Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme has passed away at age 73. Demme, who nabbed the Best Director Oscar for helming the chilling 1991 crime drama, launched his directorial career in 1974 with Caged Heat, under the auspices of legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman. In addition to Silence of the Lambs, Demme directed such acclaimed films as Philadelphia, Something Wild and Swing Shift. His last feature film was Ricki and the Flash in 2015.
Demme, born Feb. 22, 1944 in Baldwin, Long Island, New York, reached a career pinnacle in 1992 when Silence of the Lambs – which stars Jodie Foster as FBI Agent Clarice Starling, who is tasked to seek the help of serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to track down a deadly kidnapper (Ted Levine). The film won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Foster), Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally) and Best Director for Demme. It was the first and only time that Demme was nominated and subsequently won an Oscar, although he directed Tom Hanks to the actor’s first Best Actor Oscar for 1993’s Philadelphia.
As reportedly exclusively by IndieWire, Demme died Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease. The director was reportedly treated for the cancer in 2010, but it recurred in 2015. Demme finally passed away after his condition deteriorated in the weeks leading up to his death.
Besides Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, Demme directed several other projects throughout the years. Also among his credits were 1998’s historical drama Beloved (starring Oprah Winfrey), the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate (starring Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep), and the 2008 drama Rachel Getting Married, which earned Anne Hathaway a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Demme went on to work with Streep once more, when she played an aging rocker in Ricki and The Flash.
Demme work also included television, including an episode of the classic Peter Falk detective series Columbo in 1978, the pilot for the Patrick Wilson supernatural drama A Gifted Man in 2011, and pair of episodes for the acclaimed AMC series The Killing, in 2013 and 2014. His last directorial credit for either film or TV is coming Wednesday night for an episode of the FOX crime drama, Shots Fired.
While Demme was primarily known for his film and television narrative work, he also directed several music-themed documentaries throughout his career, including Neil Young: Heart of Gold in 2006 and Kenny Chesney: Unstaged in 2012. Most recently, Demme directed Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids in 2016.
Demme is survived by his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children.
R.I.P. Jonathan Demme: Feb. 22, 1944 – April 26, 2017