Director John Schlesenger dies at 77
July 25, 2003

Schlessenger, Madonna and Rupert Everett in The Next Best Thing (� 2000 - Lakeshore/Paramount) LOS ANGELES - British film director John Schlesinger died Friday at the age of 77 in a hospital in Palm Springs, California, a hospital spokesman said.

Schlesinger, who suffered a stroke three years ago, was best known for directing the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, in which famed actor Dustin Hoffman made his breakthrough. The film won three Oscars including Best Film and Best Director for its story about a cowboy (Jon Voight) who turns to prostitution to survive in New York.

The openly gay Schlesinger said that the most important theme of his movie was tolerance.

"I'm only interested in one thing - that is tolerance," he said in 1970. "I'm terribly concerned about people and the limitation of freedom. It's important to get people to care a little for someone else. That's why I'm more interested in the failures of this world than the successes."

Also nominated for Oscars were the Schlesinger films Darling, Billy Liar, and Sunday Bloody Sunday. Other notable films included 1985's The Falcon and the Snowman, while his biggest commercial success was 1975's The Marathon Man.

His last film was the 2000 comedy The Next Best Thing - about a straight woman (Madonna) who decides to have a child with her gay friend (Rupert Everett).

Born in London in 1926, Schlesinger studied English literature at Oxford, where he also acted in several university productions.

He began acting with several repertory companies and made several short films for the BBC before turning to feature films.

"John was the best, and the best always wanted to work with him," said Richard Gere Friday. "John's string of films in the '60s and '70s are as astonishingly good as any films made, anytime, anywhere ... audacious, challenging, irascible, moving, witty, wise, and deeply personal. He was an original."

In 1970, Schlesinger was made CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. He is survived by his partner of 3 years, photographer Michael Childers; his brother, Roger Schlesinger; and his sister, Hilary Schlesinger. -Sapa-DPA



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