Sorcerer Studio Notes

William Friedkin recounts a tale of how he handled studio notes on Sorcerer. This must have been an uncomfortable lunch for the editorial team:

"[Barry] Diller asked if he and [Sid] Sheinberg could see me the next day to pass along a few notes from their team. Since The French Connection experience I wasn’t keen on notes from executives. So I said okay, but I’d want to bring my editors and the writer so they could hear the notes firsthand. Diller and Sheinberg weren’t used to meeting with “below-the-title” guys, but they reluctantly agreed, thinking it was in the spirit of cooperation. It was a sham.

I told Wally [Walon Green, Screenwriter] and Bud [Smith, Editor] and the assistant editors, Jere Huggins and Ned Humphreys, to come unshaven, button their shirts incorrectly, leaving them outside their trousers, wear scruffy, mismatched shoes and socks, and generally look like homeless guys. I told them to wear sullen expressions, project indifference, not smile or nod or do anything that showed understanding, let alone agreement with whatever the executives said—just stare blankly at them while they talked. And don’t react to anything I might say or do, I added. Sheinberg and Diller were successful, high-powered executives, but I felt they had little to offer on how to improve a film I worked on for over a year. I thought that an audience’s response was worth a thousand times more than any executive’s, and that all these guys wanted to do was leave their mark on the film, like a dog pissing on a tree.

The meeting took place over lunch at the posh private dining room at Universal. Sheinberg and Diller were in suits and ties, and my guys were dressed as I had instructed them. Two waiters. Drink orders. Everyone ordered iced tea or bottled water or Diet Coke except me. I asked for a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, no glass. Shocked glances all around, especially from the waiters, who thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. When drinks arrived, I opened the vodka bottle and started glugging. Though not a drinker, I can handle booze and have only been drunk twice in my life. Diller and Sheinberg had a handful of meaningless notes, to which we gave neither visual nor verbal response. Lunch was ordered, but when it arrived, I just kept drinking from the bottle. After about fifteen minutes I fell to the floor facedown. No one reacted, so I just lay there until gradually there was silence. Then Diller turned to Wally and the editors and asked, “Does this happen often?”

“Every day,” Wally deadpanned.

I leave it to you to evaluate this incident. Some of you may find it appalling, others stupid, still others insulting and self-destructive. It was certainly all of that, but at the time, that was my nature. I was still the class clown, and it was also a dumb-ass way of coping with criticism. I wouldn’t want to be treated that way myself."

From William Friedkin's “The Friedkin Connection”

Editing, Film, FriedkinDMcM