“I asked him if he loved me”: William Friedkin Slapped Hard One Exorcist Star For The Most Ridiculous Reason That Made Actor Thank Director Later

Director William Friedkin took an extraordinary step when one of his actors couldn’t perform well

William Friedkin Slapped Hard One Exorcist Star For The Most Ridiculous Reason That Made Actor Thank Director Later


  • William Friedkin slapped a star from The Exorcist because he couldn't get one scene right
  • He explained that the actor just couldn't get it right even after numerous takes
  • This compelled him to take the extraordinary step of slapping him!
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The late legend William Friedkin used to be one of the best filmmakers from the years following the 1960s to the early 2010s. Although renowned for his movies like The Exorcist and The French Connection the best, the director cum producer was also quite famous for the old-school and notoriously candid methods he used while in the director’s chair.

The Late William Friedkin
The Late William Friedkin

In fact, Friedkin was even more than willing to get under his actor’s skin just to get the most perfect performance out of him. And that’s exactly what he did to two stars from his two top-rated films: A Priest from The Exorcist (1973) and the actor Gene Hackman from The French Connection (1971). 

Also Read: Oscar-Winning Director of ‘The Exorcist’ Hated Making Films, Claimed It’s Mentally and Physically Exhausting Due To “Technical Problems”


William Friedkin Once Slapped A Priest From The Exorcist Across The Face

A still from The Exorcist (1973)
A still from The Exorcist (1973)

Also Read: “The worst 40 minutes of film I’ve ever seen”: William Friedkin Absolutely Despised ‘The Exorcist’ Sequel for One Reason That Tainted His Legacy

During an interview from 2011 with George Stroumboulopoulos on the show George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, William Friedkin was asked if he had ever used physical force on his actors just to get the performance out of them that he wanted. To this, he shared the story of when he slapped a star from The Exorcist because he couldn’t get one scene right.

“He was not an actor, he was a priest,” Friedkin admitted. “And it was four o’clock in the morning, we were freezing and he had to give the last rites to his friend who had just plunged from [the] top of a flight of steps.”

Continuing, he shared how it wasn’t easy for anyone because of the weather and it got even more ugly as the Priest just couldn’t get it right even after numerous takes.


“The crew was there and freezing. And we did about 25-30 takes, [but] he wasn’t getting it. He couldn’t reach the emotional point.”

Something had to be done. And that something, according to Friedkin, was to slap hard the Priest to get the desired emotional reaction out of him.

“I had read that other great directors had [slapped people to get them to read the proper lines] — John Ford, George Stevens. So I took him by the shoulders and I asked him if he loved me and if he trusted me and he said, ‘You know I do, Bill,’” he remembered. “And I told the cameras to get ready and I hit him as hard as I could across the face, I said, ‘Roll it,’ and he went right into this scene. The shock of it brought forth the tears and afterward, he embraced me and thanked me.”

But that wasn’t the only case where William Friedkin had gone out of his way just to get the desired performance from his actors.

Also Read: Why The Exorcist (1973) Is Still One of The Scariest Films Ever Made


William Friedkin Kept Gene Hackman Constantly Angry On The Sets Of The French Connection

Gene Hackman in a still from The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman in a still from The French Connection (1971)

Continuing in the interview, the late legend then went on to share how another actor proved to be trouble to him while working on The French Connection: Gene Hackman.

“Gene [Hackman] did not really want to go to the dark side of that cop because Gene is very liberal, he didn’t take really well to using the N-word, and beating up suspects and all that, which was the truth about that cop. And Gene didn’t want to go there.”

Thus, to get him to do exactly what he wanted, William Friedkin had Hackman constantly angry on the sets throughout the shoot of the 1971 blockbuster.

“Gene and I had a constant tug of war,” he continued, “where I had to get him angry. And he’s angry throughout that picture.”

Just like that, the late legendary visionary William Friedkin produced the most perfect of films that never ceased to leave an indelible mark on his worldwide audiences.


Written by Mahin Sultan

Articles Published: 1111

Mahin Sultan is a News Content Writer at FandomWire. With almost one year's worth of experience in her field, she has explored and attained a deep understanding of numerous topics in various niches, mostly entertainment.

An all-things-good enthusiast, Mahin is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Commerce, and her love for entertainment has given her a solid foundation of reporting in the same field. Besides being a foodie, she loves to write and spends her free time either with her nose buried in a good book or binging on COD or K-dramas, anime, new movies, and TV serials (the awesome ones, obviously).

So far, Mahin's professional portfolio has more than 500 articles written on various niches, including Entertainment, Health and wellbeing, and Fashion and trends, among others.