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

‘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.

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.”

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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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”