The Hollywood world and film fans around the world have a big loss to mourn. According to multiple sources, director Jonathan Demme died Wednesday morning in New York City at the age of 73. His publicist confirmed the news to Variety. According to a family source who spoke with IndieWire, Demme died from esophageal cancer and further complications from heart disease. Per IndieWire, Demme was first treated for cancer back in 2010, but dealt with a recurrence in 2015 that ultimately caused the decline in his health. Demme's death leaves a void in the film and entertainment world as he made some of the most iconic films of the past decades.
Demme secured his spot as a Hollywood legend when he directed Silence of The Lambs in 1991 and introduced the world to Anthony Hopkins' chilling Hannibal Lecter and Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling. As reported by Variety, Silence of the Lambs became only the third film in history to win Academy Awards in all the top five categories, and Demme nabbed the Oscar for Best Director. Following Silence, Demme directed Philadelphia, which was one of the first major film studio films centered on the AIDS crisis. The film also earned Tom Hanks his first Oscar.
After these very successful studio films, directors and audience began to recognize Demme's style as one that would eventually influence younger directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson, and as Slate further notes, Demme is well-known for his style of close-up shots, in which the actor is looking directly into the camera. They are usually chilling, disarming and iconic, like when Lecter the cannibal looked us straight in the eyes in Silence of the Lambs.
But Demme didn't only thrive in the drama and thriller realm. He began his career in the '80s with his quirky films like Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, and Married To The Mob. Per Variety, Demme also made documentaries on the Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen, the Talking Heads, and Neil Young, and also had some music video credits to his name, so to say Demme was multi-faceted is an understatement.
In fact, over the past few years, Demme was still working on many new projects that were very diverse. In 2015, Demme directed Meryl Streep's Ricki and the Flash, and randomly enough, Justin Timberlake's concert documentary Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids in 2016. According to IndieWire, Demme was reportedly in pre-production on a new project, and he was the chairman of the board at the Jacob Burns Film Center, where he continued to curate film series.
Demme's love of film and telling stories was evident, and I am grateful that we have his extensive and inspiring body of work to remember his unique and immense talent.