Jonathan Demme, the innovative director of such films as Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, has died at age 73.
Film blog Indiewire reports that the prolific filmmaker succumbed to esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease. He received treatment for the ailment in 2010, but it reappeared in 2015. His health deteriorated over the last couple of years.
With Silence of the Lambs hitting theatres in 1991 and Philadelphia in 1993 — in such short succession — Demme secured himself a position among some of Hollywood’s greatest directors.
Demme first broke onto the scene working alongside legendary director Roger Corman as a writer and producer; from there, he moved onto directing within Corman’s studio. His first movie was Angels Hard as They Come in 1971, but he found slightly more success in the ’80s with his dramatic films, including Something Wild and Swing Shift.
His most notable films (the ones in the ’90s) helped him move into another echelon, achieving both critical and mainstream triumph. He was also dedicated to the documentary craft during his entire career, working with iconic Canadian singer Neil Young on multiple films: Heart of Gold (2006), Neil Young Trunk Show (2010) and Journeys (2011).
As he got older, Demme didn’t stop creating. Most recently, he directed critically acclaimed Rachel Getting Married (2008), Meryl Streep vehicle Ricki and the Flash (2015) and last year’s concert documentary Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
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Celebrities and directors in Hollywood expressed condolences for Demme and his family.
Jonathan Demme was a great artist, humanitarian, activist & a warm encouraging colleague. I've known very few like him. He will be missed https://t.co/wQv5QRqHoN
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) April 26, 2017
I know now that this was also the last time I saw Jonathan Demme. Fitting that it was in an act of love and generosity. Such a kind man. https://t.co/qYUZqXz2NU
— Barry Jenkins (@BandryBarry) April 26, 2017
Very sad to hear of the passing of the great Jonathan Demme. Admired his movies, his documentaries, his concert films. He could do anything.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) April 26, 2017
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) April 26, 2017
RIP Jonathan Demme. Director's director. Such love for his subject matter. Gorgeous moments and images devoid of vanity. One of the best.
— Jay Baruchel (@BaruchelNDG) April 26, 2017
Ted Demme and I were worried about making The Ref when his uncle Jonathan Demme said something profound: "Stop talking and start shooting."
— Denis Leary (@denisleary) April 26, 2017
— Tavis Smiley (@tavissmiley) April 26, 2017
A notoriously private man, not much is known about Demme’s personal life. Demme leaves behind his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children.