Jonathan Demme, the acclaimed director, died today due to complications from esophageal cancer. In the hours following his death, Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) and Meryl Streep (Ricki and the Flash) paid tribute to the filmmaker. David Byrne has written a eulogy for Demme, who directed Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. Byrne starts, “I met Jonathan in the ’80s when Talking Heads were touring a show that he would eventually film and turn into Stop Making Sense. While touring, I thought the show had turned out well and might hold up as a movie, and a mutual friend introduced us.” He continues with praise for Demme’s Melvin and Handle With Care, as well as his “love of ordinary people.” Byrne continues on Demme’s Talking Heads documentary:
Stop Making Sense was character driven too. Jonathan’s skill was to see the show almost as a theatrical ensemble piece, in which the characters and their quirks would be introduced to the audience, and you’d get to know the band as people, each with their distinct personalities. They became your friends, in a sense. I was too focused on the music, the staging and the lighting to see how important his focus on character was—it made the movies something different and special. Jonathan was also incredibly generous during the editing and mixing. He and producer Gary Goetzman made us in the band feel included; they wanted to hear what we had to say. That inclusion was hugely inspirational for me. Though I had directed music videos before, this mentoring of Jonathan’s emboldened me to try making a feature film.
Read Byrne’s full essay here.