English director and Sunday Times restaurant critic Michael Winner (pictured above with Charles Bronson) has died. In a tragic turn, Winner had been suffering from health problems ever since he contracted a rare infection after eating bad oysters in 2006. He was 77.
The name alone may not ring a bell, but Winner has 41 titles to his credit, including famed vigilante actioner Death Wish (as well as parts two and three), the unexpectedly cast horror film The Sentinel, and the 1978 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep, starring Robert Mitchum as P.I. Philip Marlowe. Winner saw several iconic faces in the lens of his camera, including friend Marlon Brando, the controversial Oliver Reed, and frequently cast tough-guy actor Charles Bronson.
"When I die, it's going to be 'Death Wish director dies,'" Winner said in The Big Issue last year. "I don't mind though — Death Wish was an epoch-making film. The first film in the history of cinema where the hero kills other civilians. It had never been done before. Since then it has been the most copied film ever. Tarantino put it in his top 10 films ever made."
Website Letters of Note recently published a letter of advice that Winner wrote to his younger self. It expresses his resolute dedication and offers a little more insight into his personality and sense of humor:
"Of all businesses, movies are the most grueling. After each film you are back on the out-of-work list. You can't wait for someone to phone and offer you a job. You have to create scripts, create opportunities, cajole movie stars to have their name attached to your project. It is the perfect canvas. One which you can leave blank through sloth, inactivity or laziness, or one you can fill with activity and pleasure if you try hard enough… Or, to put it in simple English vernacular: take your finger out!"