The name Jonathan Demme does not illicit instant recognition for those outside Hollywood circles.
I know this because at parties, when asked who my “best publicity tour was,” my response— “Jonathan Demme, hands down”—was met with the sound of wheels turning.
“You know, ‘Silence of the Lambs?’” I’d ask. “’Philadelphia?’”
It’s a shame everyone didn’t have the opportunity to know the director, who died this week at 73, as they knew his films. Why? He was an awesome human being. That was evident even in the brief time I had the pleasure of spending with him, on a publicity tour for his film, “The Truth About Charlie.”
He was warm, thoughtful and full of humility, with an eager smile and a magnetic personality. He was fun. He also had terrific taste in music. When he arrived in town he slipped a CD into the car stereo, a mix-CD which we listened to as we shuttled from interview to interview, an eclectic mix of world music, jazz and funk.
It was the music he listened to when making “The Truth About Charlie,” music that would ultimately inform the soundtrack. Demme gave me a copy before he left town and it was in heavy rotation for years, much to my husband’s chagrin.
Demme seemed intensely interested in other people. He was one of the only celebrities to insist I join him for dinner, not because he was being nice (he was), but because he seemed to truly enjoy knowing and understanding different kinds of people. He was equally courteous and conversational with hotel staff, our driver, reporters, etc.
I spent all of 48 hours with Demme and never saw him again. I am not a friend nor expert on who he was, but ask anyone in this industry and they will tell you that how a person treats the people behind the scenes speaks volumes of their character.
Not to mention, he was an incredible talent (if you haven’t read this great Deadline piece on the making of “The Silence of the Lambs,” cancel your appointments this afternoon). It makes me sad to think he’s no longer walking among us, but he’s left an awful lot of good stuff behind.
Maggie Haslam is a recovering entertainment publicist who now writes, edits and consults part time. She has a regular support group that meets for happy hour. Find her on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.