Producer and director, born in 1944 in Baldwin, Long Island, New York. Before and since the production of Rachel Getting Married (2008), Jonathan Demme has focused primarily on making documentary films. Right to Return: New Home Movies From the Lower 9th Ward, on post-Katrina New Orleans, is an ongoing project; he is currently editing Neil Young Trunk Show: Scenes From a Concert;and is in pre-production on a Bob Marley documentary scheduled for release in February 2010, the 65th Anniversary of Marley’s birth. Jimmy Carter Man From Plains was his most recent release prior to Rachel Getting Married.
Demme has directed over 27 feature films including The Manchurian Candidate (2004), The Agronomist (2002), Beloved (1998), Philadelphia (1993), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) (for which he won an Academy Award and the New York Film Critics Best Director), Married to the Mob (1988), Swimming to Cambodia (1987), Something Wild (1986),and Melvin and Howard (1980), for which he was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics. Additional producing credits include Devil in a Blue Dress, Household Saints, That Thing you Do!, Ulee’s Gold, and Adaptation.
Demme’s films have been nominated for 20 Academy Awards. The Silence of the Lambs received five Academy Awards in 1991 – for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay Adaptation. His films have won screenplay Oscars twice, Melvin and Howard (Best Original Screenplay, 1980) and The Silence of the Lambs (Best Screenplay Adaptation, 1991), and two of the Best Actor awards of the 1990s went to Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991) and Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, 1993), with Jodie Foster receiving the Best Actress award (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991) as well.
Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward is Demme's passion project. He felt driven to see and document the recovery effort (or lack of one) in New Orleans. His first visit was in the fall of 2005, and Demme has been returning to track the journey of the community and individuals in the Lower Ninth Ward ever since. “The Tavis Smiley Show” dedicated a week of programming to excerpts of Right to Return. Later, a compilation of material became the feature length documentary, Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward, which premiered at the Silverdocs Festival in June 2007.
Demme's ongoing trips to document the constantly unfolding stories of people within the community have inspired four additional biopics which are in various stages of development: The Harrisons of New Orleans, The Carolyn Parker Story, Pastor Mel, and The Blue House, which documents the heroic efforts of the Common Ground organization's work in the community.
Demme, a strong advocate of human rights, has also produced and directed a number of documentaries about the Haitian plight, including The Agronomist; Haiti: Dreams of Democracy; Haiti: Killing the Dream; Tonbe Leve; and Courage and Pain. In addition, he directed the documentary Cousin Bobby, and produced the Academy Award-nominated biography Mandela as well as Into the Rope!, about Double Dutch; The Uttmost, a portrait of producer Kenny Utt; and One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave, about living with AIDS. He also produced the Peabody Award-winning documentary Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, about the life of Beah Richards.
Demme’s creative talents have also lured him into the music domain. He released the acclaimed concert film Neil Young: Heart of Gold, in 2006, re-teaming with Neil Young, with whom he worked on The Complex Sessions, the 1994 film featuring six songs from the “Sleeps with Angels” album. He directed the Robyn Hitchcock concert film Storefront Hitchcock as well as the award-winning Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. In addition, Demme has directed music videos for Bruce Springsteen, Les Frères Parent, The Neville Brothers, New Order, KRS-One, and the Feelies, among others. He also produced Konbit, an album of Haitian music.