Several figures in the horror film industry paid tribute to The Exorcist director William Friedkin, including the film's star Ellen Burstyn and Blumhouse founder Jason Blum.

Friedkin passed away on Monday at the age of 87. Burstyn, who starred as Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist as well as its upcoming sequel, issued a statement calling Friedkin a dear friend and a genius. “My friend Bill Friedkin was an original; smart, cultured, fearless and wildly talented," Burstyn said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter. "On the set, he knew what he wanted, would go to any length to get it and was able to let it go if he saw something better happening. He was undoubtedly a genius.”

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Blum, whose studio Blumhouse Productions is creating an upcoming trilogy of Exorcist sequels, also made a public statement paying tribute to Friedkin. The producer cited Friedkin as a profound influence on the horror genre as a whole. “I am personally indebted to William Friedkin and saddened by his loss," Blum said. "More than any other filmmaker, he changed both the way directors approached horror films and also the perception of horror films in the broader culture. We are deeply saddened to hear of his passing and intensely grateful for the body of work he has left behind.”

Friedkin began his film career in the 1960s directing documentaries, although his first big hit was the 1970 neo-noir thriller The French Connection. The film stars Gene Hackman as an NYPD detective pursuing a French heroin dealer, and it won five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. Shortly after, Friedkin adapted William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist into a film in 1973. The Exorcist stars Burstyn as the mother of a young girl named Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), who becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu and begins undergoing grotesque transformations. It became the first horror film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and the film is considered a classic in the horror genre.

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William Friedkin Dies Months Ahead of The Exorcist Getting a New Sequel

The upcoming sequel, The Exorcist: Believer, was first announced back announced in Aug. 2020 as the first of three sequels. The film was initially reported to be a complete reboot of the franchise before Blum joined the project as a producer and clarified that the film would be a direct continuation of the original 1973 film. Believer is being directed by David Gordon Green, who also directed the recent trilogy of Halloween films including the 2022 film Halloween Ends. Burstyn will reprise her role of Chris MacNeil in the new film, which follows a family who seeks out MacNeil after discovering possible signs of demonic possession in their children.

The Exorcist: Believer is set to be released on Oct. 13, 2023, the 50th anniversary of the original film's release.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter