Michael Cimino, one of the most famous directors of the 1970s whose career was torpedoed by the memorable flop "Heaven's Gate" has died. He was believed to be 77.
Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux broke the news in a French-language tweet, saying Cimino died "in peace, surrounded by his family and two women who loved him. We loved him too."
No other details were immediately availabie.
Cimino, a native New Yorker who got his start directing commercials, burst into prominence with 1978's "The Deer Hunter". The Vietnam War picture, which starred Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken, scooped five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Cimino, who only had one other feature film directing credit to his name at the time.
United Artists gave Cimino carte blance to create his follow-up to "The Deer Hunter", a Western based on the little-known Johnson County War of the 1890s. The film took 11 months to film and went four times over its initial $11 million budget.
When the film premiered in theaters, in November 1980, it clocked in at three hours and 39 minutes long, more than 100 minutes shorter than the original workprint, which Cimino screened for United Artists executives that summer.
Reviews for the film were harsh, with New York Times critic Vincent Canby famously comparing it to "a forced four-hour walking tour of one's own living room." The film closed after just two weeks, with a total box office take of $1.3 million.
As a result of the financial loss, United Artists was driven out of business and absorbed by MGM. Former United Artists executive Stephen Bach documented the production of "Heaven's Gate" in the 1985 book "Final Cut", which became a classic Hollywood memoir.
Cimino only directed four more films after "Heaven's Gate", the last of which was 1996's "Sunchaser." In 2015, he defended "Heaven's Gate" in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
I'm blown away," he said. "I've watched it several times now, happily watched it, and I’d watch it again, especially on a big screen."