Filmmaker Michael Cimino, best known for his Oscar-winning Vietnam War tale The Deer Hunter, has died. He was believed to be 77.
The Deer Hunter, starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, and Meryl Streep, was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won five Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. “I took an ad out in the trades and tried to explain why I neglected to thank certain people and to make up for the shortfall of my dumb-ass acceptance speech,” Cimino told the Hollywood Reporter in 2015 about the Oscars ceremony. “You know, you go out in front of thousands of people. And they are all in the business and all people who voted for you. It’s hard not to be moved.”
Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate is best remembered by film aficionados for its production problems, which ultimately cost $44 million, leaving the studio to take home a measly $3.5 million at the box office. Cimino never fully recovered from the loss, but did go on to direct several more films. From the Guardian:
Like Kubrick, Cimino had by this stage amassed a huge list of unrealised projects – of which the most important was his doomed plan to film Crime and Punishment. But unlike in Kubrick’s case, creative internal exile had been forced on him by failure: the overreaching calamity of Heaven’s Gate became known as the act of legendary hubris which brought down not merely a studio but – it is alleged – the whole spirit of the 70s American New Wave. After that disaster, everyone was more cautious, less inclined to indulge folies de grandeur. But Cimino can certainly claim to have been one of the greats of this great period.
Ever the character, Cimino once said of his career: “Nobody lives without making mistakes. I never second-guess myself. You can’t look back. I don’t believe in defeat. Everybody has bumps, but as Count Basie said, ‘It’s not how you handle the hills, it’s how you handle the valleys.’”