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'The Deer Hunter' director Michael Cimino passes away

Los Angeles: Michael Cimino, who won Oscars as director and a producer of “The Deer Hunter”, has died. He was 77.

Friends called the police when they couldn’t reach him and he was found dead on Saturday.

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux tweeted the news on Saturday, writing that he died in peace surrounded by those close to him, reports variety.com.

Cimino was living in Beverly Hills here. The cause of death and location was not immediately known.

His birthday is usually cited as February 3, 1939, though many facts about Cimino’s life, including his birth date, were shrouded in conflicting information.

Cimino directed eight films in his career. His first was 1974’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”; his second was the 1978 Vietnam War masterpiece “The Deer Hunter” which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director; his third was 1980’s “Heaven’s Gate” the film that became synonymous with showbiz disaster; and the rest were mostly footnotes, though some (like “Year of the Dragon”) have passionate fans.

In a statement, actor Robert De Niro said: “Our work together is something I will always remember. He will be missed.”

Cimino was born in New York and raised in Long Island. His father was a music publisher, his mother a costume designer. He went to Michigan State, graduated from Yale in 1961 and got a Master of Fine Arts there in 1963, both in painting. He directed TV commercials for United Airlines, Kool cigarettes and Pepsi, among others.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1971. He got gigs as a co-writer of the ecological science fiction film “Silent Running” starring Bruce Dern, and the 1973 “Magnum Force” the second “Dirty Harry” film.

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