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62 Street Station

Saga The French Connection
Movie The French Connection William Friedkin (1971)
Filmed between France and the United States, French Connection remains popular for its amazing chase through the streets of New York. A true piece of bravura orchestrated by a visionary William Friedkin whose work has contributed to turning the codes upside down...
62 Street Station New York
62 Street Station New York - Photo credit: Fantrippers

I didn’t write it down. It wasn’t in any script. We had no permits to shoot the chase. None. We had no permits from the city to be on the streets at all.

William Friedkin

It all started with the novel French Connection by Robin Moore. Published in 1969 in the United States, the book focuses on the investigation of two New York policemen concerning drug trafficking from Marseille. The story is based on real events that took place on both sides of the Atlantic, which the media soon dubbed the “French Connection”. William Friedkin then took the book and made what many considered his first masterpiece.

Anxious to remain realistic, the filmmaker adopts a staging style close to documentary, hand-held camera, with natural lights, in the places directly concerned. The roles given to the actors are directly inspired by the real protagonists of the French Connection…

While he sees Paul Newman, James Caan, Charles Bronson or Steve McQueen to play the central character, namely Popeye Doyle, William Friedkin, initially reluctant, gives his chance to Gene Hackman. “Phil and I met him for lunch in the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel on a Friday. He seemed humorless. I almost fell asleep at the lunch.“, the director recalled in his autobiography.

However, the chemistry takes and the whole team ends up taking to the streets of New York to shoot what history will remember as one of the greatest car chases of the seventh art. The scene was given to the director by his friend Howard Hawks. Retaining the idea, he had entirely conceived it with his producer Philip D’Antoni, during a walk on Park Avenue, heading south…

Wishing to use an aerial subway line for this sequence, William Friedkin obtained permission to use a section of the Stillwell Avenue line, connecting Bay Fiftieth to 62nd Street in Brooklyn. Thirty-five days of shooting are necessary. Stuntman Bill Hickman is driving. For the close-ups, Gene Hackman’s reactions are filmed separately. While the actor is driving, the director yells instructions to him on a walkie-talkie, both to allow him to adapt, but mostly to surprise him in order to gain realism.

Throughout the process, several accidents occurred, but they were not serious, forcing the technicians to constantly tinker with the Pontiac. The car is thus damaged when Popeye arrives below the 62 Street Station where the chase ends in a shootout with mobster Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi), shot at the top of the steps.

Composed of five successive stunts, this high-risk chase, seen by Friedkin as a metaphor for Popeye’s obsession, contributed to the film’s popularity. The filmmaker did not rest on his laurels and followed up with The Exorcist, writing yet another decisive page in his history… and in ours.

5

That’s how many Oscars French Connection won in 1972, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Gene Hackman.

62 St

Opened in June 1916, the 62 St subway station is located on a track originally intended to connect to Coney Island. It was renovated from October 2010 to May 2012.

Go there

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Did you know that?
Did you know that the filming of Rage Against The Machine’s Music Now in the Fire caused Wall Street to shut down for the first time since 1929?

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By Gilles Rolland

Friday, December 3, 2021

Passionné de cinéma, de rock and roll, de séries TV et de littérature. Rédacteur de presse et auteur des livres Le Heavy Metal au cinéma, Paroles de fans Guns N' Roses, Paroles de fans Rammstein et Welcome to my Jungle : 100 albums rock et autres anecdotes dépareillées. Adore également voyager à la recherche des lieux les plus emblématiques de la pop culture.

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