William Friedkin Interview
William Friedkin Interview
I have a fairly good idea as to what the answer to this is going to be but what was the hardest scene to film?

William Friedkin

Oh, probably the motorcycle chase, because it involved real danger to all the people involved including one of my leads, Emile Hirsch. It was a dangerous thing to do, it looks like it’s flawless when you see it, and it looks like these guys knew what they were doing. But there was always that element of if something went wrong, someone would get hurt. Thank God, they didn’t.
Did you cut anything out, that you were sorry to lose?

William Friedkin

No. This is my cut. The ratings board in America wanted me to severely cut the picture to get an R Rating and I refused. I thought they were a bunch of idiots. Completely subjective, self-governing group without any written standards. And there was virtually nothing I could do to get less than the most draconian rating in the States.
Have you seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated? The documentary?

William Friedkin

Yes, I have. It’s very good. And it’s very true. We don’t know the names of the people on the rating board, they’re completely anonymous.
We have those problems with the BBFC here, but at least we know who’s behind it.

William Friedkin

Well, Killer Joe in the UK got an 18, with no cuts asked for. And that’s what it should be! I have no problem with that. I don’t want twelve or thirteen year old kids seeing this film. The fact is that many of them will see it, at home.
There’ll be chicken videos on YouTube and it’ll be all your fault ...

William Friedkin

Yeah! Look, one day they’ll see it. The ratings board can’t prevent that. And by the way, the ratings board in America has no legal standing. Does it here?
Yeah, I think so.

William Friedkin

They’re a legal organisation. In America, it’s not a legal organisation, it’s a self-governing group that mostly lets the member companies of the Motion Picture Association of America do whatever they damn please! You never see an NC-17 for that!
We have to talk about the chicken scene. Did you know that Entertainment catered every screening in the UK with KFC beforehand?

William Friedkin

Well, let me just say that we’re not using Kentucky Fried Chicken. We don’t have their permission and it’s called ‘K-Fry-C’ in the film. And I’m sorry to have to say that Gina Gershon used Popeye’s Chicken in the scene. I happen to love Kentucky Fried Chicken. I think it’s fantastic. But we never even sought their permission to get authority to show their product in the film.
How much of the credit do you take for discovering Michael Shannon with Bug? That was certainly the first time I took notice of his name ...

William Friedkin

I would have to say that I recognised Michael Shannon. If anyone discovered him it would be Tracy Letts who actually met Michael Shannon on a park bench in Chicago, many years ago, when Michael Shannon was unemployed and had no idea of what direction he should take with his life. And Tracy Letts used to frequent this park, and he would see Michael Shannon on occasion, and got to talking to him, 'cos he’s a very open and very warm guy.

And he got to talking to Shannon, and he found him interesting. And he said, ‘You know, you should take some acting classes, you might have talent as an actor’. He pushed Michael in that direction and shortly after, wound up writing some plays for him. He wrote Bug with Michael Shannon in mind. I had many Hollywood stars who wanted to play that part, who the studio wanted to use. But I held out for Michael Shannon because I thought I didn’t need to direct him - he was there.

As with Juno Temple - she’s a young girl from the UK but she understood this young woman in Texas, because there’s a universality about well-crafted characters. They exist everywhere. These situations exist everywhere. I imagine we could walk a few blocks from where we are, and discover similar situations.
What are you working on next?

William Friedkin

I just finished my memoirs. That took me two and a half years to write. They’re being published next year in the United States called Connections. It’s an allusion to The French Connection. But what it’s really about is the people I met along the way who led me from here to there to there. It’s more about the people who took a hand in the guidance of my career, and the grace of God, which is another connection that led me to become a filmmaker.
One last question - how old is Juno Temple’s character supposed to be in the film?

William Friedkin

Twenty-one. In the scene where Matthew is making love to her, he says ‘How old are you now?’ and she says ‘Twelve.’ And he says, ‘So am I.’ Twelve was when she had her first love in school. And she believes that her experience with Killer Joe at that time is reminiscent of the first time she was ever in love. Juno, in fact, turned twenty one a week before we shot the film, and I actually postponed the start date of the film for her to become twenty one. Otherwise I might be doing this interview in shackles.
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Content updated: 07/12/2019 04:31

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