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From 'Popeye' Doyle to Puccini: William Friedkin

Acclaimed film director William Friedkin is perhaps best known for his 1971 film, The French Connection. He won an Oscar for directing the gritty tale of New York narcotics cop, Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle.

Friedkin went on to direct The Exorcist, and his latest film is Bug, starring Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr.

But a few years ago, he took up another art form: opera.

Although Friedkin, 71, had listened to plenty of opera, he says he had never been to one — until his friend, the conductor Zubin Mehta, suggested that he try directing one.

Currently, he's directing a double bill at the Washington National Opera: Puccini's one-act comedy, Gianni Schicchi and Bartok's one-act Bluebeard's Castle.

Friedkin describes Puccini's "outrageously hilarious" Gianni Schicchi, and explains what Puccini and the Marx Brothers have in common and the difference between stars of opera and film.

He also talks about why directing is a "young man's game" and recalls the filming of The French Connection's legendary car-chase scene on the streets of Coney Island — and why he would never do it again.

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Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.