Joey Nolfi
April 26, 2017 AT 12:25 PM EDT

Tom Hanks is remembering his friend and former collaborator Jonathan Demme, the late filmmaker who directed Hanks’ first Oscar-winning performance.

“Jonathan taught us how big a heart a person can have, and how it will guide how we live and what we do for a living,” Hanks said of Demme in a statement to EW. “He was the grandest of men.”

Demme died Wednesday morning in New York City following complications from esophageal cancer.

Everett Collection

At 73, the American auteur’s career as a feature filmmaker spanned over 40 years, dating back to his days crafting 1970s exploitation films like Crazy Mama and Caged Heat through directing modern masterpieces like 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs and 2008’s Rachel Getting Married.

Following the critical and commercial success of Lambs, Philadelphia hit theaters in 1993, shining a light on issues of LGBT equality — particularly with regards to the AIDS crisis as Hanks’ character, an HIV-positive law associate named Andrew Beckett, seeks justice in a court room (with the help of a homophobic lawyer played by Denzel Washington) after his employers dismiss him because of his condition.

Philadelphia went on to be nominated for five Academy Awards. It won two; one for Hanks’ lead performance and another for Bruce Springsteen’s original composition, “Streets of Philadelphia,” which was composed specifically for the film.

A little over two years after the release of Philadelphia, Demme produced Hanks’ big screen directorial debut, 1996’s That Thing You Do! 

 

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