A Perfect Storm Of Problems Led To The Failure Of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer

The making of “Sorcerer” did indeed resemble the movie itself: a long, arduous, dangerous trek through treacherous territory that was ultimately completed, only for the bleak, unforgiving sorcerer of fate to be waiting at the finish line.

The particular sorcerer awaiting “Sorcerer” was a spacefaring wizard known as a Jedi Knight. Released a month before Friedkin’s film debuted in theaters, George Lucas’ “Star Wars” became a box office phenomenon and permanently changed the direction of Hollywood and the taste of general audiences. “‘Star Wars’ took all the theaters and the audience. It was in the right place at the right time, and ‘Sorcerer’ was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Friedkin mused in his memoir.

Indeed, the success of Lucas’ blockbuster paean to old genre movie serials was an indication of a change of tone in the industry, from the downbeat ’60s/’70s New Hollywood fare to films that were more crowd-pleasing. “Sorcerer” was so roundly rejected by audiences in the summer of 1977 that the movie which set the world’s imagination on fire was soon reinstated into theaters that Friedkin’s film failed to pack. As Friedkin told the Los Angeles Times in 2013, “‘Star Wars’ went into the Chinese [theater in Hollywood], but they had to take it out after a week because ‘Sorcerer’ was booked. Within weeks, ‘Sorcerer’ was kicked out, and ‘Star Wars’ went back in.”

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