Jonathan Demme, Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs director, dies aged 73

Demme also directed the 1980s classic Something Wild and the Talking Heads concert documentary Stop Making Sense.

26 April 2017

Jonathan Demme

The American director Jonathan Demme, who won the Oscar for best director for The Silence of the Lambs, has died aged 73.

Born in New York, Demme began his film career under the aegis of producer Roger Corman, for whom he directed a succession of striking exploitation films during the 1970s, including Black Mama White Mama (1973), Caged Heat (1974) and Crazy Mama (1975).

In the 1980s, Demme marked himself out as one of the liveliest of contemporary American directors, making a string of imaginative comedies. These include Melvin and Howard (1980), featuring Mary Steenburgen in an Oscar-winning performance; Swing Shift (1984), starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell; and the classic road movie Something Wild (1986), starring Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith.

During this time he also collaborated with Talking Heads to create one of the definitive concert films, Stop Making Sense (1984), as well as directing music videos for artists including New Order and Bruce Springsteen.

Following huge critical and commercial acclaim for his landmark serial killer movie The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Demme gravitated towards more serious fare, including the AIDS drama Philadelphia (1993), for which Tom Hanks won his first Oscar for best actor, and a remake of The Manchurian Candidate (2004).

In his later career, he made the vibrant wedding drama Rachel Getting Married (2008), alongside an increasing number of documentaries. His non-fiction subjects included Jimmy Carter (Man from Plains, 2007), Haitian radio journalist Jean Dominique (The Agronomist, 2003), Neil Young in a trio of concert documentaries between 2006 and 2012, and Justin Timberlake (Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids, 2016).

His final fiction feature was the Diablo Cody-scripted comedy-drama Ricki and the Flash (2015), teaming Meryl Streep with Kevin Kline.

Stop Making Sense (1984)
Something Wild (1986)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Philadelphia (1993)
Jonathan Demme with Denzel Washington filming The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
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