Oscar-winning U.S. film director Jonathan Demme, who terrified audiences and also made them laugh, died Wednesday in New York at 73.

His family said Demme suffered from cancer of the esophagus.

Demme may be considered one of the most eclectic directors in Hollywood history — directing rousing comedies, horror, concert films and emotional dramas.

His 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs featured Anthony Hopkins as a cannibalistic murderer with a terrifying mask who is restrained in a cage.

The film and Demme’s close-ups of the criminal haunted audiences and won five Oscars, including one for Demme.

He followed it in 1993 with Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer dying from AIDS. The film is considered to be a landmark in the way gays are portrayed and the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic.

Critics called Demme’s 1984 concert film starring the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense, one of the greatest rock films ever made, using techniques that have set the standard for rock documentaries.

Demme also was heavily involved in the Florida-based charity Americans for Immigrant Justice, and his family has requested that fans honor Demme by making contributions to the fund.


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