‘Exorcist’ Star Ellen Burstyn, Jason Blum Remember William Friedkin: “Undoubtedly a Genius”

A number of collaborators and admirers are paying tribute to The Exorcist filmmaker William Friedkin, who died Monday at age 87.

Friedkin remains in the public consciousness, with The Exorcist about to launch a long-gestating sequel in October, and his film The French Connection remembered for perhaps the greatest car chase in film history.

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Ellen Burstyn, who starred in The Exorcist and returns for The Exorcist: Believer (due out Oct. 13), recalled the filmmaker fondly in a statement: “My friend Bill Friedkin was an original; smart, cultured, fearless and wildly talented. On the set, he knew what he wanted, would go to any length to get it and was able to let it go if he saw something better happening. He was undoubtedly a genius.”

Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse is behind the trilogy of upcoming Exorcist sequels, wrote in a statement, “I am personally indebted to William Friedkin and saddened by his loss. More than any other filmmaker, he changed both the way directors approached horror films and also the perception of horror films in the broader culture. We are deeply saddened to hear of his passing and intensely grateful for the body of work he has left behind.”

David Gordon Green, the director of the upcoming Exorcist sequels, said in a statement, “William Friedkin was an inspiration to me. I am saddened that our community lost a brilliant artist. The Exorcist is one of the finest films ever made, along with The French Connection, Sorcerer and so many others. His bold and visionary work will influence filmmakers forever.”

Scott Derrickson, known for Doctor Strange and his horror work on films such as The Black Phone, recalled a career highlight related to the late director: “It was an honor to have numerous lengthy chats via Twitter with William Friedkin. He also sent word through his wife to one of my producers that he watched & loved The Black Phone— a gesture I will always treasure. The Exorcist and Sorcerer are 2 of the greatest films ever made.”

The Batman filmmaker Matt Reeves called him “a towering artist,” adding, “I was so deeply affected by his incredible work, on screen, and in opera too… His staging of Puccini’s ‘Suor Angelica’ was one of the most moving things I have ever seen. A legend.”

Chris Miller, who along with creative partner Phil Lord put out Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in June, reflected on his influence on the pair, writing, “I got to meet him at his house this year, & told him what an influence SORCERER was on Phil & me. If you haven’t seen it, it’s not about a wizard, it’s about transporting TNT thru the jungle, and is a master class in tension.”

Francis Ford Coppola, the man behind The Godfather trilogy, shared in a statement, “William Friedkin was my first friend among the filmmakers of my generation and I grieve for the loss of a much-loved companion. His accomplishments in Cinema are extraordinary and unique. He is the only colleague I knew whose work actually saved a man’s life (THE PEOPLE VS PAUL CRUMP). Billy’s work represents true milestones in Cinema, a list which will never be forgotten; certainly THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE EXORCIST and SORCERER, but all of his films are alive with his genius. Pick any of them out of a hat and you’ll be dazzled. His lovable, irascible personality was cover for a beautiful, brilliant, deep-feeling giant of a man. It’s very hard to grasp that I will never enjoy his company again, but his work will at least stand in for him.”

Pinocchio director Guillermo del Toro wrote, “The world has lost one of the Gods of Cinema. Cinema has lost a true Scholar and I have lost a dear, loyal and true friend. William Friedkin has left us. We were blessed to have him.”

Filmmaker Sean Baker tweeted, “A true master of cinema. I was lucky enough to have met the legend. He had a profound influence on my life and career.”

Directors Guild president Lesli Linka Glatter honored him in a statement: “A master of storytelling across multiple genres, his aptitude for creating atmosphere and building tension broke convention and he was one of the key influences in the New Hollywood era of director-driven filmmaking. The French Connection, for which he won the DGA Feature Film Award was the quintessential thriller; and The Exorcist remains the template for horror to this very day.”

Natasha Lyonne remembered the director by sharing a photo on social media of what appears to be a Mae West biopic script that was adapted by Friedkin. She wrote in the caption, “I [heart emoji] you, #WilliamFriedkin & will cherish this bad boy for always.”

The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean shared an image of the filmmaker’s work in a 2017 episode of the series. “William Friedkin was one of my all time cinema heroes and he was an absolute pleasure to work with. A genius and an icon,” wrote Jean on X.

Elijah Wood called the filmmaker “a true cinematic master whose influence will continue to extend forever.”

Author Stephen King wrote, “Very sorry to hear of the passing of William Friedkin, a deeply talented filmmaker. THE EXORCIST is great, but for me the real classic was SORCERER.”

Comedian Marc Maron said Friedkin “made some of the greatest movies ever.”

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