'Deer Hunter' director Michael Cimino dies aged 77

Sun Jul 3, 2016 10:40am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Cimino, whose roller-coaster career as a Hollywood film director included Oscar-winner "The Deer Hunter" and legendary box office flop "Heaven's Gate," has died. He was 77.

The success of "The Deer Hunter", a 1978 film about the Vietnam War starring Robert De Niro, made Cimino one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood. The film won five Academy Awards, including best picture and best director.

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux tweeted the news on Saturday that Cimino died peacefully, "surrounded by his family and the two women who loved him. We loved him too."

The cause of death was not immediately known. U.S. media reports said Cimino died at his home in Los Angeles, citing the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Officials at the coroner's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Variety, friends phoned the police when they could not reach him and he was found dead on Saturday.

Word of Cimino's death triggered tributes from admirers including De Niro, who said their work together was something he will always remember. "He will be missed," De Niro said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

"The Deer Hunter," which explored the impact of the Vietnam War on a small town of steel workers in Pennsylvania, was also a big boost for the careers of Meryl Steep and Christopher Walken, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described it as "one of the most emotionally shattering films ever made."

But after that movie's runaway success, Cimino followed up in 1980 with "Heaven's Gate," an epic Western that New York Times critic Vincent Canby called "an unqualified disaster."   Continued...

U.S. director Michael Cimino attends a news conference for the film "Chacun son Cinema" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival May 20, 2007.  REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier