Jonathan Demme, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ director, dead at 73

NEW YORK — Jonathan Demme, the eclectic, ever-enthusiastic filmmaker behind the Oscar winners “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” and the director of one of the most seminal concert films ever made, the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense,” has died. He was 73.

Demme’s publicist, Annalee Paulo, said Demme died Wednesday morning in his New York apartment, surrounded by his wife, Joanna, and three children. Demme died from complications from esophageal cancer, she said.

Demme broke into moviemaking under the B-movie master Roger Corman in the early 1970s, and his prodigious, wide-ranging body of work always kept the spirited, agile curiosity of a low-budget independent filmmaker. His hopscotching career spanned documentaries, screwball comedies and tales of social justice.

Yet his most famous films were a pair of Oscar-winners “The Silence of the Lambs,” the 1991 thriller starring Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and Jodie Foster as an FBI analyst, earned him a directing Oscar, as well as best picture. He followed that up with “Philadelphia” (1993), with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, the first major Hollywood film to confront the AIDS crisis. It remains a landmark film in the portrayal of gay life and injustice, subjects Hollywood has previously largely turned a blind eye toward.