Jonathan Demme shaped the landscape for feminist heroes in mainstream movies with 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, and now the film’s stars, Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, are helping to shape the late filmmaker’s legacy in the wake of his death.
“I am heart-broken to lose a friend, a mentor, a guy so singular and dynamic you’d have to design a hurricane to contain him,” Foster said in a statement provided to EW. “Jonathan was as quirky as his comedies and as deep as his dramas. He was pure energy, the unstoppable cheerleader for anyone creative.”
She continued: “Just as passionate about music as he was about art, he was and will always be a champion of the soul. JD, most beloved, something wild, brother of love, director of the lambs. Love that guy. Love him so much.”
In a statement of his own, Hopkins added: “I am really shocked and very sad to hear about Jonathan’s passing. He was one of the best, and a really nice guy as well who had such a great spirit. Every day being with him was a high five. My condolences to his family.”
Demme, whose career as an industry maverick lasted more than 40 years from 1974 through 2016, died Wednesday morning at his Manhattan apartment following a sustained battle with esophageal cancer.
Though he cut his teeth on sensational pictures like female prison flick Caged Heat and the Cloris Leachman-starring B-movie Crazy Mama, he evolved into one of America’s foremost auteurs across the 1980s and 1990s, balancing influential productions like Philadelphia (1993) with unique takes on difficult subject matter (1998’s Beloved).
Four years after the release of The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs - adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name - won Foster her second Academy Award in the lead category, this time for playing FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who tracks down a maniacal serial killer amid an ongoing series of interviews with an imprisoned cannibal, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).
Notable for its feminist take on Starling’s trajectory as a law enforcer, Lambs also joined an elite group of pictures at the 1992 Oscars ceremony, becoming the third in a handful of titles that have won awards in the Academy’s five foremost categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
In her 1992 Oscars acceptance speech, Foster thanked Demme, calling him her “guru” while praising him “not just for his talent, but for his goodness.” With just under 25 minutes of screen time, Hopkins’ performance in The Silence of the Lambs ranks as one of the briefest in the Best Actor category’s history.
Also on Wednesday, Demme’s former collaborator Tom Hanks also remembered the late director, calling him “the grandest of men” in an emotional statement.