Michael Cimino dead at 77

Jul 03, 2016 by Ian Evans

Michael Cimino, the writer and director best known for The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate, has died at the age of 77. According to his family, the July 2nd death was of natural causes.

A graduate of Yale, Cimino started off directing TV commercials and moved to writing screenplays with the sci-fi film Silent Running in 1972. A year later he co-wrote Clint Eastwood’s second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force. Eastwood and Cimino teamed up again on Thunderbolt and Lightfoot in 1974, a crime film that also starred Jeff Bridges and George Kennedy.

Four years later, in 1978, Cimino wrote and directed the classic Vietnam-era film The Deer Hunter. The film starred Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Two years later, Cimino won a director’s award again — except this time it was a Razzie for Worst Director. The film was Heaven’s Gate which, despite a later effort to rehabilitate its image, was at the time viewed as an overlong, overindulgent, over budget flop for United Artists. The film had a devastating effect on his career too. Subsequent films like Year of the Dragon and The Sicilian were critical and box office flops.

Robert De Niro told The Hollywood Reporter that, “Our work together is something I will always remember. He will be missed.” Writer-director William Friedkin took to Twitter to say that, “I wish I had paid tribute to Michael Cimino while he was alive. He was an important and masterful film maker. We will always have his work.” Director Guillermo del Toro said this on Twitter: “In honor of Cimino, may I remember his Year of the Dragon. A powerful movie, flawed to some but highly influential to filmmakers.”