Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) are New York policemen. The narcotics detectives are ever on the look for the big bust and when they get wind of the pending arrival of a huge heroine shipment, the scent is strong and the chase is on. One suspect leads to another and finally to a visitor from France, Charnier (Fernando Rey), and his bodyguard Nicoli (Marcel Bozuffi).
A cat and mouse game begins between Doyle and Charnier. The Frenchman agrees to an attempt on Popeye's life that results in a brutal train hijacking and automobile pursuit. The action grows intense as the detectives come progressively closer to bringing down the drug dealers.
Release date: October 7, 1971
The movie was shot in: New York, Washington (USA) and Marseille (France)
Best Actor in a Leading Role -> Gene Hackman
Best Director ->William Friedkin
Best Film Editing
Best Actor in a Supporting Role -> Roy Scheider
Differences between the movie and the real bust:
The scene in which Popeye kills FBI agent Mulderig did not happen.
Frog One (Jean Jehan) didn’t escape. He was arrested in France.
Grosso and Egan were reassigned but much later in their careers. Source / More (Book)
The French Connection was the first R-rated movie to win the Best Picture Academy award.
Robin Moore wrote the bestselling book named The French Connection. Source / More (Book)
Fernando Rey was cast by mistake. William Friedkin wanted Francisco Rabal he remembered seeing in Belle de jour (1967). The casting director however thought it was Fernando Rey. Friedkin considered firing Rey, but changed his mind once he learned that Rabal wasn’t available. Source / More (Book)
The scene where Popeye tailed Frog one into the subway, happened also in real life. On January 13, 1962 detective Frankie Waters followed drug dealer Jehan who jumped on and off the train and then waved goodbye to his pursuer. Source / More (Book)
In 1961, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso busted what was then the largest drug deal in the history of the United States.
Director Friedkin was inspired by the French classic Breathless
A lot of the street scenes, including the car chase, were shot without permission. The people in the shots are actual New Yorkers not knowing they were used as extra’s in a classic movie.
The drug dealers in the first bar scene were real life police officers. Source / More (Book)
The real-life detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, on whom the characters of Doyle and Russo are based, appear in the movie as the detectives’ supervisors.
In 1975 John Frankenheimer directed a sequel: The French connection II.
The encyclopedia on Heroin:
Diacetylmorphine is a white crystalline derived from morphine by acetylation. It was first synthesized in 1874. In 1924, the United States’ Heroin Act made it illegal to manufacture or possess heroin.
Gene often says he wants to quit acting in films, but every time he starts to miss it and wants to start another film.