Earlier today Movies.com had the great privilege of sitting down with William Friedkin and picking his brain for an hour straight. Suffice to say, the director of The Exorcist, The French Connection and many others gave us a ton to think about. We'll be posting more of our interview with him next week, but today we wanted to share one particular part of the conversation that stood out: William Friedkin is kind of obsessed with TV.
But Friedkin doesn't just think TV shows like Fargo and House of Cards are regularly beating the big screen for his attention as an audience member, but also for him as a director. Not only do two of his movies (To Live and Die in L.A. and Killer Joe) currently have TV adaptations in development, but his interest in directing theatrical movies is quickly dwindling. Hearing the 78-year-old filmmaker talk about TV as a new frontier for filmmakers is strangely inspiring, and even more evidence that the small screen really is poaching some of the big screen's biggest talents.
Movies.com: Do you still have the same compulsion to make movies today that you did 30 years ago?
William Friedkin: Only for cable television and the streaming services like Netflix. Did you see The Normal Heart? It’s a masterpiece. I think it’s a masterpiece in every way. The story, the direction... if that were a theatrical film, it would win every major award. Acting, directing, writing, cinematography, and yet it’ll never be seen in a theater. It was on HBO.
The only thing I’m interested in now is long form, which is what you’d call television.
Movies.com: Is that something you’re actively pursuing?
Friedkin: Yeah, I’m about to do a couple of pieces for long form. I don’t want to make a feature film, because I don’t want to make a movie about a guy in a mask and a spandex suit flying around and saving the world. I don’t want to see that movie, so why would I make it? And if you do make a serious film today, the chances are it won’t have a bright future in theaters. It could maybe take on an afterlife in home video and cable.
Have you seen Fargo on television? It’s fantastic! It’s intelligent. In fact, it assumes the audience is smart and can follow a strange, ambiguous story all about evil figures with the exception of the young woman - who is not a raving beauty, she’s just a great, offbeat actress. I can’t wait for the next episode of Fargo.
It has the same vibe as the movie, but totally different characters. Different storyline, but the same vibe. The Coen brothers have some connection to it, approval maybe, though I don’t think they did any writing. But it has their vibe and I love it. I just can’t wait to see the next episode.
Movies.com: Earlier you mentioned this elaborate screening room you have, but it sounds like you don’t even have interest in using it.
Friedkin: Oh, I watch basketball on it and some live TV. I watch the news, and occasionally I’ll watch one of these shows on the big screen. Every weekend we have our guests over for a buffet and a new movie before it’s come out. I don’t even go in the room anymore. We have about 14 or 16 people who watch the films, and they know I’m not even curious. I did decide to go in and watch the latest Spider-Man. I watched two minutes of it, and it was a clear assault on my senses. It’s just not for me. It’s for millions, but it’s not for me.
MGM is trying to develop a television series on To Live and Die in L.A.. It won’t be that story at all, but it will be that vibe.
Movies.com: Are you involved with that?
Friedkin: Yeah, I’ll have approvals, and if I like the pilot I may direct it. They’re also trying to do a series on Killer Joe. A Dallas detective who is a hired killer. It will not be the same story, but it will be very edgy, not unlike Fargo.
Movies.com: Do you even take meetings on movies anymore or have you shifted your interests?
Friedkin: I do have a meeting with some guys about a project on the 17th, but I don’t know whether I’ll wind up doing it or not. But I do have a couple of things that are being scripted now. One of them is for HBO.
I don’t have any interest in doing a superhero film, and the handful of serious movies that get made for theaters these days are fewer and further between and they can’t possibly get that same kind of mass audience that a superhero movie can get. I shouldn’t speak about their quality. I’m not saying they’re bad, I just don’t even watch them. If I know that Spider-Man and f**king Superman are going to come out of these things victorious, I have no empathy, no investment. It’s like opium for the eyes.
William Friedkin is currently in Austin, Texas to present screenings of Sorcerer and To Live and Die in L.A. at the Alamo Drafthouse. Tickets are still available for both.
Get your Sorcerer tickets here.
Get your To Live and Die in L.A. tickets here.
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