Director Jonathan Demme, who won an Oscar for directing the 1991 Best Picture winner The Silence of the Lambs, has passed away earlier this morning at the age of 74. According to a source close to the family, the filmmaker passed from esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease. The filmmaker had been treated for esophageal cancer in 2010, and while he did recover, the cancer came back in 2015, and sources said his condition had deteriorated in recent weeks. We have assembled a number of tweets below from filmmakers and actors paying their respects to this iconic director.
IndieWire first broke the news this morning, as tributes have started to flood in from filmmakers such as Edgar Wright, James Wan and actors such as Denis Leary, Michael Chiklis and many more. Jonathan Demme was born February 22, 1944 in Baldwin, Nassau County, New York to Dorothy Louise (Rogers) and Robert Eugene Demme, a public relations executive. He graduated from South Miami High School and the University of Flordia before getting his start in the entertainment business by working with legendary filmmaker Roger Corman. The late director made his debut by writing and producing the 1971 film Angels as Hard as They Come, which starred Scott Glenn, Gary Busey and Janet Wood, and the 1972 film The Hot Box, before directing three films for Roger Corman’s New World Studios, Caged Heat (1974), Crazy Mama (1975) and Fighting Mad (1976) before striking out on his own with 1977’s Handle With Care.
The director’s next film wasn’t a breakout hit at the box office, 1980’s Melvin and Howard, starring Jason Robards and Mary Steenburgen, was a critical hit that lead to Warner Bros.’ Swing Shift, starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, which was intended to be both a prestige picture for the studio as well as the director’s first commercial breakout hit. It failed to make a dent at the box office and was panned by critics, which lead to the beloved filmmaker to take his career in another direction, by directing concert films, which he was ultimately as well-known for as his narrative work. In 1984, he directed the concert film Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime and the documentary Stop Making Sense, which lead to more concert films such as UB40 and Chrissie Hynde: I Got You Babe, New Order: The Perfect Kiss and Artists United Against Apartheid: Sun City, all released in 1985, a year where he also directed an episode of Saturday Night Live.
The filmmaker returned to Hollywood just a year later with the 1986 classic Something Wild, starring Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith, which he followed up with Swimming To Cambodia, Married to the Mob and Famous All Over Town, along with the TV documentary Haiti Dreams of Democracy, before his filmmaking career was shot into the stratosphere with the 1991 hit Silence of the Lambs. It is still the last film to win all of the “Big 5” Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Screenplay (Ted Tally). He followed that up with Best Picture nominee Philadelphia in 1993, followed by a number of short films before returning to the big screen five years later with Beloved in 1998.
His later films ran the gamut between genre and narrative style with a diversity that has come to define his iconic career. He directed The Truth About Charlie in 2002, starring, Thandie Newton and Mark Wahlberg, the 2003 documentary The Agronomist, the 2004 remake The Manchurian Candidate, the 2006 documentary Neil Young: Heart of Gold, the 2007 TV mini-series documentary Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward, the 2007 documentary Jimmy Carter Man from Plains, the 2008 drama Rachel Getting Married, which landed Anne Hathaway an Oscar nomination. His final films were The Master Builder in 2013 and Ricki and the Flash in 2015, and he also directed episodes of The Killing, the 2016 documentary Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids and most recently, an episode of Shots Fired this year. The late filmmaker is survived by his wife Joanne Howard and their three children. Take a look at the tributes that have been pouring in since news of Jonathan Demme‘s death surfaced.
— Tribeca (@Tribeca) 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
Jonathan Demme was a gifted and versatile filmmaker. RIP.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) April 26, 2017
No two Jonathan Demme films are alike. That’s something so rare to see in directors these days. He was one of a kind. RIP. pic.twitter.com/Mb4Pujga3e
— michelle buchman (@michelledeidre) April 26, 2017
Rest In Peace, Jonathan Demme. Passing of a great cinematic artist.
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) April 26, 2017
Jonathan Demme had one of the most varied filmographies of a major filmmaker ever. He followed his own path. pic.twitter.com/xSU6x1GPS1
— Sean Fennessey (@SeanFennessey) April 26, 2017
Jonathan Demme optioned The Orchid Thief and steered it to becoming “Adaptation”. He was brilliant, charming, warm, funny. RIP, Jonathan.
— Susan Orlean (@susanorlean) 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
RIP Jonathan Demme. Inspiring filmmaker, musical explorer, ornithologist (!), and truly wonderful and generous person.
— Jim Jarmusch (@JimJarmusch) April 26, 2017
One of the greats. An eclectic and innately curious film maker, Demme’s work was as deep as the sea. RIP Jonathan Demme
— Michael Chiklis (@MichaelChiklis) April 26, 2017
— John Heilemann (@jheil) April 26, 2017
Oh man I’m just reading the news… so sad to have lost Director Jonathan Demme. He was truly one of the greats. Rest In Peace pic.twitter.com/3W17PpZw5Q
— Andy Signore (@andysignore) April 26, 2017
This one hurts. R.I.P. to Jonathan Demme, one of American cinema’s great humanists. https://t.co/OsqzZE05HS
— Zack Stentz (@MuseZack) April 26, 2017
The great reminder in thinking of Jonathan Demme and his work? As a filmmaker you are allowed to be interested in everything.
— Patrick Brice (@patrick_brice) April 26, 2017
Met tons through the Moonlight run but my man Demme was the kindest, most generous. A MASSIVE soul. He lived in love. And rests in peace.
— Barry Jenkins (@BandryBarry) April 26, 2017
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