On Court & Off
Philip d'Antoni, a director/producer just coming off the success of 1968's San Francisco cop flick Bullitt, was the one to bring director William Friedkin on board. They were racquetball buddies, and d'Antoni knew that Friedkin was looking for his first big commercial success. D'Antoni had just read Moore's book, and was pretty sure it would make an awesome movie. Friedkin read it, and agreed.
All the other stuff Friedkin had done before was personal, quiet, "arty," and dialogue-heavy. But at some point, he began to think about the fact that films that were chiefly action, light on the dialogue, could be understood and enjoyed anywhere in the world. Car chases: the true international language.
With this thinking, Friedkin and d'Antoni headed to New York to make a movie that was action, action, action, full of fast cars, and even faster bullets.
Career Breaker to Career Maker
Once they hit New York, Friedkin and the crew set to work, improvising on the fly. They ran over their $2.8 million-dollar budget by 300 grand, but thankfully for the production team (and for Friedkin's career) the film was hit.
He went on to make The Exorcist, and be celebrated as one of the new lights of American cinema… as well as the guy to turn to if you needed to film a movie about a projectile-vomiting, demented little girl.
His career continued, riding the inertia of the American New Wave into a totally unpredictable filmography (from the dark revenge thriller To Live and Die in L.A. to a few episodes of C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation) seemingly bound only by one thing: main characters with a wavy sense of ethics.
Popeye Doyle would be very proud.