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'The Deer Hunter' Director Michael Cimino Dead at 77

'The Deer Hunter' Director Michael Cimino Dead at 77
United Artists
Christopher Walken in "The Deer Hunter"

Michael Cimino, the Oscar-winning director and producer of the 1970s classic "The Deer Hunter," has died. Variety reports he was thought to be 77 years old.

Cimino's birthdate and various other aspects of his biography remained mysterious at the time of his death.

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Cimino in 2008

The director's first film was the well-received 1974 flick "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," but it was his follow-up, "The Deer Hunter," that brought him acclaim and awards. The Vietnam-themed film also set an impossibly high bar for Cimino, whose subsequent effort "Heaven's Gate" was a box-office disaster that maimed his career and became an infamous example of how much damage a movie with a run-amok budget can do; its studio, United Artist, dissipated in the wake of the debacle.

Cimino directed a total of eight films, including "Year of the Dragon" (1985) and his final completed feature, "The Sunchaser" (1996). His last directing gig was of a segment of the film "To Each His Own Cinema" in 2007.

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux broke the news of Cimino's death on Twitter Saturday, writing that he had died peacefully and in the company of those who loved him. "We loved him too," Frémaux concluded.