Jonathan Demme proved to be that rare maverick filmmaker who managed to find a place for his talents within the Hollywood system while still making movies his own way and on his own terms. A director who invested his characters with an unusual depth and humanity, Demme was unafraid to take on challenging and controversial subject matters in his films, but also knew how to make his stories absorbing and entertaining, and the results have included both box-office blockbusters (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) and critical favorites (Melvin and Howard, Something Wild).
Born in Baldwin, NY, on February 22, 1944, Demme's mother was an actress, and his father worked in public relations. When he was 15, his family moved to Miami, where his father had landed a job at the Fountainbleau Hotel. Demme's original career goal was to become a veterinarian, and, after working at animal clinics as a teenager, he enrolled at the University of Florida in Gainesville. College-level chemistry, however, proved to be his Achilles' heel, and, realizing animal medicine was not a practical goal, he began searching for a new path. An enthusiastic cinema fan since childhood, he applied for an open position as film critic at the university's newspaper.