William Friedkin, director of the classic horror film The Exorcist, died on Monday at the age of 87.

His widow Sherry Lansing told the BBC through tears: “He had a wonderful life. He was almost 88 – he has a new movie coming out.

Channel 1

“He was the most wonderful husband in the world. He was the most wonderful father in the world. He had a big wonderful, life. There was no dream unfulfilled.”

Friedkin died in Los Angeles on Monday.

No cause of death has yet been confirmed. The director was said to have suffered health issues in recent years.

His other famous films included crime thriller The French Connection, which won five Academy Awards including best director.

Tributes from celebrities and fans began pouring in over social media.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, actor Elijah Wood wrote: “Aww man…a true cinematic master whose influence will continue to extend forever. So long, William Friedkin.”

Friedkin died before his latest movie, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, could hit screens at the Venice Film Festival beginning on 30 August.

Though his career started in the early 1960s, his most notable success came in the following decade with the release of 1971’s The French Connection.

The film’s five Oscars included best picture, and best actor for Gene Hackman.

The Exorcist, released in 1973, had audiences horrified and entranced by the story of a 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil.

News media at the time reported cinemagoers fainting and vomiting in their seats, and people leaving the theatre shaking and screaming.

The film is reported to have grossed $500m (£391m) worldwide. It was nominated for 10 Oscars, winning two, and spawned multiple sequels.

The latest, titled The Exorcist: The Believer, is scheduled for release in October this year. It was directed by David Gordon Green, who helmed the most recent three films in the Halloween franchise.

Friedkin, for his part, was historically not a fan of remakes of the film.

At one point he said: “All of them are ridiculous… what I’ve seen of them, they want to make me vomit as the little girl vomits in the movie.”

When told by the interviewer that his version of The Exorcist was the best, Friedkin replied: “By far the best? The others don’t even exist.”

Friedkin suffered a decline in form just a few years after The Exorcist, his biggest box office success.

Sorcerer, released in 1977, had an estimated budget of $22m but drew barely $6m in box office sales. US media called it a “flop”.

Still, his wider filmmaking legacy remains cherished by critics and audiences alike.

Simpsons producer Mike Reiss remembered how the show made “a parody of his film Sorcerer”, and that Friedkin “charmed everyone, and even wound up as a guest star”.

The director is survived by his widow, Ms Lansing – a former studio chief at Paramount Pictures who was his fourth wife – and two sons.

“The family is obviously very upset,” Stephen Galloway, a friend of Friedkin’s and the dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, told the BBC. “He literally just finished making a new movie.”

“His mind was just so sharp, always. And mixed with a kind of wicked mischievous humour. The films that he made in the 70s, they still stand out.”

Website | + posts