The film world was deeply saddened when news broke today that Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs” director Jonathan Demme had died in New York at the age of 73. Demme was a brilliant and versatile auteur, traversing genres with rarely a misfire. He is remembered by those who worked with him, and those whom his work inspired.
“Whenever I ran into Jonathan, he was filled with enthusiasm and excitement about a new project,” said Martin Scorsese. “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.”
Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a lawyer dying of AIDS in Demme’s “Philadelphia,” wrote: “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.” Meryl Streep, who worked with Demme on 2015’s “Ricki and the Flash,” said: “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- a big loss to the caring world.”
Jodie Foster, who of course starred in Demme’s best-known film, “The Silence of the Lambs” penned this moving statement: “I am heart-broken to lose a friend, a mentor, a guy so singular and dynamic you’d have to design a hurricane to contain him. Jonathan was as quirky as his comedies and as deep as his dramas. He was pure energy, the unstoppable cheerleader for anyone creative. Just as passionate about music as he was about art, he was and will always be a champion of the soul. JD, most beloved, something wild, brother of love, director of the lambs. Love that guy. Love him so much.”
Strand Releasing’s Marcus Hu shared the above photo of Demme with Christine Vachon, Hu, and John Waters. Hu said of Demme: “I loved Jonathan, he was always so sweet and always laughed with him that he started doing film publicity back at Avco Embassy!”
Many more responded on Twitter, including “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, who tweeted: “A MASSIVE soul. He lived in love. And rests in peace.” Producer Ira Deutchman, who worked with Demme on the groundbreaking Talking Heads music documentary, “Stop Making Sense,” wrote: “He was one of the greatest filmmakers I ever worked with. A total class act.” PBS’s Tavis Smiley posted a photo of Demme filming during the Standing Rock demonstrations.
Here are some more reactions to the news of this devastating loss for the film community:
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) April 26, 2017
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.
— Barry Jenkins (@BandryBarry) April 26, 2017
Very sad to hear of the passing of the great Jonathan Demme. Admired his movies, his documentaries, his concert films. He could do anything.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) April 26, 2017
I’m devastated to hear about Jonathan Demme’s death. He was one of the greatest filmmakers I ever worked with. A total class act. #fb
— Ira Deutchman (@nyindieguy) April 26, 2017
— Tavis Smiley (@tavissmiley) April 26, 2017
Jonathan Demme dead? No. He was too free, exciting,curious + generous. When we did our BBC Scene by Scene with him we all fell a bit in love
— mark cousins (@markcousinsfilm) April 26, 2017
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 (@denisleary) April 26, 2017
Happier times. I will always love you Jonathan Demme. pic.twitter.com/grZRknHClb
— Nia Vardalos (@NiaVardalos) April 26, 2017
Oh no. Jonathan Demme. One of our great filmmakers one of the most beautiful souls on the planet. Another magical irreplaceable friend gone.
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) April 26, 2017
Often on tour I’ll watch Jonathan Demme’s “Heart of Gold” to remind me of what performance is about. Demme was a one of a kind filmmaker.
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) April 26, 2017
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) April 26, 2017
I only worked with him once – he was just like his films: brilliant, curious & original. RIP Jonathan Demme – a truly great filmmaker. pic.twitter.com/eoHwxffZL3
— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) April 26, 2017
Just heard about Jonathan Demme. He could literally do anything and did it all masterfully. Never knew him but everyone loved him. Sad news.
— Eli Roth (@eliroth) April 26, 2017
Sad to hear that Jonathan Demme has passed.
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) April 26, 2017
RIP Jonathan Demme. Silence of the Lambs is in my forever rolodex of nightmares & turns me into the terrified child I was when I 1st saw it.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) April 26, 2017
Met Jonathan Demme during the on-campus shoot of Last Embrace; he was supremely patient when I mentioned Anthony Mann, whom he admired.
— Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow) April 26, 2017
Jonathan Demme is a loss so profound that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it. I’ll be in the denial stage indefinitely.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) April 26, 2017
Heartbroken to hear that Jonathan Demme has passed away. Rest in peace to one of cinema’s most original artists. pic.twitter.com/aWbtIGZdwG
— Criterion Collection (@Criterion) April 26, 2017
The many times I talked to Jonathan Demme, he never made it just about the movies. There was politics, food, music, life. He was beautiful.
— Joshua Rothkopf (@joshrothkopf) April 26, 2017
We needed Jonathan Demme now more than ever. A beacon of kindness, empathy, passion, and subtle craft that evoked the best of humanity.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) April 26, 2017