. when initially the film didn't do well at the box office. was considered to have lost that war. Rather than feeling stymied by frustration. Friedkin has often launched himself into battle and ultimately reached a compromise with various studios. He cannot understand someone like the tender maverick Terrence Malick who took the knock-backs on the set of l978‘s Days of Heaven so much to heart that he did not make another film for 20 years (the admittedly impressive The Thin Red Line).