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Publicist John Friedkin dies at 81

Exec worked on campaigns for 'Julia,' 'Alien'

Veteran publicist and studio exec John Friedkin died May 11 of respiratory failure in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Friedkin moved from heading the New York office of Rogers & Cowan in the mid-1960s to become VP of of Advertising, Publicity and Promotion for 20th Century Fox, where he worked on campaigns for films such as “Star Wars,” “Alien,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Julia,” “The Turning Point” and all of Mel Brooks’ films beginning with “Young Frankenstein.” While at Fox he moved from New York to Hollywood, where the studios were consolidating their operations.

In 1979,  he moved to Warner Bros. to become VP of International Advertising and Publicity. Among the films he was involved with there were “Blade Runner,” “Altered States,” “The Right Stuff,” and the Oscar-winning “Chariots of Fire.” The surprise hit “Mad Max” led to his relationship with director George Miller.

Born in New York, Friedkin graduated Columbia U. He started out as an adman with the Young & Rubicam agency and then launched an entertainment public relations company with Gabe Sumner; their first client was Tony Bennett.

Sumner + Friedkin Associates represented the show “Playhouse 90,” as well as writers such as Paddy Chayefsky and Horton Foote. Their clients ranged from Broadway figures including Rodgers and Hammerstein, David Merrick and Manny Azenberg to musicians such as Benny Goodman, comedians including Buddy Hackett and Joey Bishop and authors John D. MacDonald and Budd Schulberg.

After his stints at Fox and Warners, Friedkin became an independent consultant with clients including New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures Classics and Miramax. He was reunited with Miller in 1992 on “Lorenzo’s Oil,” for which he served as associate producer.  

Miller served as unit publicist in austraila for Miller’s “Babe” and returned to advise Universal on the Oscar campaign for the film.  “Babe” received seven nominations, including picture and director for George Miller and film editing for Friedkin’s son, Jay Friedkin. He also served as publicity consultant on the sequel, “Babe: Pig in the City.”

Friedkin was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and volunteered annually for the Foreign Language Film Selection Committee. 

He is survived by his wife, Tatiana; son, Jay, a film editor; a brother and a sister. 

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