Legendary director William Friedkin talks about Killer Joe – and how Matthew McConaughey has reclaimed career

Out in cinemas today, Killer Joe is proving itself to be another highlight of William Friedkins’ career.

In the film 22 year-old Chris Smith (Hirsch) is a drug dealer down on his luck, but things are about to go from bad to worse when he hires the unexpectedly charming hit man Killer Joe (McConaughey) to murder his own mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy.

With barely a dollar to his name Chris agrees to offer up his younger sister, Dottie (Temple), as sexual collateral in exchange for Joe’s services until he receives the insurance money.

So why did Friedkin take on this dark subject matter, which start off life on the Edinburgh Fringe in the 90s as a play by Tracy Letts? (Who Friedkin worked with on Bug.)

The director told us: “I have the same worldview as the author.

“The fact that it deals with good and evil, and God and sin, and retribution and vengeance, the classic themes of the New Testament – and does so in a humorous, quite funny way, as black comedy – is something I found very appealing, because it really is about the ancient verities in the modern world.

“It’s about, as I say, the same thing that ignites a reader’s identification in the New Testament.”

In the video above, Friedkin also talks to us about the difference between the play and film – and his thoughts on blockbuster films which he “can’t watch”.

McConaughey has been better known for his roles in rom-coms and less challenging fare, but his performance as Killer Joe is something of a revelation, embodying a charming yet sinister and ruthless character.

“He is so good-looking that, when you become a movie star based on your looks, they don’t really want you to act,” explained Friedkin.

“They just want you to appear, and make love to the leading lady. But he has always had this tremendous range as an actor which had been suppressed by the system.

“He comes from the part of the United States where the story takes place. He grew up on the Texas-Oklahoma border where the film is set, and so he knew these people, and he knew the reality of these people and that situation.

“So he wanted to do it. He wanted to take control of his own career and be an actor again.”


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