Michael Cimino

03.02.1939, New York, USA - 02.07.2016, Los Angeles, California, USA



Cimino is an American director, screenwriter and producer. He studied painting, art history and art and architecture at Yale and in 1963 he graduated in painting. Afterwards he moved to Manhattan and became a successful director of promotional films for larger companies. Already then one could notice the apparent indications of his future style with memorable visuals, elaborate set design and use of typical American symbols. In 1971 in Los Angeles he began his screenwriting career. He got the opportunity to direct his first film thanks to Clint Eastwood who liked his screenplay for the crime comedy Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974). Eastwood bought the rights, hired Cimino to direct and played the leading role himself. Cimino was the co-screenwriter on the film Magnum force (1973), the second film about Dirty Harry. He also worked as a co-screenwriter on the sci-fi Silent Running (1972). Thanks to the commercial success of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot he managed realize his own project The Deer Hunter (1978) starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage. During the shooting, all deadlines and budgets were exceeded but the film was a huge success with the critics as well as audience. Besides other awards, it won several Oscars, including those for best director and film, and the Golden Globe for best director. Because of this success production company United Artists gave Cimino great freedom in realization of his next project. Extremely dedicated to details, Cimino envisioned the ambitious western Heaven's Gate. However, his plan turned out to be too expensive and the film budget was in the end four times bigger than initially planned. The shooting was accompanied by many controversies and problems, and when it was finally released, the film was a complete failure at the box offices and received bad critiques. United Artists almost went bankrupt on account of this film and Cimino’s career never fully recovered. Originally it was a rather long film and it was shortened several times so there are several versions of it. The final of these versions lasting 216 minutes was digitally remastered (under Cimino’s supervision) and shown in 2012 at the 69th Venice Film Festival within the program of classics. Afterwards he directed the action drama Year of the Dragon (1985) starring Mickey Rourke, for which he co-wrote the screenplay with Oliver Stone. His crime drama about the Sicilian mafioso The Sicilian (1987) was a financial failure. He had no better luck with the film Desperate Hours three years later (remake of William Wyler’s film from 1955 starring Humphrey Bogart) again starring Mickey Rourke. He directed his last film, crime drama The Sunchaser, in 1996. Having received bad reviews in test screenings, it went straight to video. In addition he directed the segment No Translation Needed as part of the omnibus by different directors Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s'éteint et que le film commence (2007). Even though he directed just a handful of films, during his career he participated in many projects that have never been finished for different reasons. Besides writing screenplays for films, in 2001 he published his first novel for which he was awarded the French order Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.


Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s'éteint et que le film commence (segment "No Translation Needed") (2007)
The Sunchaser (1996)
Desperate Hours (1990)
The Sicilian (1987)
Year of the Dragon (1985)
Heaven's Gate (1980)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Films by this director

The Deer Hunter

(USA, 1978)

Directed by: Michael Cimino
PHOTOGRAPHY: Vilmos Zsigmond

Steven and Nick are drafted to go to Vietnam. Right before his departure Steven marries Angela who is pregnant and so the wedding becomes their farewell party. After experiencing the horrors of war the trio find themselves in the hands of the Vietcong and end up in one of the many camps for prisoners of war…

color, 183'

Year of the Dragon


Directed by: Michael Cimino

For many years there has been a silent agreement between the police and the triads in the China Town in New York that they would not interfere in each other’s business. Chinese organized crime dealt with smaller problems in the neighborhood and in return the police left them alone. After the younger generation executes the leader of the triad, it is time for Stanley White to step up. He is an awarded policeman and a Vietnam veteran. Even though his only task is to solve a murder, he soon h...

color, 35 mm, 134 min
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