Oscar Winning Director Of “The Deer Hunter” Michael Cimino Dies at 77

Michael Cimino. Photo Courtesy: Michael Cimino

LOS ANGELES, Calif., June 2, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Michael Cimino, Academy Award-winning director for the powerful 1978 Vietnam War drama “The Deer Hunter,” has died. He was 77.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, announced the news on Twitter.

No other details of his death were immediately available.

Despite his achievement with “The Deer Hunter,” THR reports, his next project, “Heaven’s Gate” in 1980, capsized United Artists with his profligate budget excesses. Subsequently, the words “Heaven’s Gate” entered filmmaking lexicon as an out­-of-control, over-­budget production.

A strong believer in location shooting, Cimino insisted that real places had a tremendous effect on actors’ performances and the film’s texture. It worked fine for his directorial debut in 1974’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” shot in Big Sky territory under the cost-conscious eye of producer/star Clint Eastwood (it was the first picture for the Eastwood’s Malpaso production company).

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 U.S. Vietnam war impacts and disrupts the lives of people, starred Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. The film garnered two Academy Awards for director and best picture, reports IndyWire.com.

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 in 2007, “To Each His Own Cinema.”


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