Jonathan Demme, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, has passed away at the age of 73.
According to the New York Times, Demme’s publicist Leslee Dart confirmed that the director has died. Demme revealed in 2015 that he had been battling esophageal cancer.
Jonathan Demme is best known for directing a large number of films, such as “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” and “Rachel Getting Married,” among many others. “The Silence of the Lambs,” perhaps Demme’s best known film, earned five Oscars, including best director and best picture. His next film, “Philadelphia,” earned two Oscar wins and five nominations.
The director also had a deep interest in music. In 1984, he directed the Talking Head’s critically acclaimed concert film, “Stop Making Sense.”
He once told The SoHo News, “Music was my first love, movies came second.”
Demme was born in Baldwin, New York, on Long Island, in 1944. He was raised mostly on Long Island, until his family moved to Miami, Florida, where he attended high school.
After graduating from high school, Demme attneded the University of Florida, with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, until he failed chemistry. He then moved on to the university’s newspaper and, after realizing that the paper had no movie critic, took on the job himself as a way to get into movies for free.
Demme continued as a movie critic after college, writing for a Coral Gables, Florida, shopping guide, before moving on to work in publicity and eventually moving on to producing films himself.
Those who worked with Demme spoke very highly of him. Jodie Foster, who starred as Clarice Starling in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs,” paid tribute to the director, calling him “a friend, a mentor, a guy so singular and dynamic you’d have to design a hurricane to contain him.”
“Jonathan was as quirkly as his comedies and as deep as his dramas,” Foster added, according to the BBC. “He was pure energy, the unstoppable cheerleader for anyone creative. Just as passionate about music as he was about art, he was and will always be a champion of the soul. JD, most beloved, something wild, brother of love, director of the lambs. Love that guy. Love him so much.”
Anthony Hopkins, Foster’s co-star in the 1991 film, said, “I am really shocked and very sad to hear about Jonathan’s passing. He was one of the best, and a really nice guy as well who had such a great spirit. Every day being with him was a high five.”
Meryl Streep, who worked with Demme on both his 2004 remake of “The Manchurian Candidate,” as well as 2015’s “Ricki and the Flash,” described the director as “a big-hearted, big tent, compassionate man – in full embrace in his life of people in need – and of the potential of art, music, poetry and film to fill that need.”
Sources: New York Times, BBC / Photo Credit: Dan D’Errico/Montclair Film Festival via Flickr