A look back at the esteemed personalities who left us this year, who’d touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme (February 22, 1944-April 26, 2017) won acclaim through a great variety of films from musical documentaries like “Stop Making Sense” (1984), the memorable concert film that captured the idiosyncratic performances of The Talking Heads, to “Philadelphia” (1993) starring Tom Hanks, Demme’s poignant contribution to films surrounding the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1990s, which was notably one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge and tackle the disease from social and political perspectives.
But of all his films, Demme is perhaps most recognized for introducing us to one of the most enduring and terrifying villains ever conjured for the screen: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), an adaptation of the 1988 novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. The film not only earned Demme the Academy Award for Best Director, but it is one of only three films to win Oscars in all five major categories: Best Picture, Best Director: Demme, Best Adapted Screenplay: Ted Tally, Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, and Best Actress: Jodie Foster.
Beyond the brilliantly manipulative cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, many remember others from the wonderful kaleidoscope of characters that Demme portrayed on screen from Tom Hank’s Oscar-winning and powerful turn as Andrew Beckett, the gay, HIV positive lawyer in “Philadelphia,” to Melanie Griffith as Audrey Hankel in “Something Wild”, playing a zany romantic homage to silent film siren Louise Brooks, who manages to make a buttoned down businessman (played by Jeff Daniels) fall in love with her while fending off her violent rebellious ex (played by Ray Liotta).
According to a statement from his publicist, Demme died of complications from esophageal cancer, which he publically disclosed that he was suffering from in 2015. His final film was “Ricki and the Flash (2015) starring Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield.