“Sadly, I can confirm that Jonathan passed away early this morning in his Manhattan apartment, surrounded by his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children,” his rep. said in a statement.
“He died from complications from oesophageal cancer and is survived by his children Ramona, age 29, and her husband James Molloy, Brooklyn, age 26, and Jos, age 21.”
The director missed the premiere of his 2015 movie “Ricki and The Flash” because he was being treated for cancer.
Demme is perhaps best known for his work on “Silence of the Lambs.” The chilling horror and suspense film starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster delved into the mind of a psychopathic, cannibal killer and the investigator who had no choice but to seek his help. The film won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
He also directed the Oscar-winning movie “Philadelphia,” starring Tom Hanks, who remembered Demme as “the grandest of men” in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.
“Jonathan taught us how big a heart a person can have, and how it will guide how we live and what we do for a living,” Hanks said in the statement.
Horror writer Stephen King, director Ron Howard and actor-director Eli Young also paid tribute to Demme.
Demme’s rep. said that the family would hold a private funeral. “Any possible further plans will be announce later,” the rep. said. “In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to Americans For Immigrant Justice in Miami, FL [Florida].”
A fan of musician Neil Young, Demme directed three films focusing on the artist.
“I felt from time to time that shooting live music is the most purely cinematic thing you can do,” he told Rolling Stone in 2012. “Ideally, the cinema is becoming one with the music. There is little artifice involved. There’s no acting. I love it.”
He also gained acclaimed for his film “Stop Making Sense” in 1984, a visionary documentary on the band The Talking Heads. Reporter Stephanie Zacharek with Salon described the film in 1999 as a “miracle movie.”
“’Stop Making Sense’ is so beautifully choreographed that in some ways it’s more like theater than a rock show,” Zacharek wrote in her review. “There’s no rock ‘n’ roll sloppiness, no seat-of-the-pants spontaneity. Instead, it’s all about stealth inventiveness.”
More recently, Demme directed the “Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids,” showing the pop star in concert in 2015.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
This article has been updated throughout.