Film Director Michael Cimino Dead At 77

Talented yet stubborn, Cimino was a maverick filmmaker


Oscar-winning director-producer Michael Cimino is dead. He is believed to have been 77 at the time of his passing.

According to Variety, Thierry Fremaux, the Cannes Film Festival director, tweeted the news, and he confirmed the director died on Saturday. He writes, “Michael Cimino died peacefully, surrounded by his family and the two women who loved him. We loved him too.”

Michael Cimino
Cimino is the subject of many stories and myths

Beginning in 1971, Cimino got his Hollywood break as the screenwriter of Silent Running, starring Bruce Dern. He next wrote Magnum Force, which was the second film in the Dirty Harry series. Camino would direct Clint Eastwood in 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Cimino’s magnus opus is The Deer Hunter, starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. The 1978 war drama proved to be controversial, because critics accused the portrayal of the Viet Cong as racist. Another issue concerned the film’s depiction of Russian roulette on prisoners of war.

Michael Cimino's Oscar win for The Deer Hunter is one of the more controversial in film history
Michael Cimino’s Oscar win for The Deer Hunter is one of the more controversial in film history

Despite these criticisms, The Deer Hunter became a commercial success. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Christopher Walken also received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Cimino’s next film was Heaven’s Gate, starring Kris Kristofferson, Walken, Jeff Bridges, and Isabelle Huppert. The movie went vastly over budget, ran nearly four hours, and practically sank United Artists. Although it was a box office flop, Heaven’s Gate has since been restored and praised as a technical achievement.

Despite being overlong, Cimino's 1980 western Heaven's Gate is a technical achievement
Despite being overlong, Cimino’s 1980 western Heaven’s Gate is a technical achievement

Following Heaven’s Gate, Cimino became a pariah in Hollywood. He managed to direct films such as Year of the Dragon, The Sicilian and Sunchaser. Although they were completed on time and on budget, none of them proved to be successful. Despite these setbacks, Cimino is said to have kept planning more movies. His last work is the 2007 short film No Translation Needed.

Jonathan Bruce
Jonathan Bruce
I am an English teacher by day and a freelance writer at night. Specialities include news, reviews, opinion and commentary articles. When I'm not teaching, I participate in theatre, building sets and working stage crew as a hobby. I also enjoy reading and having an occasional glass of Scotch.