Tag Archives: william friedkin

Walker On Friedkin

“Partly, I didn't work on anything for [Friedkin] because I didn't want to disappoint him.”

Seven is one of the greatest procedural films of all time. A dystopic vision of the present, a philosophical examination of justice and punishment, and perhaps the bleakest vision of optimism ever filmed. No, really. All of that came from the script, and the script came from Andrew Kevin Walker.

Andrew was not only gracious enough to join us on this month's show, but also allowed us to probe his mind regarding the murkier aspects of screenwriting. Some screenwriters see their original works filmed, and others see them languish on the shelf. Some are hired to rewrite someone else's work, and others find themselves rewritten. Some work on big budget tent-pole scripts only to see the studio abandon the project, and then sometimes come back to it with a new team at the helm. Andrew is one of the few scriptwriters who has been in every situation we just mentioned. If you're a budding writer, or even vaguely interested in the process, you're going to want to hear his insights.

But before that happens, Rochelle and Lee kick off the episode by chatting about some of this month's most notable films. What did they make of Paul Thomas Anderson's sartorial melodrama Phantom Thread? Were they won over by Ryan Coogler's progressive African superhero blockbuster Black Panther? Did they recognise anything of themselves in Greta Gerwig's northern California Catholic schoolgirl comedy-drama Lady Bird? Was Lee enamoured by, with, of, or near Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut biopic Molly's Game, and did Rochelle see it or skip it?

But most importantly, what does everyone think of William Friedkin? Andrew's filmmaker of the month is one of New Hollywood's most striking visionaries, with just as many all-time classics to his name as obscure curiosities. For someone who made films that are so indelibly branded into pop-consciousness, Friedkin's filmography is peppered with works both tonally and stylistically unlike anything we think of when someone mentions his name. There were many more strings to his bow than even many of his ardent fans may realise. And hey, that's what this show is for, right?

If all of that sounds like a lot for one episode, it is. That's why we used special magnets to pack it into a single hour. Plus there are some jokes. Go listen now.

Further reading:

  • Did you enjoy us chatting about Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread? Then you might want to go back and check out the show devoted to the entire Paul Thomas Anderson filmography, such as it was when we 
  • You're definitely going to want to head over to Neighbourhood Paper, where Rochelle writes about Phantom Thread and the everyday sadism of marriage.
  • Then for SBS Film, Rochelle lists some of the worst takes about Phantom Thread, and why so many reviews may have totally missed the point of the film.
  • And still on SBS Film, Rochelle goes into more detail on the glories of Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird.
  • We highly recommend you visit Andrew Kevin Walker's personal website. As he mentions on the show, you'll be able to read the first drafts of his films, including Se7en, 8mm, Sleepy Hollow, and so many others. It's an extraordinary resource, and one hell of a treasure trove.
  • If you'd like to know more about the tricky Hollywood screenwriting arbitration process, this blog post at The Bitter Script Reader should give you a good head start.
  • There are so many articles about Friedkin's Cruising, we almost didn't know where to start linking. But there are a couple of irresistible pieces, including this original New York Times report from September 1979 in which Friedkin defends the film. And then there's this entertaining tidbit regarding the missing 40 minutes of footage from the film.
  • We enjoy a good coincidence, and it was only after recording was complete that we realised actor and playwright Tracy Letts got two unrelated shouts-out in this episode: first as actor, in Lady Bird, then later as the writer of both Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2011) for Friedkin. No article to link to here, we just wanted to point it out.
  • We mention the so-called “Exorcist curse”, and because we couldn't find a satisfactory article about it, here's a link to a Bloody Disgusting article which basically refutes the whole mystery, although not really.
  • We couldn't find an archive of the Pauline Kael Boys in the Band review, but here's a New York Magazine piece that quotes it.
  • And for the record, Lee did in fact check his copy of Cruising to see if that sound reappeared at the end - and it did not! Time to reinvest in VHS.
Rochelle and Lee look at one another with deep concern as they record this month’s episode

Outro music: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield from The Exorcist (1973)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website

Hell Is For Hyphenates – February 2018

Andrew Kevin Walker joins us to talk the films of William Friedkin!

Rochelle and Lee kick off this month by looking back at some of its key releases, including Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial melodrama Phantom Thread (00:58), Ryan Coogler’s game-changing superhero film Black Panther (05:19), Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Lady Bird (11:09), and Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut biopic Molly’s Game (14:41).

