Director and winner of two Oscar awards in 1978 for his film The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino, died on Saturday at his home in Beverly Hills. Reports suggest that he died of natural causes given his old age. He was 77.
The news was first posted by Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival. Los Angeles County acting coroner Lt. B. Kim later confirmed his death to the Associated Press.
Michael Cimino est mort, en paix, entouré des siens et de ces deux femmes qui l'aimaient. Nous l'aimions aussi. pic.twitter.com/emPv4nj5cZ
— THIERRY FREMAUX (@THIERRYFREMAUX) July 2, 2016
While he made his debut in Hollywood as a screenwriter for Silent Running in 1972, it was not until 1978 that he emerged as one of the best directors in Hollywood, with his Vietnam war film starring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep called The Deer Hunter. Known for a specifically chilling scene involving a game of Russian Roulette, the film won the Oscar for Best Picture that year, with critics comparing the quality of the film to The Godfather (1972).
His success with films didn’t last very long. In 1980, Cimino directed Heaven’s Gate, a Western starring Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken that went on to be a critical and box office disaster, owing to its over-budgeted production and “insistence on authenticity” in terms of shooting on location.
After Heaven’s Gate, Cimino’s directing was sporadic and was marred with box office failures like Year of the Dragon (1985), The Sicilian (1987), Desperate Hours (1990), The Sunchaser (1996) and a segment in To Each His Own Cinema (2007).
The director is survived by his cousins, grandniece, and nephews.
Robert DeNiro, on learning of the director’s death, shared a statement with The Hollywood Reporter on how the director’s film helped him established his high status in Hollywood. “Our work together is something I will always remember. He will be missed,” he said.
Photo credits: The Hollywood Reporter