MICHAEL CIMINO Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Michael Cimino                                                                         
Born: 3 February 1939 New York City, New York, US                                           
Michael Cimino (born February 3, 1939, New York City) is an American film                   
director. His last name is pronounced "Cha-Mee-Noe." He is often cited as an                 
example of several meteoric rises and falls that were seen in Hollywood in the               
He was born in New York City, New York on either November 16, 1943 (according to             
his professional biography) or February 3, 1939 (which is more plausible in                 
light of the dates of his degrees). He graduated from Yale University, receiving             
his undergraduate degree in 1961, and his master's in 1963.                                 
With two writing credits to his name (the science fiction film Silent Running               
and the second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force), Cimino moved up to directing                 
when his spec script, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, was purchased by Clint Eastwood's           
production company, Malpaso, with Eastwood originally slated to direct it                   
himself. However, Cimino convinced him to allow him to direct the film, which               
became a solid box office success at the time, and which enjoys a minor cult                 
status today.                                                                               
With the success of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Cimino was able to secure a                   
stellar cast and freedom from studio interference for his second film, The Deer             
Hunter (1978). The picture became a massive critical and commercial success, and             
won a number of Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture.                           
On the basis of this track record, he was given free rein by United Artists for             
his next film, Heaven's Gate (1980). The film came in several times over budget;             
the result not only was a financial disaster that nearly bankrupted the studio,             
but Heaven's Gate became the lightning rod for the industry perception of the               
out-of-control state of Hollywood at that time. The film marked the end of the               
so-called New Hollywood era. Transamerica Corporation, the owner of United                   
Artists, lost confidence in the film company and its management. Transamerica               
soon sold the company.                                                                       
Heaven's Gate was such a devastating box office and critical bomb that public               
perception of Cimino's work was almost irretrievably tainted in its wake; none               
of his subsequent films achieved popular or critical success. Many critics who               
had originally praised The Deer Hunter became far more reserved about the                   
picture and about Cimino after Heaven's Gate.                                               
Cimino's film was somewhat rehabilitated by an unlikely source. The Z Channel, a             
cable pay TV channel that at its peak in the mid-1980s served 100,000 of Los                 
Angeles's most influential film professionals, was the only network showing                 
uncut movies on television. After the failed release of the re-edited and                   
shortened Heaven's Gate, Jerry Harvey, the channel's programmer, decided to play             
Cimino's original 219 minute cut. The re-assembled movie received admiring                   
reviews and coined the term "director's cut."                                               
In 1984, after being unable to finalize a deal with director Herbert Ross,                   
surprisingly, Paramount Pictures offered the job of directing Footloose to                   
Cimino. According to screenwriter Dean Pitchford[1], Cimino was at the helm of               
Footloose for four months, making more and more extravagant demands in terms of             
set construction and overall production. Finally, Paramount realized that it                 
potentially had another Heaven's Gate on its hands. Paramount fired Cimino and               
finalized the deal with Herbert Ross to direct the picture, as had originally               
been intended.                                                                               
This episode, though seemingly trivial, had far-reaching effects for Cimino's               
career. After the Footloose episode, within the film industry, Cimino was                   
perceived as someone who had not learned his lesson with Heaven's Gate. In fact,             
executives came to the conclusion that, given the chance, Cimino would again                 
make extravagant demands that might ultimately lead to another debacle.                     
Therefore, Hollywood turned its back on Cimino after the Footloose episode. All             
his subsequent films would be financed independently, and not as part of a                   
Cimino's "cops and crooks" epic Year of the Dragon, which he and Oliver Stone               
adapted from Robert Daley's novel, fared much better. In fact, due to it, Cimino             
was made an honorary Colonel in the Royal Thai Air Force. However, Year of the               
Dragon was also nominated for five Razzie awards, including Worst Director and               
Worst Screenplay. The film was also sharply criticized for providing offending               
stereotypes about Chinese Americans.                                                         
The advertising campaign for Year of the Dragon made frequent references to                 
Cimino's hit film The Deer Hunter, strongly implying that this was Cimino's most             
recent film before Year of the Dragon. Conspicuously absent from the ad campaign             
was any mention of Heaven's Gate.                                                           
In 2001, Cimino published his first novel, Big Jane. Later that year the French             
Minister of Culture decorated him "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres."