'Death Wish' Director Michael Winner Dies at Age 77

'Death Wish' Director Michael Winner Dies at Age 77

The Assoicated Press reports that British filmmaker and "Death Wish" director Michael Winner has died at the age of 77. The news was shared by his wife Geraldine this morning. Winner passed away at his home in London following an illness.

Winner directed Marlon Brando in 1972's The Nightcomers, a prequel to The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, then made his earliest efforts with box office star Charles Bronson in Chato's Land, recounting a mixed race American Indian fighting with Whites, and The Mechanic, a thriller in which professional assassins are depicted.

The following year, Winner cast Lancaster again in the espionage drama Scorpio, and worked with Bronson on The Stone Killer, in collaboration with producer Dino de Laurentiis.

In 1974, Winner and Bronson collaborated on Death Wish, a film that defined the subsequent careers of both men. Based on a novel by Brian Garfield and adapted to the screen by Wendell Mayes, Death Wish was originally planned for director Sidney Lumet under contract with United Artists. The commitment of Lumet to another film and UA's questioning of its subject matter led to an eventual production by Dino De Laurentiis through Paramount Pictures. Death Wish tracks Paul Kersey, a liberal New York architect who becomes a gun-wielding vigilante after his wife is murdered and daughter is raped. With a script adjusted to Bronson's persona, the film generated major controversy during its screenings and was one of the year's highest grossers.

Following the release of Death Wish, Winner became primarily known as an action film director. In 1975 Winner directed Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (released 1976), an animal comedy starring Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Art Carney, and Milton Berle. Also of modest success was his horror film The Sentinel (1977), the remake of Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep (1978), and the organized crime thriller Firepower (1979) with Sophia Loren.

In the early 1980's Winner once again directed Charles Bronson in Death Wish II, a sequel to the 1974 hit and followed with Death Wish 3 in 1985. He also directed adaptations of the Alan Ayckbourn musical play A Chorus of Disapproval with Anthony Hopkins and the Agatha Christie novel Appointment with Death in 1988.