(VARIETY) – Michael Cimino, who won Oscars as director and a producer of "The Deer Hunter" before "Heaven's Gate" destroyed his career and sped up the demise of 60-year-old United Artists, has died. He was believed to be 77.
Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux tweeted the news Saturday, writing that he died in peace surrounded by those close to him and the two women who loved him. "We loved him too," wrote Fremaux.
His birthday is usually cited as Feb. 3, 1939, though many facts about Cimino's life, including his birthdate, were shrouded in conflicting information.
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Cimino directed eight films in his career. His first was 1974's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot"; his second was the 1978 Vietnam War masterpiece "The Deer Hunter," which won five Academy Awards, including best picture and director; his third was 1980's "Heaven's Gate," the film that became synonymous with showbiz disaster; and the rest were mostly footnotes, though some (like "Year of the Dragon") have passionate fans.
The rise and fall of Cimino is so extreme that it would undoubtedly make for a great book, miniseries or opera. But it may not make a good film: It would require too big a budget, and the plot would be too complex. His career is a cautionary tale for Hollywood, about the eternal conflict between artistry and finance, with side battles between creative people and the media.