Michael Cimino (born February 3, 1939 in New York City, New York) is an American film director.
Cimino's biography is an example of one of the meteoric rises and falls that were seen in Hollywood in the 1970s. With two writing credits on his record (the science fiction film Silent Running and the second Dirty Harry film Magnum Force), he moved up to directing with the Clint Eastwood film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot which enjoys a minor cult status. His second film, The Deer Hunter, was a massive critical success, and won a number of Oscars, including one for Cimino as Best Director.
On the back of this record, he was given free rein by United Artists for his next film, Heaven's Gate. The result not only was a financial disaster that nearly bankrupted the studio, but the film was also widely viewed as being the most visible example of the out-of-control state of Hollywood at that time. Blowback from the ordeal caused many critics to subsequently downplay their praise for The Deer Hunter.
Public perception of Cimino's work was almost irretrievably tainted in the wake of Heaven's Gate and none of his subsequent films achieved popular or critical success. In 2001 he published his first novel, Big Jane. Later that year the French Minister of Culture decorated him "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres."
Interviews with Cimino are rare, and his part in the Heaven's Gate saga remains a relative non-topic, though George Hickenlooper's book Reel Interviews and Peter Biskind's scathing book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, deal almost exclusively with the film and resulting scandal, where Hickenlooper's book offers a rare candid discussion with Cimino, Biskind's does not. The Region 2 DVD release of The Deer Hunter contains an audio commentary with Cimino, as does the Region 1 release of Year of the Dragon.