Director Ted Demme Dies at 38

By Paul Williams
January 31, 2002

photo retrieved with permission from

Ted Demme, famous movie and television director, died on Jan. 14, 2002 after suffering a full cardiac arrest. He was 38 years old. He collapsed after playing in a celebrity basketball game for the NBA entertainment league at a Santa Monica private school. He was then rushed to the UCLA Medical center. At 5:28 p.m. he was pronounced dead. After an autopsy it appears that he died of “natural causes.” A look into his personal medical history, as well as toxicology tests will be performed. However it is expected that the results from this information could take weeks.

He attained recent success with his work on movies like 1996’s “Beautiful Girls” and “Blow,” which came out in 2001. In 1999, Demme received his first Emmy as an executive producer for HBO’s “A lesson before dying.” He also received producing credits for the 1998 movie “Rounders.” However, he wasn’t just an overnight success; he had to work his way from the bottom up.

Starting as a producer’s assistant at MTV in 1985, he began by working on the show “Remote Control.” He helped to create and direct “Yo! MTV Raps” and he directed the infamous cigarette smoking rants of Denis Leary that appeared frequently on MTV in the early ’90s. In 1993, Demme ventured into his first feature movie as a director. The urban comedy “Who’s the Man” starred his old friends, Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, who hosted “Yo! MTV Raps.” He also directed music videos by diverse performers including House of Pain, Afghan Whigs, Henry Rollins and most notably Bruce Springsteen’s video “Streets of Philadelphia.”

The video “Streets of Philadelphia” was shot for the movie “Philadelphia,” which was directed by Demme’s uncle, Jonathan Demme. Jonathan Demme came into commercial success after he directed 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs.” In several interviews, Ted Demme talked about his relationship with his uncle. “Everything I do cinematically will probably have a route back to Jonathan, but I love him to death. He is like my best friend and big brother.”

Ted Demme was about to direct the upcoming movie “Nautica,” starring Ewan McGregor and Heath Ledger. In addition to Jonathan Demme, Ted Demme is survived by his wife, two children, both of his parents and his sister.

Did You Know?

Ted Demme
created MTV’s “Yo! MTV Raps”

His first feature film was 1993’s “Who’s The Man”

He directed
popular films like “Beautiful Girls” and “Blow”

 His uncle, Jonathan Demme, directed “Silence of the Lambs”

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Paul Williams

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