Death Wish director Michael Winner dies
London - Death Wish director Michael Winner, a British filmmaker, restaurant critic and bon vivant, died on Monday. He was 77.
Winner's wife, Geraldine, said he died at his London home after an illness.
Winner's 30 movies included three Death Wish films starring the late Charles Bronson. He also worked with Hollywood icons including Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Faye Dunaway.
One of his earliest films was the 1962 nudist feature Some Like It Cool; later, he specialised in thrillers and action movies, including The Mechanic, Scorpio and the violent Death Wish series.
Winner never took criticism of his films too seriously.
"If you want art, don't mess about with movies," he once said. "Buy a Picasso."
'I might make a comeback'
Winner was best known for Death Wish, which stars Bronson as a law-abiding citizen who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are attacked. The 1974 film was criticised for its violence, but was a commercial success in an America fretting about urban violence and a fraying social fabric.
Winner declared it "a pleasant romp" with no moralistic intent and went on to direct two more instalments. He also was proud that Death Wish featured the film debuts of two future stars - Jeff Goldblum and Denzel Washington, who played "Freak 1" and "Alley Mugger", respectively.
In later years he was famous for a series of insurance ads with the catchphrase "Calm down, dear!" Prime Minister David Cameron once used the phrase to a female lawmaker in the House of Commons, prompting howls of outrage.
Winner had experienced health problems since getting a bacterial infection from bad oysters in 2007. He wrote his final column in December, but refused to say goodbye forever.
"Who knows, after Christmas I might make a comeback," he wrote. "How many times did Sinatra do it?"
'I shall miss him terribly'
His wife, a former dancer who met Winner in 1957 and married him two years ago, said he was "a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life."
Monty Python comedian John Cleese said Winner had been "the dearest, kindest, funniest and most generous of friends. I shall miss him terribly".
And TV mogul Simon Cowell said he, too, would miss a good friend.
"Laughter was never far away when Michael was around, and he is someone who the more I got to know, the fonder I got of him," Cowell said.