Jonathan Demme, ‘Silence of a Lambs’ Director, Dies during 73

Oscar-winning executive Jonathan Demme died Wednesday in New York of cancer complications, his publicist told Variety. He was 73 years old.

Demme is best famous for directing “The Silence of a Lambs,” a 1991 horror-thriller that was a box bureau smash, a vicious triumph, and introduced moviegoers to Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, a charismatic sequence with a yen for Chianti, fava beans, and cannibalism. The story of a beginner FBI researcher (Jodie Foster) on a route of a killer became usually a third film in story to win Academy Awards in all a tip 5 categories ( picture, actor, actress, director, and blending screenplay), fasten a ranks of “It Happened One Night” and “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Though he had his biggest success terrifying audiences, many of Demme’s work was looser and quirkier. In particular, he showed a good humanism and an consolation for outsiders in a likes of “Melvin and Howard,” a story of a use hire owners who claimed to have been a customer of Howard Hughes, and “Something Wild,” a oddball comedy about a landowner whose life is incited upside down by a kooky woman. He also scored with “Married to a Mob” and oversaw “Stop Making Sense,” a documentary about a Talking Heads that is deliberate to be a seminal unison film.


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Following “The Silence of a Lambs,” Demme used his poke to make “Philadelphia,” one of a initial vital studio films to tackle a AIDS predicament and a film that won Tom Hanks his initial Oscar for personification a happy lawyer.

The executive many recently worked on an partial of a Fox military play “Shots Fired,” that is scheduled to atmosphere on Apr 26 — a same day Demme’s genocide was announced. He also filmed a 2016 unison film “Justin Timberlake + a Tennessee Kids.” His many new account underline was 2015’s “Ricki and a Flash,” starring Meryl Streep as an aging rocker who contingency lapse home to Indiana due to a family crisis. The film unhappy during a box bureau and reviews were muted.


In further to “Stop Making Sense,” Demme did documentaries on the Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, and he also directed utterly a series of song videos, drawing a Grammy assignment in 1987 for best prolonged form song video for “Sun City: Artists United Against Apartheid.”

Demme’s non-fiction work also dipped into politics and amicable issues, profiling a likes of Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela.  He done dual documentaries about Haiti, 1988’s “Haiti Dreams of Democracy” and 2003’s critically acclaimed “The Agronomist.” Of a latter a New York Times said, “The turmoil that led to a dismissal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti’s presidency gives ‘The Agronomist,’ a glorious new documentary by Jonathan Demme, a unhappy timeliness. Its hero, Jean Dominique, embodies a fragile, incessant wish that Haiti competence someday maintain a usually and decent domestic order.”

Demme came to a courtesy of Hollywood with a 1980 film “Melvin and Howard,” in that Jason Robards starred as a bearded, unkempt Hughes encountered by struggling Melvin Dumont, who helps Howard out — usually to be left $156 million in a Hughes will of indeterminate authenticity. The film worked since it was not about Hughes though about Dumont, played by Paul Le Mat (one of Demme’s favorite actors). It drew 3 Oscar nominations, winning for best ancillary singer (Mary Steenburgen) and strange screenplay (Bo Goldman), while Robards also drew a nomination.

The 1984 film “Swing Shift,” a regretful dramedy set on a homefront during WWII and starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, was destined by Demme though taken out of his hands by a studio and recut, reportedly to make Hawn’s characterization some-more flattering. Director and star clashed during a prolongation with Hawn wanting a some-more required adore story with laughs and Demme preferring something with rougher edges.

Two years later, Demme rebounded with a New Wave-flavored indie comedy “Something Wild.” He drew an erotically anarchical opening from Melanie Griffith, as a brunette on a run, and coaxed an considerable entrance from Ray Liotta as Griffith’s goofy ex-boyfriend.

Demme had a approach with actors, finding new talent and permitting performers to widen their muscles. His 1988 comedy “Married to a Mob,” starred Michelle Pfeiffer, full with shrill hair and a thick New York accent, in a opening that showed a actress’ range.  It also benefited from glorious ancillary performances by Dean Stockwell as a Mafia trainer and Mercedes Ruehl as his distant fiercer wife. Stockwell warranted an Oscar nomination.

The 2008 film “Rachel Getting Married,” was a lapse to form for Demme, and served as an glorious car for Anne Hathaway to denote behaving ability in a mostly unpleasant purpose of a immature woman, out of rehab prolonged adequate to attend a marriage of a sister. Hathaway perceived her initial Oscar assignment for a part.

Demme’s blurb bravery waned in a late 1990s and early aughts. “Beloved,” a 1998 instrumentation of Toni Morrison’s award-winning book, perceived some vicious support, though was a large explosve and unsuccessful to attract most Oscar attention. Then there was an brash 2002 “Charade” reconstitute “The Truth About Charlie,” that starred Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton and valid a harm to a classical Stanley Donen original.

He also unsuccessful to remonstrate critics that his 2004’s big-budget, high-profile reconstitute of “The Manchurian Candidate” indispensable to be made. The film starred Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep, that strike in a center of a quarrelsome presidential choosing between George W. Bush and John Kerry, though notwithstanding a domestic climate, it didn’t make most of a splash.

Demme destined an instrumentation of a Ibsen play “The Master Builder,” penned by and starring Wallace Shawn, in 2013. In 2015, in further to “Ricki and a Flash,” he destined a docu-series “The New Yorker Presents,” bringing to life a iconic magazine.

Robert Jonathan Demme was innate in Baldwin, Long Island, New York, and attended a University of Florida. Like John Sayles, he began his directing career in Roger Corman’s stable, helming women’s jail exploitation film “Caged Heat” in 1974; sentimental highway outing film “Crazy Mama,” starring Cloris Leachman, in 1975; and Peter Fonda movement film “Fighting Mad” in 1976.

In 2006 Demme was presented with a National Board of Review’s Billy Wilder Award. Demme’s nephew, executive Ted Demme, died in 2002 during age 38.

Demme was formerly married to director-producer Evelyn Purcell. He is survived by second mother Joanne Howard and their three children: Ramona, Brooklyn and Jos.

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