Peter Bogdanovich, Director of The Last Picture Show, Dead at 82

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Peter Bogdanovich, a director who channeled his deep passion for Hollywood and cinema history in such films as The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, and Paper Moon, has died at the age of 82. His daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich, told The Hollywood Reporter that the director died “shortly after midnight Thursday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.”

Born in Kingston, New York, in 1939, Bogdanovich began his career in film as a programmer at the Museum of Modern Art, organizing retrospectives and screenings while also writing film criticism for Esquire. Bogdanovich made his directorial debut working with prolific shock and schlock director Roger Corman, but became a Hollywood sensation in his own right with The Last Picture Show in 1971, which he directed and co-wrote with Larry McMurtry. The film would go on to earn eight Oscar nominations, and its cast won two for acting. The Last Picture Show was the first in a string of critical hits for Bogdanovich; he followed it with the Barbra Streisand screwball What’s Up, Doc? in 1972 and the Oscar-winning Paper Moon in 1973. His wife, art director Polly Platt, worked as the production designer on this early run of films, even after their divorce in 1971.

Bogdanovich was often entwined with his leading women. He began an affair with Cybill Shepherd after casting her in The Last Picture Show and would later begin dating his They All Laughed star Dorothy Stratten, whose murder at the age of 20 became the subject of Bogdanovich’s relationship memoir, The Killing of the Unicorn. In 1988, years after Stratten’s death, Bogdanovich married her sister, Louise.

Bogdanovich continued to find success following the tragedy surrounding They All Laughed. He directed Cher in the 1985 film Mask, for which he was nominated for the Palme d’Or, and directed the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream in 2007. Decades after his early days as a film critic and programmer, Bogdanovich remained a student of old Hollywood, directing documentaries on the works of John Ford and Buster Keaton, co-writing a book of interviews with Orson Welles, and hosting a series on Turner Classic Movies. He also acted throughout his entire career, making memorable appearances in The Sopranos as Dr. Melfi’s therapist and the Kill Bill films as an in-joke voice cameo. One of his final appearances was in It Chapter Two as a director. Bogdanovich is survived by his two daughters and his grandchildren.

Peter Bogdanovich, Last Picture Show Director, Dead at 82