Back in the seventies William Friedkin was the well-known bankable director of such highly successful films as The Exorcist and The French Connection. Friedkin admits that he let it all go to his head, made many wrong choices, and often treated people terribly. “When you are immune to the feelings of others,” he asks right at the start, “ can you be a good father, a good husband, a good friend?” Well, why would anyone want to spend a couple of hours reading the memoirs of an admitted self-absorbed jerk who isn't exactly one of the Giants of Cinema despite a couple of well-known movies? Well, there are several reasons. This is a must read for aspiring directors who need to know just how Hollywood works and the business of filmmaking and how it often interferes with the art of cinema. Friedkin lived through it all, and has plenty of info and anecdotes to deliver to those seeking a career in this wonderful and crazy profession. Other readers will appreciate the inside look at Hollywood and the behind-the scenes struggles of making a couple of famous movies, whether or not they are among their personal favorites. You are taken inside the mind of a typical director, understanding his struggles and attitudes, how he agonizes over casting choices, picking just the right cinematographer, and a dozen other things that can severely affect how a movie will work out and how it will be received by critics and public. Friedkin never thought Gene Hackman was really delivering for him while filming The French Connection and relates how the actor just didn't like and couldn't relate to his character. You'll learn how a bit actor in The Exorcist became a murderer whose horrible exploits inspired, in part, Freidkin's excoriated film with Pacino [with whom he did not relate at all], Cruising. [He also directed The Boys in the Band.] Later on Friedkin became a director of operas, despite the fact he had never been to the opera! Friedkin mostly stays away from his personal life, which probably wouldn't interest most readers anyway, but is honest about his reduced standing in the industry and the affect in status of simply growing older. This is well-written and very entertaining.
Verdict: A good bet for film enthusiasts and a must-read for aspiring directors. ***1/2.