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Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme dies at 73

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Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme has died at the age of 73. The filmmaker’s movies included Something Wild, Married to the Mob, Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married, and The Silence of the Lambs, for which he won the Academy Award for best director.

The filmmaker died Wednesday morning at his Manhattan apartment as a result of complications from esophageal cancer, Demme’s representatives confirmed to Entertainment Weekly. He was surrounded by family at the time of his death.

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Demme got his break working for famed producer Roger Corman, for whom he directed a clutch of exploitation movies, including 1974’s women-in-prison film Caged Heat and the following year’s Cloris Leachman-starring action-comedy Crazy Mama. The filmmaker garnered acclaim for his 1980 comedy-drama Melvin and Howard, about a chance encounter between Howard Hughes and a service station owner, for which Mary Steenburgen won the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

Over the next decade, Demme became one of the most admired directors in the country with films like the black comedies Something Wild and Married to the Mob, before scoring a massive commercial and critical success with the serial killer thriller Silence of the Lambs, which won best picture, best actor (Sir Anthony Hopkins), best actress (Jodie Foster), best director, and best adapted screenplay at the 1992 Academy Awards.

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Demme’s subsequent films included Philadelphia, for which Tom Hanks won the best actor Oscar as a lawyer with AIDS, a remake of The Manchurian Candidate (with Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington), and Rachel Getting Married (with Anne Hathaway in an Oscar-nominated turn). Demme was also a prolific documentary-maker who directed the 1984 Talking Heads in concert film Stop Making Sense, as well as docs on Neil Young and Justin Timberlake. The Timberlake concert film, Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, is Demme’s last theatrical directorial credit. He also directed an episode of the Fox series Shots Fired, which airs Wednesday on the network.

In lieu of flowers, Demme’s family asked that donations be made to Americans For Immigrant Justice in Miami.

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