‘Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme had special relationship with Austin


Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme has died.

The New York-native, ardent fan of Texas film and director of “The Silence of the Lambs” died from complications due to esophageal cancer and heart disease. He was 73.

BREAKING: Jonathan Demme dies at 73

A director with a voracious appetite for vibrant characters, crafty storytelling and a feel for exploitation (he was one of Roger Corman’s many cinematic offspring), Demme’s career was one of modern American cinema’s most eclectic.

He seemed to fear no genre. He could do star-studded social realism (the legal/AIDS drama “Philadelphia,” for which Tom Hanks won an Oscar), concert movies (Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” remains the best concert film ever made, “Last Waltz” or no), delivered music-heavy screwball comedy (“Something Wild”) and could elevate lurid pulp into Oscar-winning art (hello, Clarice).

His most recent critical smash was the 2008 movie “Rachel Getting Married” starring Anne Hathaway. Directed in a naturalistic style, it reminded audiences that Demme was capable of showing new sides of himself after more than 40 years as a director.

Jonathan Demme, left, and Paul Thomas Anderson discuss filmmaking at the 2013 Austin Film Festival.

There wasn’t much Demme couldn’t do, or at least try. He was a vibrant documentarian — besides the still-stunning “Stop Making Sense,” Demme made three films focusing on Neil Young: — “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” (2006), “Neil Young Trunk Show” (2009) and “Neil Young Journeys” (2011). Other subjects included Jimmy Carter (“Man from Plains”), Haitian radio under oppressive regimes (“The Agronomist”) and his cousin Bobby (“Cousin Bobby”), a minister in Harlem. He also directed episodic television and a clutch of music videos.

Demme had a special relationship with Austin. In 1980, after Austin Chronicle/South by Southwest co-founder Louis Black showed Demme Austin’s vibrant arts scene, Demme put together a program of six short films from Austin and screened the set at the Collective for Living Cinema in New York, a cinematic postcard from Austin to the Big Apple. The set was finally released on DVD in 2015 as “Jonathan Demme presents Made in Texas.” He was a frequent guest at SXSW and the Austin Film Festival.

Versatile Texas actor Bill Paxton’s career was all over the place in the best way

Bill Paxton, looking concerned, as Fred Haise in "Apollo 13"
Bill Paxton, looking concerned, as Fred Haise in “Apollo 13”

Fort Worth-born actor Bill Paxton, he of “Aliens,” “Big Love” and “Apollo 13” fame (among many, many other roles) has died from complications during surgery. He was 61.

Paxton was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2007 and given a Texas Medal of Arts award in 2011.

Several folks on Twitter noted that he was one of the only people ever killed by an Alien, a Terminator and a Predator, a distinction he disputed in a 2011 interview with the American-Statesman. (“That’s not technically correct,” the actor (said). “I was only maimed by the Terminator. I only had what I call a traumatic encounter with the Terminator.”)

Paxton started appearing in films in 1975 but came to public prominence in 1986 as the cowardly Private Hudson in James Cameron’s “Aliens.”

Bill Paxton as Pvt. Hudson in "Aliens," extremely scared of getting stabbed by Bishop.
Bill Paxton as Pvt. Hudson in “Aliens,” extremely scared of getting stabbed by Bishop.

In a brilliantly paced film full of ground-breaking action and serious terror, Paxton was impossible to forget. His hysteria was visceral, and it helped that he was blessed with the most quotable lines: “Game over, man! Game over!” and “Seventeen *days*? Hey man, I don’t wanna rain on your parade, but we’re not gonna last seventeen hours!” He was incredibly annoying and completely fantastic.

Paxton’s career was all over the place in the best possible way.

He showed up in the cult favorite “Near Dark,” the video for New Order’s “Touched By the Hand of God” and was critically acclaimed in the still-underrated “A Simple Plan.”

He was astronaut Fred Haise in “Apollo 13,” starred as the complicated polygamist patriarch in HBO’s weird and excellent series “Big Love” and directed a very strong Matthew McConaughey in the 2001 thriller “Frailty.”

He played a soulless killer on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a nasty fellow cameraman opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler” and was currently filming the show “Training Day” for CBS when he died.

The guy was everywhere for 40 years. Hollywood will miss him a lot.

Doris Roberts and her Texas connection: William Goyen

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Many of the obituaries for actress Doris Roberts, who became a household name primarily because of her role on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” are missing a key point. For 20 years, she was married to Houston writer William Goyen, one of the most overlooked modernist writers of the 20th century.

They were a couple from 1963 until Goyen’s death in 1983, and Roberts often talked of her fondness for the author.

Roberts, who was 90,  died of natural causes, her family said. She was on the “Raymond” show from 1996 to 2005, winning four Emmys for her role. She also won an Emmy for “St. Elsewhere.”

Before moving to Los Angeles, Roberts was a struggling actress on Broadway and a member of the Actors Studio.

Roberts was born in St. Louis on Nov. 4, 1925, and grew up in New York. Before marrying Goyen, she was married to Michael Cannata from 1956 to 1962 and had one son, Michael Cannata Jr.

Goyen’s most critically acclaimed novel was “The House of Breath” in 1950. If you want to know more about Goyen’s relationship with Roberts, go here.