British helmer Michael Winner, best-known for his “Death Wish” franchise starring Charles Bronson, died Monday at his home in Kensington, London. He was 77.
Winner revealed last summer that specialists had given him 18 months to live due to heart and liver problems.
Winner, who also produced, scripted and edited many of his films, will be best remembered for helming the controversial 1974 revenge thriller “Death Wish” and the first two of its sequels in 1982 and 1985. In a 2012 interview with street newspaper The Big Issue the director admitted, “When I die, it’s going to be ‘Death Wish director dies.’ I don’t mind though. ‘Death Wish’ was an epoch-making film.”
The series reteamed Winner with Bronson, who had worked with him on “Chato’s Land” and “The Mechanic” (both 1972) and “The Stone Killer” (1973).
The prolific filmmaker, who made 30 of his 33 films in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, worked with film legends including Burt Lancaster, Orson Welles, James Coburn, Sophia Loren, Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Robert Mitchum and James Stewart.
Born in London to George and Helen Winner, who were Russian and Polish respectivel, Winner knew that he wanted to work in film from an early age.
Starting out in television Winner helmed his first feature in 1960 with “Shoot to Kill,” about a showbiz reporter caught up in political intrigue, which he also scripted.
In 1964 he worked with Oliver Reed on “The System,” the first of six collaborations with the actor including 1969 satire “Hannibal Brooks,” which brought him Hollywood attention.
Winner’s last film was crime comedy “Parting Shots” in 1998.
A bon vivant and raconteur, he subsequently became better known in Blighty for his long-running restaurant column in the Sunday Times, which he wrote until Dec. 2, and for his frequent TV appearances including in adverts for insurance company esure which he also directed.
He is survived by his wife, Geraldine.