Friedkin worked his way up from the bottom of the pile. A callow teenager in the 50s heyday of live television. he was directing by the time he was 21. His first cinema feature was Good Times (1967). a vehicle for the talents of the then- married Sonny Bono and (her. After an interesting screen adaptation of Pinter's The Birthday Party. starring Robert Shaw and Patrick Magee. he finally hit paydirt with a bright evocation of the last days of American burlesque called The Night they Roided .llt'nsky's featuring (bizarrely) the talents of Norman Wisdom and Britt likland.
A version of the gay stage show The Boys in the Band followed and then he made a little urban thriller about a bad tempered detective who was named after a cartoon character and had a penchant for porkpie hats. The film was The French Connection. and it won the 36-year-old director an Oscar. liriedkin had proved that he had a flair for managing setpieces and exploiting the ﬂuidity of the then revolutionary mobile Arriflex cameras. It was a signature style that was to mark his work from that point. Thirty-two years on. the man‘s tough. muscular visual style still dominates every adrenaline-pumped moment in his new film. The Hunted. a l'itgt'tt'i'e-style thriller starring Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones.
Strangely. it was the reissue of The Iivorct'st in 2()()() which drew Friedkin back into the limelight. The film created almost as much interest the second time around as it did when it first appeared in 1973. yet again causing audience members to wretch and faint. ‘Frankly it wasn’t made to scare people. I think I avoided all the clichés of horror films; the only thing that author William Peter Blatty and I had in mind was to make a realistic film about inexplicable things.‘
Although he finds it tough to find subjects that engage him. cable television opened up a whole new avenue for him in the late l99()s. He directed a well received remake of the classic courtroom drama [2 Angry Men (1997) for HBO which he shot in 1() days with George C Scott and Jack Lemmon. lt garnered six Emmy nominations. When he‘s not dealing in celluloid he takes ‘sorties‘ into theatre and opera.
Friedkin thinks it is easy for a filmmaker to lose touch with their audience. At one point in his career he felt he was veering towards the overly esoteric. before he came to his senses: ‘A lot of my compatriots were trying to ape Godard or Truffaut but I didn‘t want to make films that hang in the Louvre.‘ opines the man who ironically was (briefly) wedded to queen of the nouvelle vague. Jeanne Moreau.
Currently married to Paramount studio head honcho Sherry Lansing. Friedkin has a refreshingly acerbic view of his own shortcomings. When he received a drubbing for such films as Sorcerer (an ill-fated attempt to remake Wages of Fear). his garish S&M gay scene thriller Cruising (starring a rather uncomfortable looking Al Pacino). and the truly appalling Jade. he accepts that. at times. he was maybe a little misguided.
Friedkin considers himself as someone who practises filmmaking: ‘In the same way a doctor practises medicine or a lawyer practises law. What I try to do before each new film is to immerse myself in as many aspects of it as possible. so I’m literally swimming in it before I even expose a frame of film.‘ That sounds like the Friedkin credo in a nutshell: no more. no less.
The Hunted opens Fri 6 Jun. See review page 23.
'I DON'T WANT TO MAKE
THAT HANG IN THE
Del Toro (top, middle) and Connie Nielsen (bottom) pump the adrenaline in The Hunted
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