EXCLUSIVE: William Friedkin Says No to The Exorcist in 3D
With the success of Avatar, everything is now being filmed in 3D. Even films that weren't originally envisioned with this new technology in mind, like the upcoming Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, are now being converted before their official release date. This has a lot of directors returning to their older films with the idea of also converting them over to 3D. George Lucas has expressed a keen desire to release all six of his Star Wars films in 3D. And Steven Spielberg is tinkering with the idea of converting Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws. These are just a few of the old classics that could get the 3D treatment in the next few years. One movie we won't see returning to theater screens rendered in this new immersive technology though is William Friedkin's The Exorcist.
Warner Bros. has expressed interest in converting the film over sometime in the near future, but the director doesn't like the idea of 3D at all. Though, he is toying with the possibilities of re-releasing the film on IMAX. One thing is for certain, the classic horror film will definitely be remastered and cleaned-up for its Blu-ray debut this fall. While promoting the newly restored Blu-ray release of To Live and Die in L.A., we chatted with Friedkin about not wanted to return to The Exorcist in 3D, and his overall dislike of this new technology. We also chatted about the possibility of an The Exorcist remake. Here is what the director had to say:
I want to know what your reaction is when Warner Bros. comes to you and says, "We want the Exorcist to be in 3D"? Are you going to sit there and go through that whole process yourself? Or are you going to turn it over to someone else?
William Friedkin: No. Never. Providing I'm still alive. Warner Bros. is obligated to come to me. And they do. The point is, it's a totally different medium. I currently have control over every single frame of film when converting it to Blu-ray. If I want a scene bluer, I get that scene bluer. Originally, there was some fluctuation with the prints. If you made a thousand, or a few thousand prints, there is no control over any of that. But now I can make a master using the digital process. That gives me total control over how I want the film to look in this new process. The films now look like they did when I was first looking through the viewfinder. Every time you run a 35mm print, it picks up scratches. It picks up dirt. Sometimes it breaks, and you have to re-splice it. You lose frames. This doesn't happen with digital, or God knows, Blu-ray. Yes, there has been talk about expanding The Exorcist into various other mediums. The Exorcist Blu-ray is coming out this fall. But we talked about going to IMAX with it. Nothing is certain yet. They've tried to exploit The Exorcist in all sorts of media. I think that's great. Because I love the new media.
Wait. So you are okay with the film being in 3D? Or is that one aspect of the new media that will never happen?
William Friedkin: I don't like 3D. I don't believe there is any film that I have seen and loved that would have been improved by a scintilla in 3D. To me, it's just a gimmick. To me, the art of cinema is the same as the art of painting. The artist takes a 2D medium and gives you the illusion of depth. If you look at any of the great paintings, you have the illusion of depth. Which is part of the art. The same with the great movies. I don't believe that Citizen Kane or Gone With the Wind, or any damn picture that you can name, would be better off in 3D. I think it's a gimmick. And it reminds me of what happened when Cinemascope came in . When everybody predicted that every picture ever made was going to be in Cinemascope. Because it's not that way. It was meant to get people out of the house. I find 3D distracting. I'm in the minority, I know.
I find that I am constantly looking at the effect more than I am looking at what is actually going on within the effect. It always pulls me out of the story.
William Friedkin: Of course it does. You don't need great actors to do a 3D picture. All of this condescending stuff that they put out? "Oh, we will always need actors." Bullshit! They are able to take anybody and put some markers on them, and have them walk through an empty room. Then they paint in the background. They can put in the Vatican. Or the Louvre. They can put you in outer space. Whatever they dream up. A very telling thing? Where are the acting nominations for Avatar?
They're not there. Even though some people predicted Zoe Saldana might get nominated. The same thing happened with Golem in The Lord of the Rings.
William Friedkin: Of course. Now, those are spectacular looking things. To me, the art of movies is to take a two-dimensional image and give the illusion of depth. The art of movies is also to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief. They need to use their imaginations.
3D in the homes is supposed to be the next big thing. And we will surely see more films converted to 3D in the future.
William Friedkin: Fuck 3D! The Blu-ray is the real cinematech of world cinema. That's how it's being preserved. All of these guys that are trying to preserve 35mm negatives? They are wasting their time. There are better ways to see and project this stuff now. It's called digital. Everything that is made today is made that way. In a few years, I don't know how many, I'm not a prognosticator like Oliver Stone, who I happen to like, by the way...But an announcement like, "It's only going to last ten years!" He doesn't know his ass from left field. Nobody does. We don't know how long this stuff will last. But we know that before it goes out of style, there will be some new thing to replace it. There will be some little disc the size of a quarter that will give you the best looking image imaginable.
In the past they've tried to remake the Exorcist. There are murmurings of this in the press all the time. What is your take on an Exorcist remake, and would you partake in anyway if that were to happen?
William Friedkin: It is what it is. Billy Wilder said it best. You should never really remake a picture. If a picture was great, it will stand. And you can't top it. If it was a piece of shit, why would you want to do it again? I'm pretty sure that with the way things are going, and the lack of imagination that exists amongst the major studios these days, they are going to eventually remake everything. That is the way of the world. In many ways it doesn't bother me. It's like a new recording of something. Many years ago, the great conductors did some great recordings of Beethoven's Symphony. Today, there are great conductors still doing Beethoven's Symphony. They sound just as good or better. So, yes. Someone could go out and make The Exorcist better than I did. Let me put it to you this way. All of the sequels suck. All of the fucking sequels of it? I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire. They are all shit. One of the reasons they are is because the people that made them have no belief in the original story. It was about shtick and putting their own imprimatur on it rather than a belief in the story, or an understanding of what that story was about. Which was faith. Sure, you could go out and make Jaws today. But all of the sequels to Jaws weren't good. They are all worthless. The Godfather II is the only sequel that I have ever seen that is as good as or better than the original. Possibly. It is as good.
What about the Empire Strikes Back?
William Friedkin: I'm not a fan of that. That is not for me. That is for my nephews and nieces. I don't get it.