Jonathan Demme, director of ‘Philadelphia,’ dies at 73
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, who filmed Beloved and Philadelphia in the city, has died at 73. Family sources say the cause of death was esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease.
Demme, who won his Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs, started making B-movies (Handle With Care in 1978) for producer Roger Corman in the 1970s, and displayed a talent that enabled him to graduate quickly to Hollywood movies while retaining his quirky point of view — Melvin and Howard (1982) with Something Wild (1987) and Married to the Mob (1991).
He won his Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs (1992), and turned from there to passion projects. He directed the ground-breaking, locally filmed AIDS drama Philadelphia, which won an Oscar for Tom Hanks, He loved the work of author Toni Morrison and adapted Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey and filmed in Philadelphia.
“Our story could be set in any major city and most small towns at this stage. I mean, it deals in a very head-on way with such subjects as AIDS, lawyers, the American justice system, homophobia, all other kinds of prejudices,” Demme said , in 1992, of his decision to set Philadelphia here.
“But, then, we decided that Philadelphia, being known as the City of Brotherly Love, the city where the Declaration of Independence was written, brought a special kind of resonance to a story about acceptance and brotherhood. “
He also loved music, and directed several ground-breaking music documentaries, notably Stop Making Sense. Demme made frequent trip to Haiti, and was an activist involved in attempts to provide assistance to the nation. He made the documentary Haiti Dreams of Democracy (1988).