‘Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme dies of cancer

By Jill Serjeant
| NEW YORK

Jonathan Demme, the eclectic movie director whose work ranged from thrillers like “The Silence of the Lambs” to documentaries on leading musicians, died on Wednesday of cancer, his publicist said.

Demme, 73, who also directed the ground-breaking AIDS movie “Philadelphia,” was suffering from esophageal cancer, publicist Annalee Paulo said in a statement. She said he died in New York on Wednesday morning.

“Jonathan passed away early this morning in his Manhattan apartment, surrounded by his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children. He died from complications from esophageal cancer,”Paulo said.

Demme’s most recent film was the 2015 comedy “Ricki and the Flash,” starring Meryl Streep as an aging rocker.

New York-born Demme won a directing Oscar for the 1991 thriller “The Silence of the Lambs,” which also won Oscars for best picture and for its stars Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.

Demme’s work was wide ranging, including comedy and thrillers to bold fare like 1993 film “Philadelphia,” one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to tackle the AIDS crisis. The movie brought an Oscar for Tom Hanks.

He also directed concert and music documentaries for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Chesney and Neil Young, the Talking Heads, and more recently, “Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids.”

Stevie Van Zandt, a member of Springsteen’s E Street Band, was among those mourning his death. “Oh no. Jonathan Demme. One of our great filmmakers one of the most beautiful souls on the planet. Another magical irreplaceable friend gone,” he said on Twitter.

Director Ron Howard on Twitter called him “a great artist, humanitarian, activist & a warm encouraging colleague.”

Barry Jenkins, who directed 2017 Oscar best picture “Moonlight,” recalled Demme’s support and warmth when that film was first doing the festival rounds. “My man Demme was the kindest, most generous. A MASSIVE soul,” Jenkins tweeted.

Demme’s other notable films include the 2008 independent drama “Rachel Getting Married,” “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004), 1988 comedy “Married to the Mob” and the 1998 adaption of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved.”

Paulo said the funeral for Demme would be private and that in lieu of flowers the family had asked that donations be made to the group Americans For Immigrant Justice in Miami.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Chang)