Jonathan Demme, Director of ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ Dies at 73

The Oscar winner was also known for “Rachel Getting Married” and “Philadelphia”

jonathan demme
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Jonathan Demme, who won an Oscar for directing “The Silence of the Lambs,” died Wednesday morning in New York at the age of 73.

TheWrap has learned that Demme died of esophageal cancer. He was originally treated for the disease in 2010, but suffered from a recurrence in 2015. His condition deteriorated in recent weeks leading to his passing.

Demme was born on February 22, 1944. His eclectic film career began in the early ’70s, when he made his debut with B-movie mogul Roger Corman on the 1971 biker film, “Angeles Hard as They Come.” In the ’80s, Demme shifted to more prestigious fare with a string of critically acclaimed dramas, including “Melvin and Howard,” “Swing Shift” and “Something Wild.”
He hit his creative peak with the back-to-back successes of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia.” “Silence” earned him his Academy Award for best director in 1991, and won four more Oscars, including best actor for Anthony Hopkins and best actress for Jodie Foster. “Philadelphia” garnered two Oscars, including a win for Tom Hanks’ performance.

He also directed the acclaimed film “Rachel Getting Married,” which starred Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt and Bill Irwin.

In 2010, Demme dipped his toes into theater, directing “Family Week,” a play by Beth Henley which was produced by MCC Theater and co-starred DeWitt and Sarah Jones.

He has also directed music videos for artists including New Order, Suburban Lawns and Bruce Springsteen. His last feature was 2016’s “Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids,” a concert documentary made for Netflix that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Demme is also beloved for “Stop Making Sense,” the famed Talking Heads concert film.

In his earlier years, Demme was a member of the committee of the Friends of the Apollo Theater in Oberlin, Ohio, along with Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.

Demme is survived by his wife, the artist Joanne Howard, and their three children.