Jonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning director of "The Silence of the Lambs" who also led Tom Hanks to an Oscar in "Philadelphia," died Wednesday in New York, his publicist said. He was 73.
Born on Long Island in New York, Demme won an Academy Award in 1992 as best director of the thriller "The Silence of the Lambs" starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodi Foster.
He went on to direct "Philadelphia" in 1993, which earned Hanks an Oscar as best actor for portraying a lawyer fighting for justice after contracting HIV.
"I can confirm that Jonathan passed away early this morning in his Manhattan apartment, surrounded by his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children," his publicist said in a brief statement.
"He died from complications from esophageal cancer and is survived by his children Ramona, age 29, and her husband James Molloy, Brooklyn, age 26, and Jos, age 21."
His death led to an immediate outpouring of grief from fans, friends and former colleagues.
"Deeply saddened by the passing of the most brilliant man -- director, father, friend, activist," wrote British actress Thandie Newton on Twitter. "Devastating to let him go. I love you," she added.
Demme will be laid to rest at a private family funeral. In place of flowers, the family has requested donations to be made to a Florida-based charity that works to protect immigrants, Americans For Immigrant Justice.