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Celebrities react to the death of Jonathan Demme: 'He could do anything'

30 April 2017

"Jonathan taught us how big a heart a person can have, and how it will guide how we live and what we do for a living", Hanks said.

Demme hailed from the finest class of American mavericks - those who studied within the Roger Corman B-Movie factory that saw its heyday during the '60s and '70s. Here come the dancers. Even when Spalding Gray talks about Cambodia, the subtext is NY; an entire ethnography of an era is embedded in the way Gray rattles through his stories about neighbors who once worked for the man who defaced Guernica, who play Bob Dylan at all hours of the night, who won't respond to a phone call except to say fuck you.

Byrne continued: "He and producer Gary Goetzman made us in the band feel included; they wanted to hear what we had to say".

Demme's varied career not only covered feature films; he was an accomplished director of concert films and documentaries as well, working with an equally diverse array of talent, from Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern to Justin Timberlake and Spalding Gray.

That was Jonathan Demme speaking during an interview 10 years ago, as he prepared to be honored at the Charles Guggenheim Symposium at the Silverdocs film festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Talking Heads landmark Stop Making Sense was just one of the many credits he racked up during this time period.

The filmmaker garnered acclaim for his 1980 comedy-drama Melvin and Howard.

Robert Jonathan Demme was born on Long Island on Feb 22, 1944. It's about a Nevada service station owner who claims to be the beneficiary of the billionaire. It's an intimate magic trick Demme would perform again and again, as he interspersed these instances of captured tracks between features, serving as dream choreographer for the audience while Neil Young crooned in Heart of Gold and Justin Timberlake kicked it with the Tennessee Kids. In 1986's rollicking road-trip comedy "Something Wild", Jeff Daniels starred a tax consultant drawn into the wilder orbit of Melanie Griffith. He stuffed 49 songs into "Something Wild".

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Katherine Dieckmann's film Strange Weather, starring Holly Hunter and Carrie Coon, with music by Sharon Van Etten and songs ranging from Interpol to Cassandra Wilson, opens theatrically on July 28.

Demme's strong political beliefs also made its way onto the screen. But there's no pity, no scorn in the director's lens, and it's a story of a man who is trying to fight for his basic rights - and that is what makes the film so inspiring.

Some films were misfires.

He also failed to convince critics that his 2004's big-budget, high-profile remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" needed to be made. Foster nails the role and the power of her performance is easy to see thanks to Demme's close-ups.

Anne Hathaway earned an Oscar nod for her portrayal of a just-out-of-rehab mess who barely holds it together for her older sister's wedding - which itself morphs into a kind of concert film with some remarkable reception-set tunes.

"Shots Fired" is a limited series that tells the story of a town that is rocked by the shooting of an unarmed white man by a black police officer, which unravels more race-related problems within the police force. Demme also completed a film for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to debut July 1. He was surrounded by his wife, Joanna and their three children.

Celebrities react to the death of Jonathan Demme: 'He could do anything'