Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme has died at age 73.
The New-York born filmmaker was the creative mind behind a number of critically-acclaimed feature films, documentaries, and even music videos, and received several awards for his work. His most famous film, The Silence of The Lambs, earned him an Oscar for Best Director in 1991.
1. He Died From Esophageal Cancer and Complications From Heart Disease
According to a statement released by Demme’s publicist, the director died of complications from esophageal cancer.
IndieWire reports that medical issues stemming from heart disease also contributed to his passing. Demme was treated in 2010, but suffered a recurrence of the disease two years ago and “his condition has deteriorated in recent weeks.”
The accomplished filmmaker passed away early Wednesday morning in his Manhattan apartment, where he was surrounded by his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children.
2. He Won the Academy Award for Best Director for ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ in 1991
Demme has received a number of awards for his work. In 1991, he won the Oscar for Best Director for The Silence of the Lambs. He also earned a Golden Globe nomination for the film and won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The horror-thriller starred Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott Glenn, and grossed $272.7 million at the box office with a $19 million budget. It took home the Academy Award in the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and remains the first (and only) horror film to win the award for Best Picture.
In a 2010 interview with AV Club, Demme was asked if Silence of The Lambs was a turning point for him in terms of realizing his film style and that he could shoot a movie featuring many screen-filling close-ups. Demme said:
… we started playing around with subjective cameras with Melvin And Howard… Then along came Silence Of The Lambs, and that seemed like, ‘This is why we’ve been playing with subjective camera. Let’s go for it.’ Because they go inside each other’s heads. So we went for it. That, in a certain way, was a fulfilling experience. We had been pursuing a certain kind of style, a classic style: Roger Corman meets classic Hollywood shooting with a strong dose of subjective camera and a little seasoning of Martin Scorsese hand-held.
3. He Is Survived by His Wife and Three Children
Demme is survived by his wife, artist Joanne Howard, and their three children.
Howard is an artist and painter who allowed Demme to “learn to appreciate academic art”, the director divulged in a 1997 New York Times interview.
His children, Ramona, Brooklyn, and Jos, are 29, 26, and 21, respectively. Both Ramona and Brooklyn attended Oberlin College.
4. He Was Reportedly in Pre-Production for a New Film
Demme was reportedly in pre-production for a new project at the time of his death, according to IndieWire.
His most recent works include the Meryl Streep film Ricky and the Flash and the concert documentary Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids.
Demme was known for his extensive body of work that ranged from feature film to music videos to concert documentaries. He was recognized for his dramatic close-up shots in film. Filmmaker P.T. Anderson (There Will Be Blood 2007) cites Demme as his “greatest influence style-wise”.
5. He Directed ‘Philadelphia’, Which Earned Tom Hanks an Oscar for Best Actor
Demme is the director behind Philadelphia (1993) and Rachel Getting Married (2008). He directed the former shorty after taking home the Academy Award for Best Directing for The Silence of the Lambs. Philadelphia garnered a Best Actor Oscar win for Tom Hanks.
Demme got his start in the industry working for film producer Roger Corman from 1971 to 1976, during which time he co-wrote and produced Angels Hard as They Come and The Hot Box. His 1980 film Melvin and Howard officially put him on the map, earning positive reviews from critics, and leading Demme to his next job as the director of Swing Shift, starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.