Lee then welcomes this episode’s guest host, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker! They discuss how much or how little the on-screen film credits can reflect the work a screenwriter actually does on a project, the complicated system of arbitration, and what it’s like to both rewrite someone else’s work and be rewritten yourself. (18:11)

Then, Andrew takes us through the works and career of his filmmaker of the month, William Friedkin! Friedkin was one of the New Hollywood movement’s most striking voices, with a string of all-time classics to his name, as well as some very surprising and little-seen works in-between. Andrew talks about his most beloved Friedkin films, and the massive influence they had on him. (29:52)

Then Lee checks back in with Rochelle, and they wrap up the show with their thoughts on the films of William Friedkin, and what they discovered in going back through his career. (55:33)

The William Friedkin Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening's viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…


It's not a slight on William Friedkin's later career that we picked two films from the 1970s. It's just that, well, how do you not go with these titles? The French Connection is a procedural crime film best remembered for featuring one of the greatest and most tension-filled car chases of all time, but there's so much more to it than that. It's hard to think of many other films of this ilk with characters, dialogue and detail this complex, which is probably why it gets exponentially better on every viewing. Once you've finished watching the adventures of Popeye Doyle, pop on a copy of The Exorcist. If this is your first viewing, then we won't spoil the surprises that are to come. You already know its reputation as one of the most terrifying and genre-changing horror films of all time, and its impact has certainly not been lessened with time. Watch these two films back-to-back and you'll not only have the best possible night in, but you'll gain a good understanding of what made Friedkin one of the greats.

Substitutions: If you can't get or have already seen The French Connection, seek out Cruising (1980). The film about cop Al Pacino investigating a serial killer targeting gay men was controversial upon its release, and its reputation remains contentious. But the procedural detail that drove French Connection drives this film, and it's certainly one you can't afford to let pass you by. If you can't get or have already seen The Exorcist, get your hands on Sorcerer (1977). Based on the same Georges Arnaud novel that inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot's Wages of Fear (1953), Sorcerer follows a group of men tasked with transporting unstable explosives over brutally rough terrain. If you can, see it as big and as loud as possible. And try good luck extracting your fingers from the arm rests afterwards.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of William Friedkin? Then you should track down The Boys in the Band (1970). Adapted by Mart Crowley from his own play, the film is about… actually, we'll let imdb take on the responsibility of synopsising: “Tempers fray and true selves are revealed when a heterosexual is accidentally invited to a homosexual party.” It goes without saying that much of the content will look dated to a 2018 audience, but that's true of all films, and should not put you off checking it out.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, will be released on 28 February 2018.

Our Next Hyphenate Andrew Kevin Walker

Screenwriter and Hi4H February 2018 guest host Andrew Kevin Walker

1995's Se7en - or Seven if you prefer, but we're going by what the film's actual opening titles tell us - has almost been memed beyond recognition thanks to its shocking and unforgettable ending. But it remains a true classic, a work of horror and beauty that holds up to multiple re-watches. It's one of the clear highlights on the long resumés of Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and David Fincher. Not bad for your first script.

That was the film that put Andrew Kevin Walker firmly on the map, and he’s worked steadily ever since, on films such as Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Wolfman (2010) and Nerdland (2016), as well as performing uncredited rewrites on films like The Game (1997), Event Horizon (1997) and Fight Club (1999), and writing a number of high-profile but unrealised projects including a Silver Surfer film, one of the original drafts of X-Men, and an early Batman vs Superman incarnation.

But of course, all of those credits pale in comparison to his greatest achievement: guest host on the next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates!

So which filmmaker has Andrew chosen to talk about on the show?

None other than William Friedkin!

William Friedkin is one of the greats of the New Hollywood movement.

After an eclectic start to his career that included a powerful documentary about a death row inmate, an intense Harold Pinter adaptation, and a Sonny & Cher sketch movie, Friedkin became one of cinema's most striking voices, best known for his unmatched one-two-three hit of The French Connection (1971), The Exorcist (1973) and Sorcerer (1977). We don't have a list to hand of how many directors have casually tossed out three of the greatest films of all time in quick succession, but it's got to be a small club.

Friedkin's filmography includes many other well-known works, such as Cruising (1980), To Live and Die in LA (1985), Jade (1995) and Killer Joe (2011), but also a number of films that have largely slipped under the canon's radar: films like The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), The Boys in the Band (1970), The Brink's Job (1978), and Bug (2006).

So how did the director of The French Connection influence the writer of Se7en? There's only one podcast where you can find out, so be sure to join us on February 28.

Our next filmmaker of the month, William Friedkin, directs Linda Blair in The Exorcist