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

Summer 21st Century Fox Oscars Holidays Lionsgate President Kids & Family crime thriller Showtime DC Comics DirecTV Universal based on movie politics Amazon Prime dramedy cooking Brie Larson police drama political drama dragons Set visit Disney Channel hist WGN Election See It Skip It true crime unscripted jamie lee curtis Rock Calendar adaptation Pirates Bravo cats war 20th Century Fox streaming Toys Warner Bros. ABC Family E! science fiction 2017 Fox News SundanceTV docudrama 2015 psychological thriller X-Men sports period drama Premiere Dates Star Wars PaleyFest First Look 45 Grammys Action doctor who nature PBS DC Universe Thanksgiving justice league YouTube Premium harry potter Captain marvel 2018 RT History TCM green book Chilling Adventures of Sabrina History Country The Arrangement Nominations Sci-Fi El Rey IFC FOX Super Bowl sequel facebook adventure zombies E3 Box Office CBS technology Musicals cults comic crime drama richard e. Grant diversity CBS All Access A&E Columbia Pictures Interview DC streaming service SXSW Sundance Now 007 Red Carpet thriller dc Women's History Month travel Stephen King historical drama TCA RT21 Opinion Masterpiece witnail Watching Series FX USA Network award winner Ovation Adult Swim Paramount transformers serial killer Pixar Best and Worst ratings Tomatazos Quiz talk show Mary Tyler Moore blaxploitation Syfy YA Marathons MCU VICE Food Network National Geographic sitcom ABC Trophy Talk Western CW Seed robots binge Rom-Com Drama Christmas Shudder cinemax IFC Films Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt discovery Video Games Cartoon Network TCA 2017 Star Trek casting NBC finale Anna Paquin Nickelodeon New York Comic Con anime LGBTQ Dark Horse Comics Emmys Mary poppins ITV Rocky Comedy Central theme song crime YouTube Red Esquire Animation FXX Paramount Network Britbox Infographic vampires NYCC biography Trailer Year in Review Creative Arts Emmys Schedule dceu Polls and Games Winter TV teaser Photos Reality composers Fall TV Sony Pictures 24 frames CMT Pet Sematary GIFs Character Guide mockumentary San Diego Comic-Con Writers Guild of America Musical Certified Fresh romance Spike aliens psycho SDCC miniseries TruTV Marvel BET Podcast GoT zero dark thirty Acorn TV Spring TV medical drama Comics on TV Logo television Starz Black Mirror Mindy Kaling Netflix Hulu Awards Tour USA Pop The CW Ellie Kemper Cosplay Song of Ice and Fire Comic Book AMC Reality Competition elevated horror HBO singing competition Sneak Peek comiccon Nat Geo Superheroe TLC GLAAD crossover TV Land Martial Arts mutant 2016 natural history Freeform Fantasy Disney Lucasfilm MSNBC cops Spectrum Originals Lifetime DGA what to watch anthology festivals Mudbound Trivia Awards Ghostbusters TIFF Biopics Horror BBC America Winners Epix 2019 CNN Valentine's Day Apple OWN TBS TV Amazon Countdown Walt Disney Pictures Music golden globes Tumblr Shondaland Superheroes APB VH1 social media TNT zombie boxoffice Mystery MTV Sundance Mary Poppins Returns supernatural spy thriller BBC ESPN Teen Crackle American Society of Cinematographers spider-man Comedy Extras