Friedkin Talks “Exorcist” Sequels, Praises “IT”

In a new and lengthy interview with Indiewire, “Sorcerer” and “The French Connection” filmmaker William Friedkin has confirmed that he’s never seen any of the other films or shows in “The Exorcist” franchise.

Friedkin directed the first one, considered one of the greatest films of all time, while the follow-ups by other directors have yielded mostly divisive reaction. John Frankenheimer’s second film was widely panned, but certainly was quite different and has garnered a few key fans over the years including Martin Scorsese.

William Peter Blatty’s third one has grown a cult audience as well and is now often praised despite the various compromises it suffered – a director’s cut of it hit disc last year. Both versions of the prequel-set fourth film were not well regarded, while the TV series has proven fairly well-received if poorly rated. Of all of them, Friedkin has only seen a bit of the second film:

“I never saw any of the ‘Exorcist’ films, not even Bill’s [William Blatty, author of ‘The Exorcist’ novel]. I saw a few minutes of ‘Exorcist II,’ but that was only because I was in the Technicolor lab timing a film that I had directed – I forget which one – and one of the color timers at Technicolor said, hey, we just made a print of ‘Exorcist II,’ would you like to have a look at it? I said OK. I went in, and after five minutes, it just blasted me. I couldn’t take it. I thought it was just ridiculous and stupid. But that was only five minutes, so I can’t make an ultimate judgement about it. It just seemed to me to have nothing to do with ‘The Exorcist’.

I know Bill [Blatty] did one, which was not meant to be called ‘Exorcist III.’ It was from another novel he’d written called ‘Legion.’ I had no interest. I loved Bill Blatty. I dedicated my documentary to him and we remained close friends to his death. But I know that he had to make a lot of compromises – he had to put an exorcism scene in there, which he never intended, so that the producers could call it ‘Exorcist III’.”

Of course horror these days is focused on other things, with this year’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “IT” becoming the most successful horror movie of all time at the box-office – not accounting for inflation. Friedkin reveals he has seen the film and really enjoyed it, but points out the film can’t come close to the number of tickets sold by his original film:

“I thought it was a little bit over the top, but ‘IT’ was really good. The clown was pretty scary stuff. I really like it. But here’s the thing. It will never have as many admissions as ‘The Exorcist’ in terms of people who came to see it. The price of a ticket when ‘The Exorcist’ came out was probably on average less than two dollars; I think today it’s closer to nine.

Neither ‘The Exorcist’ nor any of the other films that made a lot of money will ever have as many viewers as ‘Gone with the Wind‘ or ‘Birth of a Nation.’ I think it cost 15 cents or a quarter to see. So you can’t talk about how many people saw this more than something else because of the difference in the value of money. But it’s kind of unusual for Warner Bros. to get behind a story like that because ‘The Exorcist’ has been such an important film to them. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Still, I liked ‘IT.’ I thought it was terrific.”

Friedkin recently directed the documentary “The Devil and Father Amorth” and his last narrative feature was 2011’s “Killer Joe”.