Director Jonathan Demme Dead at 73

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Jonathan Demme. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Jonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning director whose career spanned five decades, died Wednesday morning in New York, his reps confirmed in a statement. Best known for Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and the Talking Heads documentary Stop Making Sense, the director died of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease. He was 73.

After making his debut with the 1974 women-in-prison film Caged Heat, Demme came to prominence in the early 1980s with comedic dramas Melvin and Howard and Something Wild. The next decade saw him direct Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia back to back, the former winning him the Best Director Oscar. Later in his career, Demme made the Anne Hathaway indie Rachel Getting Married as well as 2015’s Ricki and the Flash. Demme was known for directing nuanced movies about women — in 2016 Jodie Foster said Demme was her “favorite female director” — and his fondness for eccentric characters. His most recent project was directing an upcoming episode of Shots Fired, which airs tonight. Demme was also an avid music documentarian, helming Stop Making Sense, Neil Young’s concert film Neil Young: Heart of Gold and Justin Timberlake’s Netflix concert film Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids last year. Demme was the uncle of Blow director Ted Demme, who died in 2002 at age 38. Demme is survived by his wife, the painter Joanne Howard, and their three children.

This post has been updated throughout.

Silence of the Lambs Director Jonathan Demme Dead at 73