HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

William Friedkin

Academy Award-Winning, Legendary Film Director


  • Directing for Film
  • Personal Memories of Memorable Films
  • A Career in Film
  • Directing Opera
  • Old and New Techniques for Film and Television
  • Hollywood from the 1960s Until Now
  • The Friedkin Connection: The Movies That Made My Life



William Friedkin, the legendary, Academy Award-winning film director, in the last decade, has become a critically acclaimed director of opera. He may be best known for his film The Exorcist (1973), one of the most terrifying films of all time. It received 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Director and Best Picture. Prior to that, he directed The French Connection (1971), for which he received the Director’s Guild of America Award and the Academy Award for Best Director. The film also won for Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. In 2011, Friedkin became an author with his first book The Friedkin Connection: The Movies That Made My Life (Harper), a memoir of his life and career in film. His latest film is Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey.

Friedkin is an in-demand speaker at film festivals, museums, and universities. He has spoken at the Los Angeles Melanesian Festival twice, Bohemian Grove, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Harvard University, Yale University, Oxford University, University of California Los Angeles, University of Southern California, The New School, and Pennsylvania State University.

In The Friedkin Connection, this maverick of American cinema in the late sixties through the late seventies, turns his hand to a different medium of storytelling, taking readers on a journey through the numerous chance encounters and unplanned occurrences that led a bored young man in a poor neighborhood to opportunity and success, all without a college education. in Chicago, the son of Russian immigrants, Friedkin developed an early relationship with film after seeing Citizen Kane. Embarking on a path to build his own screen experience, Friedkin sought a television career immediately after high school, patiently working his way up from the mailroom to the directing booth of local stations. While in Chicago, Friedkin began his directorial career working on live television shows and documentaries, including the award-winning The People vs. Paul Crump. Friedkin also directed one of the last episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965, called "Off Season" - during which, according to legend, Hitchcock scolded Friedkin for not wearing a tie during directing.

Friedkin's seemingly effortless transition to Hollywood and narrative filmmaking gave way to accomplished early works that reflect a stylistic range, highlighted by masterful adaptations of The Birthday Party and The Boys in the Band. In 1971, The French Connection was released to wide critical acclaim, winning five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Friedkin's next film in 1973 The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel, not only catapulted Friedkin's career, but revolutionized the horror genre. Considered by several critics to be the greatest horror movie of all time, The Exorcist was quickly canonized, placing Friedkin in an elite caste of filmmakers along with Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich.

With keen wit and cunning intellect, Friedkin proves himself to be a gifted raconteur on the page, setting up scenes and dialogue that take readers on the movie set or in the editing room. Fast-paced and thrilling, Friedkin's writing spans the streets of Chicago to the studios of Hollywood, cinematically setting the scene for his untold life story.

Friedkin’s other films include Sorcerer (1977), The Brinks Job (1979), Cruising (1981), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), and Blue Chips (1994). In 1997, he directed a Showtime/MGM television remake of Twelve Angry Men with Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Hume Cronyn, and Ossie Davis. The DGA nominated him for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for Best Dramatic Special. It was also nominated for six Emmy Awards. Recent films include Rules of Engagement (2000) and The Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro (2003), and Bug with Ashley Judd (2007).

Friedkin made his operatic debut in 1998 with a widely acclaimed production of Berg’s Wozzeck at Maggio Musicale Florence, conducted by Zubin Mehta. In 2002, he made his Los Angeles Opera debut with a double bill of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, R. Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, also with Kent Nagano. In 2005, he directed Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah for the New Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv; and Verdi’s Aida at the Teatro Regio Torino in Italy.

In 2006, he directed Duke Bluebeard’s Castle / Gianni Schicchi for Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center. The same year, he enjoyed an extremely successful collaboration with Kent Nagano at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, with new productions of Strauss’Salome and the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Das Gehege. Both productions continue to be performed through the 2008 season.

For Los Angeles Opera, he directed a double bill of Suor Angelica / Il Tabarro which premiered September 6, 2008. Future plans include Mefistofole, a co-production Teatro alla Scala, Milan and San Francisco Opera; The Makropulos Case at Maggio Musicale, Florence; andFanciula del West for Paris Opera.

Friedkin lives in Los Angeles, California.