NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — Jonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who achieved wide acclaim for films such as “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 73.
According to the New York Times, Demme's publicist Leslee Dart, confirmed the death. A cause of death was not disclosed, but Demme revealed in 2015 that he was battling cancer.
A native of Nassau County, New York, Demme's early directing ventures were primarily low-budget enterprises, exploring themes of motorcycle gangs such as with "Angels Hard as They Come" (1971) and women in prison with "Hot Box" (1972) and "Caged Heat" (1974) which is considered by film buffs to be one of the high points of the genre.
Demme would later go on to mainstream success, scoring a string of inoffensive hits in the 1980s with films like "Swing Shift" (1984) which won a best-supporting actress Oscar for Christine Lahti; and "Married to the Mob" (1988) a comedy about the tribulations of being the widow of a New York mobster.
However, it wasn't until Demme's 1991 smash hit "Silence of the Lambs" starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins that he received widespread acclaim as a director, including earning Demme an Oscar for Best Director.
Demme followed up the chilling psychological thriller with the socially conscious "Philadelphia" in 1993. Starring Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington, the film was the first big budget Hollywood project to address the growing crisis of aids and homophobia. The film earned Hanks his first Oscar and helped to change the way American media presented the lives of homosexuals.
Demme also helmed numerous non-fiction films, including several documentaries about singer-songwriter Neil Young, and concert films for artists such as Kenny Chesney and Justin Timberlake.
Demme was also the director behind the seminal Talking Heads biopic "Stop Making Sense" (1984). Shot over the course of three nights of performances at Hollywood's Pantages Theater, the film captured David Byrne and the Talking Heads at the height of their creative prowess.
According to the Times, Demme’s first marriage, to Evelyn Purcell, ended in divorce. He later married Joanne Howard, who survives him along with three children, Brooklyn, Ramona and Jos. – Staff Writers