Hollywood Reacts to Oscar-Winning Director Jonathan Demme’s Death

Jonathan Demme Dead
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Hollywood was quick to mourn the loss of the acclaimed director Jonathan Demme, who died of cancer complications.

Demme made about as big a splash in Hollywood as anyone ever has with 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs” which earned five Oscars including best director for Demme. His follow-up, 1993’s “Philadelphia,” earned Tom Hanks his first Academy Award.

His most recent work behind the camera was an episode of the Fox police drama “Shots Fired,” which is scheduled to air on April 26 — the same day the director’s death was announced. He also recently filmed Justin Timberlake’s 2016 concert tour documentary “Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids.” His most recent feature was the Meryl Streep starrer, “Ricki and the Flash.”

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Hanks wrote in a statement, “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. He was the grandest of men.”

Streep, too, released a statement dedicated to the late director. “A big hearted, big tent, compassionate man — in full embrace in his life of people in need and of the potential of art, music, poetry and film to fill that need,” she wrote.

Timberlake also posted a message about Demme on Instagram. “Where do I begin..? Words just aren’t enough with heartache like this,” he wrote. “You, master of humanity. You, genius of storytelling. You, generous and warm man. You, special soul. You taught me so much about life and art and about standing up for what you believe. You made me better at my craft. And, the time I spent with you away from a camera and a stage made a better human out of me. You are truly irreplaceable. I will miss you so dearly, my sweet friend. I hope we meet again someday. I love you, JD. May you Rest In Peace.”

The producers of “Shots Fired” Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood wrote, “We mourn the passing of Jonathan Demme. He was a tremendous artist who shared our belief that art can change the world. He was a gift, and he made every one around him better. He taught us to care a little bit more, believe a little bit more and listen a little bit more. We will miss him.”

Robyn Hitchcock, who worked with Demme in the 1998 film “Storefront Hitchcock,” wrote the following statement: “I last saw Jonathan Demme four years ago today. Had no idea till this morning that it would be for the last time. Jonathan was a born movie-maker: he loved people and he loved filming them. Fictional or actual, he caught so many lives and glimpses of lives and framed them for others to enjoy. Jonathan was a true keeper of souls, and now we must celebrate his. He did a lot for me, too – thank you, JD. ‘Are you ready for your close-up?’”

Martin Scorsese said in a statement, “Whenever I ran into Jonathan, he was filled with enthusiasm and excitement about a new project. He took so much joy in moviemaking. His pictures have an inner lyricism that just lifts them off the ground – even a story like ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ I have great admiration for Jonathan as a filmmaker – I love the freshness of his style and his excellent use of music, from Buddy Holly to Miklos Rozsa. There’s so much more to be said, and I hardly know where to begin. I also loved him as a friend, and to me he was always young. My young friend. The idea that he’s gone seems impossible to me.”

Bruce Springsteen, who worked with Demme on music videos “Streets of Philadelphia” and “Murder Incorporated,” said on his website, “Over here on E Street, we’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jonathan Demme. He was an inspiration for me, a beautiful filmmaker and a great spirit. Always smiling, always involved with the world and always pushing you to go for your best. He’ll be deeply missed.”

Director Roger Corman said in a statement, “My wife Julie and I were friends with Jonathan Demme for over 40 years. He started in Publicity at New World Pictures before writing and directing his early films for us, but really, he was a friend first and foremost. His Greatness as a filmmaker and as an artist is only exceeded by his Greatness as a human being. Our thoughts are with Jonathan’s family.”

“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins tweeted, “Met tons through the Moonlight run but my man Demme was the kindest, most generous. A MASSIVE soul. He lived in love. And rests in peace.” He also recalled the last time he saw Demme — the late helmer was championing what would become the most recent best picture-winning film. “Fitting that it was in an act of love and generosity. Such a kind man,” Jenkins wrote.

“Sad to hear that Jonathan Demme has passed,” wrote Elijah Wood minutes after the news broke.

“Rest In Peace, Jonathan Demme,” wrote James Wan. “Passing of a great cinematic artist.”

“Ted Demme and I were worried about making The Ref when his uncle Jonathan Demme said something profound: ‘Stop talking and start shooting,'” Denis Leary shared.

“I only worked with him once — he was just like his films: brilliant, curious & original. RIP Jonathan Demme — a truly great filmmaker,” Beau Willimon penned.

Director Patrick Brice wrote, “The great reminder in thinking of Jonathan Demme and his work? As a filmmaker you are allowed to be interested in everything.”

“Just heard about Jonathan Demme,” Eli Roth wrote. “He could literally do anything and did it all masterfully. Never knew him but everyone loved him. Sad news.”

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“SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is, of course, flawless,” wrote Michael Varrati. “Demme also made PHILADELPHIA in a time it was so very needed. P.S. I love SWING SHIFT.”

The DGA released a statement that began, “Losing iconic director Jonathan Demme – a consummate craftsman who mastered all that he endeavored – is devastating for us.” Read the full statement here.

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  1. Carole Sturgis says:

    How incredibly sad; such a loss before his time. Thank you for helping us Stop Making Sense, Mr. Demme. You will be missed by film buffs forever.

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