Michael Cimino, ‘Deer Hunter’ And ‘Heaven’s Gate’ Director, Dies at 77

The helmer won two Oscars for the Vietnam classic, but his career was destroyed after his 1980 film “Heaven’s Gate.”
Michael Cimino

UPDATED: Michael Cimino, known for his films such as “The Deer Hunter” and “Heaven’s Gate,” has died. He was 77 years old.

The news was revealed by Cannes Film Festival Director Thierry Frémaux who tweeted on June 2 about the director’s passing, “Michael Cimino died peacefully, surrounded by his family and the two women who loved him. We loved him too.” 

READ MORE: Remembering Michael Cimino, Dead at 77

Various other outlets such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are also reporting the death. No other details have been announced at this moment.

Cimino directed eight films total and made his directorial debut in 1974 with the movie “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” His second, “The Deer Hunter,” about the ways in which the Vietnam War impacted and disrupted the lives of people, starred Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep and won two Oscars for director and best picture.

The project that is said to have destroyed his career was 1980’s “Heaven’s Gate,” a Western based on the Johnson County Wars. Cimino was known for insisting on shooting in real places and on location to help the actor’s performances. The film was shot mainly at a studio-constructed town and his insistence on authenticity deflated the production. Difficult to work with, the over-budget production was out of control and even sank the studio United Artists. To make matters worse, “Heaven’s Gate” also had a running time of 219 minutes that overwhelmed theater owners.

After that, he went five years before directing again. He released “Year of the Dragon” in 1985, and had new projects every few years. His last picture was a 2007 short included in the omnibus “To Each His Own Cinema.”

UPDATED with statement from the DGA:

Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay made the following statement upon learning of the passing of Michael Cimino:

“With his visionary approach and attention to every detail, Michael Cimino is forever etched in the history of filmmaking. In his most iconic work, the DGA and Academy Award-winning film The Deer Hunter, Michael captured the horrors of war through a personalized lens – captivating a nation in the process. Our deepest condolences to Michael’s family and friends.”

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