Oscar-Winning Director Jonathan Demme Dies at Age 73


Jonathan Demme — the Oscar-winning director of The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married, A Master Builder, and many more — has died of cancer complications at the age of 73, Variety reports.

The filmmaker is best known for directing 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, the only film for which he was nominated for — and won — an Academy Award. That success buoyed him to another high-profile film, Philadelphia, which starred Tom Hanks as an HIV-positive lawyer who sues his firm for wrongful dismissal. The role earned Hanks his first Oscar, in 1994.

Demme was also a prolific documentary filmmaker; his 1984 film on the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense, is a mainstay of best-of lists to this day. In the 2000s, he made not one but three documentaries on Neil Young, and last year helmed the Justin Timberlake concert film, Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids.

As a feature filmmaker, Demme enjoyed a resurgence in the late-2000s with Rachel Getting Married, the 2008 film that features Anne Hathaway in her best performance to date — for which she was nominated for an Oscar — as the screw-up younger sister of the title character, played by Rosemarie DeWitt. In 2015, he directed Meryl Streep and her daughter Mamie Gummer in the underrated Ricki and the Flash. In the years that followed, Demme would direct the occasional episode of television, including Enlightened, The Killing, and, most recently, Shots Fired — his final directing credit, for an episode that, incidentally, airs tonight.

According to IndieWire, a source close to Demme’s family disclosed that the director died from a combination of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease — for which he was treated back in 2010, before the disease recurred in 2015. He died on Wednesday morning in New York.