Jonathan Demme: Silence of the Lambs director dies aged 73

Jonathan Demme, Oscar-winning director of one of cinema’s greatest crime thrillers, has died at the age of 73.

The versatile filmmaker’s death was confirmed early this morning after he had suffered from esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease.

His film career began in the early 70s when he produced the biker drama Angels Hard as They Come (1971). He then made his directing debut in 1974 when he helmed the female prison flick Caged Heat (1974).

After a string of small-scale projects, Demme then directed the dark comedy Melvin and Howard (1980) which won supporting actor Oscars for stars Jason Robards and Mary Steenburgen.

His career then began to soar in the 80s as he helmed various films including the romantic war drama Swing Shift (1984), the comic caper Something Wild (1986) and the crime comedy Married to the Mob (1988). He even directed three episodes of the successful comedy sketch series Saturday Night Live between 1980 and 1986.

However Demme’s most successful work came when he helmed the gritty crime drama The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The film was adapted from Thomas Harris’s acclaimed novel series and starred Jodie Foster as an FBI agent who enlisted the help of Anthony Hopkins’s convicted cannibal Hannibal Lecter in trying to track down a violent serial killer.

The film won five Academy Awards including Best Picture as well as securing gongs for Demme (Best Director), Hopkins (Best Actor) and Foster (Best Actress).

Two years later, Demme then directed the emotional drama Philadelphia which starred Tom Hanks as an Aids-suffering man who hired a lawyer to help sue the law firm that had fired him because of his condition. The film won two Oscars including a first Best Actor success for Hanks.

After spending the next decade working on various documentaries, Demme then helmed the remake of the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (2004) starring former Philadelphia actor Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.

He then followed that up with the family drama Rachel Getting Married (2008) which featured an Oscar-nominated turn from actress Anne Hathaway and also directed episodes of television dramas Enlightened (2011) and The Killing (2013-14).

His last notable film came in 2015 when he made the family dramedy Ricki and the Flash which once again starred Meryl Streep. His final project in 2016 saw him collaborate with actor/musician Justin Timberlake on the musical documentary Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids.

Demme is survived by his wife and three children.

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