Harry here... I had to sleep on this one. I got the news that Ted Demme passed away at around 5 a.m. this morning. The first couple of emails said simply that Ted had died of a heart attack at the age of 38. Tears instantly flowed.
I've known Ted Demme for going on 4 years now. He would read the site and send in comments and criticisms about what it was we did. He'd send in emails excitedly talking about a good day he had had shooting whatever the film was that he was shooting at the time. Ted was a great guy.
Everybody has different opinions about his films. However, Ted Demme was a great guy. He loved films. He would pop online around 1 am most every night on AOL Instant Messenger and he'd start chatting about flicks. He was working on a documentary about the great 70's Filmmaking. He was interviewing tons of folks, and was so excited about documenting a history behind the decade of film that so completely made him want to make movies.
Ted loved the film JAWS insanely. He and Quint would chat about that for hours. In all... Ted was simply one of the nicest most down to earth guys I knew in the industry.
The vast majority of the time I knew him was quite casual. Just a couple of emails. Then he made BLOW. I was in Los Angeles on other business and he and I had chatted so he decided to show me, Moriarty and Henchman Mongo BLOW... Months before it came out.
The screening was in the New Line screening room and when we first walked in and sat down, none of us were particularly enthused to be watching that film. Ted wasn't one of my favorite filmmakers, but he was good people. There's a difference and once you begin meeting and forming friendships in the industry you have to know that difference. However, in all the time that we had known one another, he had never sent me a script, never sent a film to be screened early. So this was the first time that I'd not only meet him in person, but the first time he wanted me to see something of his well before release.
It was so far and above anything he had done thus far in his career. I liked some of his earlier films, but I loved this film. Loved it something fierce. And absolutely I stand behind my preference to BLOW over GOODFELLAS... Mainly because I like the characters in BLOW, there is a sense of warmth to them and because you can feel that the director loves George Jung. I never really get the sense that Scorsese even liked a single one of the characters in GOODFELLAS, that's why I prefer the SOPRANOS to GOODFELLAS... I just like that the people making the show like the characters they are filming.
Right now as I think about BLOW, a film I haven't seen since I hosted a screening of it at the Paramount theater during SXSW last year. Well, I can't help but think of the scene between Johnny Depp and Franka Potente, where she tells him she can't wait for him while he's in prison. That she was going to die early. How that moment was delivered in silence. Just our eyes on Depp and on Potente... Death isn't about the words, but the emotions, that instant lip tremble, that relaxing of the eye area as though through a great sigh.
After I flipped for his film, we were in contact a lot more. Definitely on a weekly basis, sometimes more. He had such hopes for this film he was going to make with Ewan MacGregor. He loved the documentary he was working on.
I truly felt that BLOW was a career turning point for Demme. I knew that he would be on a higher road filmmaking wise. The documentary on Seventies Filmmakers was also changing him. He was even more invigorated to make films that challenged his audience in a way we don't get anymore.
I mourne Ted Demme not only for the friend whose phone number I must erase from my cel phone, whose email and IM names I must erase from my computers... but also the filmmaker that he was becoming and aspiring to be.
He died of a heart attack in Los Angeles while playing in a charity basketball game... a sport he loved. Doing good to the end. This is the first time that I write an obit for a filmmaker that I knew very well... I hope it is the last that I have to write. This hurts too much. Be safe everyone.
I had the opportunity to meet Ted Demme twice, once at a screening of BLOW, and once at POLITICALLY INCORRECT. We chatted many, many times, though, and as I sit here trying to understand how a 38 year old filmmaker who seemed to be turning yet another corner professionally is suddenly not here anymore, I think it's most important to remember this:
Ted Demme loved movies. He loved making movies. More importantly, he loved talking about movies. He was genuine and unbridled in his enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm was infectious.
I am deeply saddened and shocked by this loss, and my sympathies go out to Ted's lovely wife, his family, and the many, many friends he leaves behind. His passing will be felt, and his passion will be remembered.
Godspeed, Ted, and as I head back to bed, it is the voice of Ian McKellan I hear in my head right now:
"Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo?"
God, I wish.
I first met Ted Demme in late March of last year. New Line had set up a very short phone interview to promote Demme's underrated BLOW. The interview was a lot of fun and is, in my opinion, one of the better interviews I've been able to bring you folks. Having said that, I had very little to do with it. An interview can only be as good as the person being interviewed. Ted not only appreciated my laidback interview style, he played around with it, enjoying the break from the monotony that is a press junket . Here's an example taken from the interview... I think it showcases his sense of humor quite well:
[Ted on his personal attachment to his film, BLOW] "I've just been working so hard on this film because I've had it for, you know, 6 years now. Its been one of those labors, you know. Having produced it and seeing the whole thing from inception, I've just been working so hard in getting it out."
Having to fucking beat Morgan Freeman's Fucking movie (laughs) [KISS THE GIRLS]. We'll be in the theater until Pearl Fucking Harbor comes and invades us, you know... or The Mummy takes over the planet."
My only regret with the interview is we only had 15 minutes. We finished up with a promise to later do a more in-depth interview.
After the interview, we stayed in constant contact via AOL's Instant Messenger, emails and the occasional phone call. He actually got me one or two good scoops for you guys. But the talk was never centered soley around business. For whatever reason we just saw the world through the same lens, had a similar sense of humor. In short, we liked bullshitting around with each other.
I journied to LA a few times since having met him and each time we almost got together, but then he'd find out he was shooting a video in New York, or he'd be working on signing Ewan McGregor and Heath Ledger to his newest film and we'd miss each other or I'd be supremely busy and not even think about trying to fit another thing in on that trip.
I never thought much of it. He was a young guy, he showed great talent and was a wonderful human being. Next time I was called to LA, I was sure we were going to meet up. As a matter of fact, he had invited me to come down to the Carribean and spend some time with him and watch him shoot Nautica.
Now, an hour after hearing of his death, I regret with almost all of my being that I never picked up that phone when we could have arranged a meeting, that I never got to meet him in the flesh. It's selfish, I know, but grief is selfishness. You don't mourn for the friend or loved one lost, you mourn the fact that you'll never get to talk to them again, that you'll never see them smile or laugh or be a smartass again. You mourn what you have missed or will miss by their absence. That's where I find myself now.
Ted was a very talented filmmaker who I'm sure had even better things in store for us in the future. To those that knew him or only knew his work he will be forever in our hearts and in our thoughts.
My condolences go out to Ted's friends and family, especially his wife and children. He was as proud a father as I've ever seen, bombarding me with Instant Messages the day his second child, Dexter Demme, was born.. about a month ago.
I'd like to leave you folks with a repost of the link to the interview I did with Ted. I'm not posting this as a show-off or as anything to booster my ego. This is all about Ted. Please give it a read and feel Ted's warmth as well as his humor.
You can read it here: CLICK HERE
Here's to Ted. I'm gonna miss you, bro.