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

CBS Music concert breaking bad MTV science fiction MSNBC fresh The Walt Disney Company Elton John RT21 mockumentary Logo Disney+ Disney Plus 93rd Oscars 2015 cancelled television robots YouTube Red police drama japanese E! X-Men Biopics golden globes Discovery Channel Paramount Syfy HBO Max Bravo criterion Sci-Fi TCA 2017 Star Wars comiccon NBC WarnerMedia psycho game of thrones animated comic The Walking Dead BAFTA serial killer worst movies obituary reboot justice league anthology true crime Crackle Apple TV+ TIFF joker news Stephen King hispanic rotten Shudder Awards Calendar kong aliens laika Family Premiere Dates facebook Broadway teaser toy story Academy Awards GLAAD ViacomCBS National Geographic MCU directors golden globe awards blockbuster all-time canceled TV shows sag awards Mary poppins 71st Emmy Awards DC streaming service First Look Animation festivals disaster Showtime theme song Rom-Com USA Network rotten movies we love thriller versus Comedy Central unscripted Election game show nbcuniversal Crunchyroll docuseries FX movie Walt Disney Pictures See It Skip It Reality Competition Columbia Pictures Winners Comics on TV Rock LGBT FXX Hulu scary movies cops lord of the rings king kong remakes The Purge Mystery Netflix IFC marvel cinematic universe sequels crime drama high school Disney Spectrum Originals TCA Awards south america emmy awards hollywood docudrama jurassic park cancelled TV shows cars monster movies Fox News Toys historical drama 2018 black mutant Western spider-man 72 Emmy Awards binge chucky Black Mirror hidden camera discovery period drama live action medical drama TV Land foreign vampires Superheroes renewed TV shows natural history classics Britbox richard e. Grant Rocketman Hallmark romantic comedy RT History BET Awards 45 Musicals Martial Arts Photos First Reviews toronto WGN HBO Go Marvel Studios Pop 99% 2021 romance Nickelodeon stop motion independent TNT Shondaland Summer Mary Tyler Moore Spike American Society of Cinematographers GIFs Holidays halloween tv singing competition werewolf LGBTQ zombie BBC America Reality Brie Larson Mindy Kaling political drama GoT Turner Cosplay Captain marvel telelvision 2016 The Academy christmas movies The Witch sports Tarantino Film award winner book video Oscars Nat Geo PaleyFest Dark Horse Comics anime FOX YA spanish language nfl Comic Book Heroines Year in Review Podcast Watching Series Hallmark Christmas movies witnail Masterpiece reviews Sundance TV scene in color Emmys latino Song of Ice and Fire Rocky VICE superman OneApp Lifetime Christmas movies DC Universe Baby Yoda New York Comic Con Pirates blaxploitation worst Esquire Interview new york Pride Month ghosts Image Comics DirecTV festival technology VOD die hard international based on movie asian-american spanish SXSW Television Academy Opinion dragons adaptation composers 007 doctor who Set visit quibi TV One Endgame trailers comedies cats indiana jones elevated horror San Diego Comic-Con green book BBC crime Comedy dramedy Sundance Country boxing Hear Us Out Video Games Apple TV Plus cooking rom-coms Classic Film free movies Lucasfilm Countdown parents sitcom Legendary godzilla child's play name the review batman IFC Films TLC Polls and Games Ovation 20th Century Fox prank TV Turner Classic Movies streaming book adaptation stand-up comedy TCA spain SDCC Certified Fresh Tubi streaming movies popular cults Trivia ID italian Star Trek TV renewals Drama El Rey Lionsgate TBS supernatural CMT USA cancelled satire Spring TV Holiday Pacific Islander travel transformers Emmy Nominations children's TV Film Festival TCA Winter 2020 films new star wars movies 2019 History 2017 heist movie ABC Signature Amazon Prime Video harry potter dceu Paramount Plus ITV Amazon fast and furious Vudu NYCC football Arrowverse Alien Superheroe universal monsters ABC strong female leads dc Awards Tour mission: impossible superhero Fox Searchlight australia hist deadpool Sneak Peek crossover Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Pop TV Box Office BBC One 2020 indie critics Lifetime kaiju Horror YouTube Avengers a nightmare on elm street dark what to watch Anna Paquin jamie lee curtis Chernobyl 21st Century Fox james bond finale Travel Channel talk show YouTube Premium revenge CBS All Access archives Disney Plus target TruTV best Writers Guild of America Mudbound Character Guide comic books Valentine's Day spy thriller politics Television Critics Association documentary nature FX on Hulu Epix Kids & Family Fantasy Winter TV Amazon Prime scorecard zero dark thirty Thanksgiving cinemax television Pet Sematary Cannes Acorn TV BET documentaries Trailer 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards TCM razzies Food Network President slashers dogs Creative Arts Emmys Teen movies cancelled TV series Grammys zombies OWN Musical french crime thriller screenings Paramount Network Tumblr space canceled Amazon Studios rt archives casting E3 TV movies ESPN APB ratings comics franchise Disney streaming service Pixar boxoffice Netflix Christmas movies tv talk Christmas Best and Worst women Ghostbusters Exclusive Video kids adventure DGA Freeform spinoff HBO Disney Channel cartoon diversity Adult Swim Sundance Now psychological thriller CNN stoner Ellie Kemper Fall TV Warner Bros. halloween screen actors guild Nominations Action twilight 24 frames Women's History Month Black History Month war A24 miniseries series Super Bowl pirates of the caribbean Binge Guide know your critic Mary Poppins Returns Tomatazos social media Starz A&E Red Carpet Universal Sony Pictures Funimation Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt blockbusters Extras biography Marvel Television VH1 Peacock Marvel Trophy Talk CW Seed Schedule venice new zealand The CW AMC PlayStation Quiz PBS sequel DC Comics Marathons saw aapi ABC Family video on demand The Arrangement 4/20 SundanceTV Infographic Cartoon Network Apple