In 1977, movie director William Friedkin was hot off the success of 1971's Oscar-winning The French Connection and 1973's The Exorcist, a massive commercial hit that also pulled in 10 Oscar nominations of its own.
His follow-up was the moody, tense thriller Sorcerer, an adaptation of the French book The Wages of Fear (which had already been made into a movie once, in 1953), in which four men, for various reasons, are hired to drive trucks full of highly unstable nitroglycerin through the South American jungle. The movie ended up a major financial disappointment.
In the years since Sorcerer's initial release, it has taken on a cult status, and has recently been completely remastered and released in a blu-ray edition, which has prompted special screenings around the country, including July 14 and 15 at the Warren Theatre in Old Town.
William Friedkin, who will be holding a Q&A via Skype following the 7:00 showing on July 14, recently spoke with KMUW's Fletcher Powell about the genesis of Sorcerer, its early lack of success and its more recent "rediscovery."
William Friedkin... on why he chose Sorcerer in the first place:
"We thought it was a universal theme, the idea of four strangers who disliked one another intensely, but had to cooperate in order to survive. And that seemed, to me, to be a metaphor for the world."
On Sorcerer's early disappointment:
"I had enjoyed recent success. And when that happens to you, especially at a younger age, as a filmmaker, you begin to think you’re bulletproof, and that everything you touch is going to turn to gold. And I was rather quickly dispelled of that notion… It came out at the same time as Star Wars, and Star Wars changed the entire zeitgeist of film making and film viewing. Star Wars opened under the radar, and Sorcerer was expected to be a big hit... When you make something—a film, a novel, a painting, a poem, whatever it may be—you do it out of some inner necessity. Whether it works financially and critically is not something you can control… (Sorcerer) is the film that came closest to my vision of it…. I can still watch Sorcerer, I still love the film."
On the Sorcerer "rediscovery":
"After it was released in 1977, its reputation grew across the world… by younger critics and audiences who sought it out whenever it was being rerun, and… over the years, it has been remembered fondly by people who either saw it at the time or heard about it and got ahold of very bad prints of it, and it acquired a reputation far beyond the initial response to it."
William Friedkin talks about meeting with Henri-Georges Clouzot, director of the 1953 The Wages of Fear, and about his own feelings about "remakes":
Friedkin talks about how digital processing has revolutionized what can be done with picture and color, and how it helped him bring Sorcerer even closer to his original vision:
Friedkin discusses the years following The Exorcist and the difficulty of translating an American film for other languages and cultures.
Friedkin expresses his admiration for the current trend toward edgy, long-form cable TV dramas: