Back in July, a terrific three-part interview with William Friedkin (by Brad Brevet) appeared on the Rope Of Silicon site. Part Two featured a bit on Sorcerer. The image is a “hypothetical” Criterion Collection package designed by Robert Nishimura.
What is the status of Sorcerer? I know there is a lawsuit and based on what I’ve read it sounded like maybe you have a copy of the film that perhaps you aren’t allowed to show?
William Friedkin: No. In fact the two studios that I’m suing — Universal and Paramount — both said to my lawyers before the trial has even begun, “Alright, Mr. Friedkin is free to run his print.” My print is no good. It’s a 35mm print that’s completely faded as they all do.
No, Universal and Paramount have claimed they don’t know who owns Sorcerer anymore. There’s a bunch of new, young lawyers there, the company has changed hands three or four times since I made it — both studios — and the new, young lawyers that work there have no idea of the legacy of the studios.
So for about 40 years, slightly under 40 years, Sorcerer has been screened everywhere that’s requested it, at universities around the world, at film societies, at art house theaters, film clubs and it has always been granted. Last year it was run at the American Cinematheque and I was there, where they had just made a beautiful, new 35mm print of it that I thought was great. I did a Q&A, packed house, lines around the block and now, this year, they claim they don’t know who owns the picture.
So we’re suing them to find that out. It’s in Federal Court, in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and we’ve asked them to produce the documents to show who does own it because they claim they don’t.
Has there been any talk with Criterion to get them to release a restored version?
Friedkin: I can’t do that until I get control of it. They say they don’t know who owns it! So part of my claim is, well then I own it. I’m a percentage owner of the picture and I just want it to be seen by the people who want to see it and if there are any profits from the new version I’ve promised to donate them to film preservation.