William Friedkin Sues Paramount, Universal Over 'Sorcerer' Ownership

The director of the 1977 thriller demands answers as to who owns his film.
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William Friedkin

Oscar-winning director William Friedkin is baffled by why he's not being allowed to screen his 1977 thriller Sorcerer and is suing Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios over rights to exploit the film.

Friedkin filed his complaint Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks a declaration on his rights.

The director, who won an Oscar in 1972 for The French Connection and was nominated again in 1974 for The Exorcist, followed those films up in 1977 with Sorcerer, starring Roy Scheider about a bunch of criminals who end up in South America and must transport highly volatile nitroglycerin to an oil well that has exploded. The Wages of Fear remake got decent reviews but was a box-office disappointment.

Thirty-five years later, Friedkin reports that he's often asked for assistance in obtaining prints of the film and to speak at screenings, but he's been frustrated by Paramount and Universal's alleged dodginess to identify what rights, if any, either company has over Sorcerer.

The companies co-produced the $22 million film, and both have had rights to the picture. But now, Freidkin says there's uncertainty.

"Each has recently disclaimed rights to exploit the picture in the United States and admitted ignorance as to who, if anyone, currently has such rights," says the lawsuit. "Bafflingly, however, defendants persist in denying that Friedkin has any rights to exploit the picture."

Friedkin is now stepping up to say he has rights to exploit the film, which amounts to a challenge to the film companies to dig through the paperwork and, if they want, make a claim.

However, such a move could come at a price.

Friedkin also says in the complaint that he hasn't received a profit-participation statement or accounting regarding the film in more than 20 years.

No response yet from Universal and Paramount.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner