Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme

Demme at the Montclair Film Festival in May 2015
Born Robert Jonathan Demme
(1944-02-22) February 22, 1944
Baldwin, Nassau County, New York, U.S.
Occupation Director, producer, actor, screenwriter
Years active 1971–present
Spouse(s) Joanne Howard
Evelyn Purcell
Children 3

Robert Jonathan Demme (/ˈdɛmi/; born February 22, 1944) is an American filmmaker, producer and screenwriter. Demme rose to prominence in the 1980s with his comedy films Melvin and Howard (1980), Swing Shift (1984), Something Wild (1986) and Married to the Mob (1988). He became best known for directing The Silence of the Lambs (1991), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. He later directed the acclaimed films Philadelphia (1993) and Rachel Getting Married (2008).


Demme broke into feature film working for exploitation film producer Roger Corman from 1971 to 1976, co-writing and producing Angels Hard as They Come and The Hot Box. He then moved on to directing, with three films (Caged Heat, Crazy Mama, Fighting Mad) for Corman's studio New World Pictures. After Fighting Mad, Demme directed the comedy film Handle with Care for Paramount Pictures in 1977. The film was well received by critics,[1] but received little promotion,[2] and performed poorly at the box office.[3]

Demme's next film, 1980's Melvin and Howard, did not get a wide release, but received a groundswell of critical acclaim, and led to the signing of Demme to direct the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell star vehicle Swing Shift. Intended as a prestige picture for Warner Bros.[4] as well as a major commercial vehicle for Demme,[5] it instead became a troubled production due to the conflicting visions of Demme and star Hawn. Demme ended up renouncing the finished product, and when the film was released in May 1984, it was generally panned by critics and neglected by moviegoers.[4] After Swing Shift, Demme stepped back from Hollywood to make the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense; the eclectic screwball action-romantic comedy Something Wild; a film-version of the stage production Swimming to Cambodia, by monologist Spalding Gray; and the New York Mafia-by-way-of Downtown comedy Married to the Mob.a[]

In 1991, Demme won the Academy Award for The Silence of the Lambs—one of only three films to win all the major categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress). Demme followed that up with Philadelphia, which garnered star Tom Hanks a Best Actor Oscar.

Since then, Demme's films have included an adaptation of Toni Morrison's Beloved, and remakes of two popular films: The Truth About Charlie, based on Charade that starred Mark Wahlberg in the Cary Grant role; and The Manchurian Candidate, with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.

In 2007, Demme's film Man from Plains, a documentary about former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's book tour in promotion of his book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals.

In 2008, the art-house hit Rachel Getting Married was released, which many critics compared to Demme's films of the late 1970s and 1980s.[6][7][8] It was included in many 2008 "best of" lists, and received numerous awards and nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress by lead Anne Hathaway. In 2010, Demme made his first foray into theater, directing Family Week, a play by Beth Henley. The play was produced by MCC Theater and co-starred Rosemarie DeWitt and Sarah Jones.

At one time, Demme was signed on to direct, produce, and write an adaptation of Stephen King's sci-fi novel 11/22/63, but later left due to disagreements with King on what should be included in the script.[9]

Demme has directed music videos for artists such as Suburban Lawns, New Order, KRS-One's H.E.A.L. project and Bruce Springsteen. He also produced a compilation of Haitian music called Konbit: Burning Rhythms of Haiti that was released in 1989. (Lou Reed selected Konbit... as one of his 'picks of 1989'.[10] )

Demme is on the board of directors at Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY. In addition to his role on the board, he curates and hosts a monthly series called "Rarely Seen Cinema".

Clinica Estetico

Demme formed his production company, Clinica Estetico, with producers Edward Saxon and Peter Saraf. They were based out of New York City for fifteen years.

Personal life

Demme was born in 1944 in Baldwin, Nassau County, New York, the son of Dorothy Louise (Rogers) and Robert Eugene Demme, a public relations executive.[11][12] He graduated from Southwest Miami High School[13] and the University of Florida.

He is currently a member of the steering committee of the Friends of the Apollo Theater in Oberlin, Ohio, along with Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.[14] In 2013, he returned to Oberlin, as part of an alumni reunion during the class of 2013 graduation ceremony, and received the award for Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. Demme has three children by two marriages: Ramona, Brooklyn and Jos. He also was the uncle of film director Ted Demme, who died in 2002.

During the 1980s, Demme had a brief romantic relationship with rock singer Belinda Carlisle, who appeared in his movie Swing Shift.[15]


Feature films

Title Year Credited as Notes
Director Writer Producer Other
Angels Hard as They Come 1971 Yes Yes
The Hot Box 1972 Yes Yes Second unit director
Black Mama White Mama 1973 Story
Caged Heat 1974 Yes Yes
Crazy Mama 1975 Yes
Fighting Mad 1976 Yes Yes
Handle with Care 1977 Yes A.K.A. Citizen's Band
Last Embrace 1979 Yes Actor Role: Man on Train
Melvin and Howard 1980 Yes
Swing Shift 1984 Yes
Something Wild 1986 Yes Yes
Swimming to Cambodia 1987 Yes
Married to the Mob 1988 Yes
The Silence of the Lambs 1991 Yes
Philadelphia 1993 Yes Yes
Beloved 1998 Yes
The Truth About Charlie 2002 Yes Yes Yes
The Manchurian Candidate 2004 Yes Yes
Rachel Getting Married 2008 Yes Yes
A Master Builder 2013 Yes
Ricki and the Flash 2015 Yes


Title Year Credited as Notes
Director WriterProducer
Stop Making Sense 1984 Yes Yes
Haiti: Dreams of Democracy 1987 Yes Yes Yes
Cousin Bobby 1992 Yes
The Complex Sessions 1994 Yes
Storefront Hitchcock 1998 Yes
The Agronomist 2003 Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer
Neil Young: Heart of Gold 2006 Yes
Man from Plains 2007 Yes Yes
New Home Movies From the Lower 9th Ward Yes
Neil Young Trunk Show 2009 Yes
I'm Carolyn Parker 2011 Yes Yes Cinematographer
Neil Young Journeys 2012 Yes Yes
Enzo Avitabile Music Life Yes Yes
What's Motivating Hayes 2015 Yes Short
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids 2016 Yes

Television work

Title Year Credited as Notes
Director WriterProducer
Columbo 1978 Yes Episode: " Murder Under Glass"
Saturday Night Live 1980–86 Yes Yes 3 episodes
American Playhouse 1982 Yes Episode: "Who Am I This Time?"
Trying Times 1987 Yes Episode: "A Family Tree"
Subway Stories 1997 Yes Segment: ""Subway Car from Hell"
Enlightened 2011 Yes 2 episodes
A Gifted Man Yes Yes Episode: "Pilot"
The Killing 2013–14 Yes 2 episodes
Shots Fired 2017 Yes

Other work

Title Year Credited as Notes
Director ProducerOther
Fly Me 1973 Second unit director
The Incredible Melting Man 1977 Actor Role: Matt Winters
"The Perfect Kiss" 1985 Yes Music video for New Order
Into the Night Actor Role: Federal Agent
"Away" 1988 Yes Music video for The Feelies[16]
Miami Blues 1990 Yes
Women & Men 2 1991 Yes
Amos & Andrew 1993 Executive producer Uncredited
Household Saints Executive producer
One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other
Foot in the Grave:
Secrets from the Dolly Madison Room 1994
1994 Yes Documentary
"Murder Incorporated" 1995 Yes Music video for Bruce Springsteen
Devil in a Blue Dress Executive producer
That Thing You Do! 1996 Yes Actor Role: Producer of That Thing You Do!
Director of Weekend At Party Pier
Mandela Yes
Shadrach 1998 Executive producer
Oz 2000 Actor Role: Commercial Director
The Opportunists Executive producer
Maangamizi: The Ancient One 2001 Executive producer
Adaptation. 2002 Yes
Beah: A Black Woman Speaks 2003 Yes
Crude Independence 2009 Executive producer
Gimme the Loot 2012 Yes
Song One 2014 Yes
The Center 2015 Executive producer
Deep Time Executive producer

Awards and nominations


  1. Sragow, Michael (1984), "Jonathan Demme on the Line", American Film (January/February), retrieved March 18, 2009, Although his best two movies to date, Citizens Band (AKA Handle With Care, 1977) and Melvin and Howard (1980), were hailed for bringing the heartiness and sensitivity of a homegrown Jean Renoir into latter-day American film comedy, they failed to score at the box office.
  2. Kaplan, James (March 27, 1988), "Jonathan Demme's Offbeat America", The New York Times, p. 6.48, retrieved March 18, 2009, Paramount figured it might just have a sleeper hit in the small movie, but it took a wait-and-see attitude, spending little on advertising and promotion, and hoping the movie would hook onto the C.B. craze and catch.
  3. Williams, Phillip (2002), "The Truth About Jonathan Demme", MovieMaker (published October 11, 2002), We had a great time doing it and we were invited to the New York Film Festival, despite the fact that the film tanked horrendously—and famously—at the box office.
  4. 1 2 Vineberg, Steve, "Swing Shift: A Tale of Hollywood", Sight & Sound, British Film Institute, retrieved March 19, 2009
  5. Uhlich, Keith (August 2004), Jonathan Demme, Sense of Cinema, ISSN 1443-4059, archived from the original on December 25, 2010, retrieved March 19, 2009
  6. Burr, Ty (2008), "He's back", The Boston Globe (published October 12, 2008), retrieved March 19, 2009, Warm rather than cold, forgiving rather than damning, Rachel is a throwback to the fluky, generous vibe that sustained the director's films in the late 1970s and 1980s – Handle With Care (1977), Melvin and Howard (1980), Stop Making Sense (1984), Something Wild (1986) and Married to the Mob (1988).
  7. Olsen, Mark (September 28, 2008), "Jonathan Demme's 'Rachel Getting Married.'", Los Angeles Times, retrieved March 19, 2009, With "Rachel Getting Married," Demme, 64, has returned to the playful, deeply humanist storytelling of such early work as 1980's Melvin and Howard and 1986's Something Wild, both of which are widely acknowledged as having influenced a younger generation of filmmakers.
  8. Schickel, Richard (2008), "Rachel Getting Married, Demme Getting Messy", TIME (published October 02, 2008), retrieved March 19, 2009, Back in the '70s and '80s he was the best – or at any rate the most promising – young American director. [...] Demme's new film, Rachel Getting Married, is arguably an attempt on the part of the director to wend his way back to his roots. Check date values in: |publication-date= (help)
  9. Gallagher, Brian (December 6, 2012). "Stephen King's 11/22/63 Loses Jonathan Demme". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  10. Rolling Stone, March 8, 1990
  12. "Jonathan Demme Biography (1944–)". Film Reference. Retrieved March 19, 2009.
  13. "14902: The silenced voice of Radio Haiti speaks again on film (fwd)". Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  14. "Friends of the Apollo". Oberlin College. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  15. Carlisle, Belinda. Lips Unsealed. New York: Crown, 2010.
  16. Lieberman, Josh. "The Feelies at Maxwell's". The Paris Review. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  17. "Berlinale: 1991 Prize Winners". Retrieved March 26, 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jonathan Demme.

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/15/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.