'Deer Hunter' filmmaker Michael Cimino dead at 77

Robert De Niro has paid his respects to double Oscar victor Michael Cimino who has died aged 77.

Michael Cimino, the multiple Oscar-winning director-producer of The Deer Hunter whose career later became an infamous cautionary tale after the failure of his 1980 Western epic Heaven's Gate has died, according to reports from friends.

While The Deer Hunter has been hailed as one of the best movies in Hollywood history, his next project, Heaven's Gate, was derided as a flop.

Friends called the police when they couldn't reach him and he was found dead on Saturday, reported Variety.

Though his claim to fame was causing the downfall of a movie studio (United Artists), there's no denying that, though he only directed a handful of films, Michael Cimino was a talented and visionary filmmaker.

Heaven's Gate became famous for spiraling out of control, starting as a $7.5 million movie that ultimately ended up costing the studio $44 million when all was said and done.

His first film came with 1974's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot", a heist picture with Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges playing the title characters that led to his landing "The Deer Hunter".

It was a financial disaster that went four times over budget and a year behind schedule, It almost bankrupted the United Artists studio.

Even before Heaven's Gate, Cimino closely guarded his privacy and rarely spoke to the press, telling the Los Angeles Times in 1978, "I don't like the notion of celebrity". And it helped bring down United Artists. "He was an important and masterful film maker". The politics of the big budget film are still being debated, with some arguing Cimino was an apologist for either the pro-war hawks or the anti-war peaceniks.

In the years since, "Heaven's Gate" has been viewed much more favorably, and a 2012 restoration of the director's full, uncut version bolstered a critical re-evaluation of the film. "I don't believe in defeat".

"Nobody lives without making mistakes", Cimino told Vanity Fair in 2010.

He added: "You can't look back". Everybody has bumps, but as Count Basie said, ‘Its not how you handle the hills, its how you handle the valleys.”.

After "Dragon", Cimino would make three more features, 1987's Mario Puzo adaptation "The Sicilian", starring Christopher Lambert, 1990's "Desperate Hours", which reunited him with Rourke, and his final feature, 1996's "Sunchaser", starring Woody Harrelson.

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