News

Jonathan Demme: 1944-2017

by | April 26, 2017 | Comments

(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, a filmmaker whose distinguished career ran the gamut from acclaimed music-driven efforts such as the Talking Heads concert documentary Stop Making Sense to socially conscious dramas like Philadelphia, has passed away at the age of 73 following a struggle with esophageal cancer and heart disease.

Born in New York’s Nassau County on Feb. 22, 1944, Demme cut his filmmaking teeth with producer Roger Corman, working for the low-budget legend on a series of early-to-mid-’70s efforts before graduating to directing with 1974’s Caged Heat. He made the leap to studio filmmaking in 1977, helming the Paramount-distributed CB movie Citizens Band, and earned a measure of early critical acclaim with the 1980 limited release Melvin and Howard.

That early taste of success presaged a wildly eclectic decade for Demme, who’d hopscotch between period comedy (1984’s Swing Shift), documentary (Stop Making Sense), screwball romance (Something Wild), and a film adaptation of stage monologuist Spalding Gray’s classic Swimming to Cambodia. By the late ’80s, he’d proven his hand with a wide variety of genres — but it was a jump into full-blown horror that truly marked Demme’s mainstream breakthrough.

An adaptation of Thomas Harris’ bestselling novel of the same name, 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs proved a runaway success, earning nearly $300 million at the box office and becoming one of the few horror movies to earn major awards — including the so-called “big five” Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. While the response to Lambs inevitably led into a franchise, Demme didn’t direct any of the sequels, instead continuing to let his muse lead him through a varied assortment of projects.

That approach paid immediate dividends with 1993’s Philadelphia, which earned Tom Hanks a Best Actor Oscar, while leaving room for a growing body of work on the commercial margins, including a continuing series of music-fueled documentaries, several of which focused on the life and music of Neil Young. More recently, Demme earned critical raves for his work helming the 2016 concert film Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids.

Demme continued to work despite his health struggles, curating screenings at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY and reportedly making his way through pre-production on another new movie. He is survived by his wife, artist Joanne Howard, and their three children.


For Jonathan Demme’s complete filmography on Rotten Tomatoes, click here.

Tag Cloud

Certified Fresh CW Seed BBC TCA 2017 Mary Tyler Moore Superheroes CNN Star Trek YA Bravo Set visit binge 21st Century Fox Trivia Comedy historical drama SDCC harry potter Paramount dramedy OWN anime BBC America singing competition President IFC NBC Musicals Thanksgiving Nominations TruTV Adult Swim 24 frames based on movie DC streaming service IFC Films Rom-Com TCA Martial Arts Acorn TV Superheroe Crackle travel El Rey Watching Series Reality Box Office thriller GoT mutant technology Warner Bros. Teen Ghostbusters First Look biography justice league Interview Emmys Sundance Now Mindy Kaling boxoffice Countdown Epix FX Character Guide sports SXSW Drama sitcom Apple HBO BET Syfy Extras golden globes cops doctor who Shondaland Western Sci-Fi VH1 Biopics Dark Horse Comics vampires Cosplay Creative Arts Emmys Summer Oscars Valentine's Day Action TBS crime drama hist Logo The Arrangement TCM FXX politics DC Comics romance Winter TV Schedule Awards Year in Review Kids & Family blaxploitation Ellie Kemper Hulu Christmas discovery AMC Disney supernatural YouTube Premium 2017 Podcast USA Sony Pictures Esquire GIFs MSNBC Nat Geo Mystery Animation jamie lee curtis LGBTQ Shudder FOX Spring TV Comedy Central festivals American Society of Cinematographers Election period drama Song of Ice and Fire Tomatazos Best and Worst Reality Competition dceu crossover Opinion Fall TV crime thriller VICE E! Horror Rock 45 San Diego Comic-Con SundanceTV Photos Sneak Peek war Writers Guild of America Country Fantasy Infographic robots NYCC Paramount Network RT History Fox News USA Network cults Cartoon Network cats E3 CBS Ovation police drama finale Premiere Dates Musical The CW A&E PBS Rocky Polls and Games National Geographic Toys ABC Family zombies Britbox TIFF GLAAD comiccon DC Universe Grammys streaming TLC Marvel crime Masterpiece aliens Pop MTV Winners Pirates 2016 Columbia Pictures WGN medical drama social media adventure Holidays Amazon Lifetime 007 X-Men Showtime diversity cooking Nickelodeon serial killer talk show 2015 See It Skip It ESPN TV Land what to watch APB Trailer Tumblr TNT PaleyFest TV science fiction unscripted zombie docudrama psycho CMT YouTube Red Netflix cinemax Comic Book Spike Red Carpet History ITV 20th Century Fox Lionsgate CBS All Access Food Network Calendar Music transformers Super Bowl Lucasfilm Universal Sundance Walt Disney Pictures Freeform dc Star Wars political drama spy thriller Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Marathons DirecTV composers ABC Pixar Disney Channel Video Games Starz ratings