Inside Move: ‘Samson’ carries ‘Exorcist’ helmer to Mideast

Opera is another medium for director Friedkin

Film is not the only medium that’s getting biblical these days.

Director William Friedkin is in Tel Aviv finalizing details on a production of Camille Saint-Saens’ “Sampson and Delilah,” which he’s directing for the Israel Opera Company. The opera will bow in the spring of 2005.

This isn’t Friedkin’s first venture East. In the early 1970s, parts of “The Exorcist” were filmed in Iraq.

Friedkin insists he doesn’t seek out tension-filled environments, it’s just that, “When I decide I want to do something I just go and do it.”

And while he admits the Mideast is not as peaceful as a Hollywood lot (relatively speaking), he says he’s not that worried about his safety.

“I’m not going over there to do politics. I’m going over to stage an opera,” he says. “Since I don’t live there, I don’t tell them what they ought to be doing politically.”

The “French Connection” helmer has become a steady working hyphenate (film-opera) ever since he directed Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” in Turin, in 1999.

Five years later he’s looking at a slateful of arias. In 2005 he’s returning to Turin to direct “Aida,” and the following year he’ll be in Munich doing Richard Strauss’ “Salome,” as well as an original libretto by David Henry Hwang for the Los Angeles Opera Company.

Not that Friedkin is turning his back on film.

Upcoming projects include “Coco and Igor,” about the love affair between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, and crime-thriller “Serpentine” for Paramount.

“Opera is a wonderful adjunct to my work in film,” he says, pointing out that European directors have long had a tradition of working simultaneously in film, theater and opera.

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