LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) —  Variety is reporting that legendary and controversial director Michael Cimino — perhaps best known for the Oscar-winning “Deer Hunter” — has died.

Cimino was 77.

Variety Film Critic Owen Gleiberman wrote,  “no filmmaker of his time dreamed bigger than Michael Cimino. He didn’t just want to tell stories. He wanted to tell the story — the mythical big story, the one about the spirit that made America what it was. One of his films, ‘The Deer Hunter,’ is a classic of its time. One of them, ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ is famous for being the disaster of its time. Yet when you consider the qualities of each movie, there’s now something poetic in thinking of them together.”

“Deer Hunter” won the best picture Oscar in 1978.

Cimino, short of stature (he was 5 foot 5 inches and nicknamed “The Ayatollah”), often hired Jeff Bridges and Christopher Walken in many of his movies, but also became as famous for the movies he quit or never got around to actually working on.  He got his professional start directing commercials.

The New York City-born Cimino told People Magazine in 1996 that the experience of “Heaven’s Gate” and the bashing it received from critics literally left him traumatized.

“Since then, I’ve really been unable to many any movie that I’ve wanted to make,” he said, “I’ve been making the best of what is available.”

He rarely gave interviews and rarely made the Hollywood scene — and that suited him just fine.

His other directing credits include “Desperate Hours,” “The Sicilian,” “Year of the Dragon” and the critically-acclaimed “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” which he also wrote.







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