Photo via Twitter
Michael Cimino, the famously extravagant filmmaker who won Oscars as director and producer of the 1978 Vietnam drama The Deer Hunter, has died.
On Saturday, Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux tweeted that Cimino died in peace, surrounded by his wife and daughter. As Variety reports, Cimino was believed to be 77 but had claimed different years of birth at various points of his life.
Cimino rose to prominence on the heels of his directorial debut, 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, for which young star Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Four years later, Cimino solidified his status as one of Hollywood’s brightest talents with The Deer Hunter, a gritty Vietnam epic starring Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken in an Oscar-winning turn. Cimino also took home two Oscars for The Deer Hunter, one for Best Director and another for Best Picture. Like many aspects of Cimino’s life, The Deer Hunter didn’t always go according to script. It went far over-budget and over-schedule, and Cimino would become embroiled in a controversy over who wrote the script (both he and Deric Washburn claimed credit).
But the defining controversy of Cimino’s career came with 1980 epic Western Heaven’s Gate, a name that has since become synonymous with bloated, self-indulgent filmmaking. Doomed almost from the start, the film ended up becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest-ever bombs and was one factor that led to the eventual collapse of United Artists. Though he directed several films in the decades since, Cimino never fully recovered from that colossal failure. With the help of extensive plastic surgery, he retreated from the spotlight and kept a low profile.
Cimino will be remembered for his bold and controversial approach to filmmaking, which nearly destroyed Hollywood but also resulted in several glorious highs.