Jonathan Demme biography
Date of Birth: February 22, 1944
Jonathan Demme was born in New York, but moved to Florida with his family when he was young. He attended the University of Florida with the idea of becoming a veterinarian, but dropped the idea when it became clear he didn’t have a talent for chemistry. He was writing film reviews for his college newspaper when his father, a public relations director, introduced him to producer Joseph E. Levine. Levine was impressed by Demme’s reviews and hired him to write press releases in New York City. In the late 1960s, he relocated to London, England, where he signed on as unit publicist for entrepreneur Roger Corman. Corman gave Demme his first movie job in 1970, creating a rock score for the feature Eyewitness. Afterwards, Corman invited him to relocate to Los Angeles, where he graduated to writing scripts for films. Demme made his directorial debut with Caged Heat (1974), which he also wrote. During this time he met and married his first wife, producer Evelyn Purcell.
Along the way, Demme has earned many awards for his work, including the New York Film Critics Circle Award in 1980 for Melvin and Howard and the Academy Award® for Best Director for Silence of the Lambs (1991). His next big hit was the AIDS drama Philadelphia (1993), for which Tom Hanks won a Best Actor Oscar.
In addition to producing, writing and directing, Demme has appeared in several films as an actor, including The Incredible Melting Man (1977) and That Thing You Do (1996), written and directed by Tom Hanks (who also starred in the flick) and produced by Demme.
In 2002, he returned to screenwriting for the first time since 1976 with The Truth About Charlie, a remake of one of Demme’s all-time favorite movies, the 1963 romantic thriller Charade. In addition to writing the script, he produced and directed the film, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. Demme's most recent project is the documentary Neil Young Journeys (2012), which documents the singer's concert at Toronto's Massey Hall. The film also includes scenes of Young's road trip through Ontario. The director has worked on several projects in the past about the iconic singer.
Demme was married to Joanne Howard, his second wife, with whom he has three children. His nephew, director Ted Demme, died in early 2002 while playing in a charity basketball game.
In April 2017, Demme passed away after a long battle with esophageal cancer, and complications from heart disease. After originally being treated for the disease in 2010, it returned in 2015.
One of his last projects before passing away included directing the documentary Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, which was released via Netflix in October 2016.
Jonathan Demme Filmography