Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme, the offbeat director of one of the best and most controversial films of the 1990s, was born Feb. 22, 1944, in Long Island, N.Y., and began as a cameraman and film critic. He "interned" at American International Pictures, working his way up into the director spot on the B movie Caged Heat (1974).

Demme went further upscale with Last Embrace (1979) and made films in the '80s admired by critics if not, by and large, the public (Melvin and Howard, Something Wild). His moody, close-up directing style paid off with 1991's The Silence of the Lambs, the first suspense thriller to win the Best Picture Oscar (along with Best Actor, Actress, Screenplay and Director honors).

Demme directed Tom Hanks to an Oscar in Philadelphia (1993), the first major-studio AIDS drama, and guided Oprah Winfrey in Beloved (1998). In 2004, he remade the 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate.