Last Picture Show director Peter Bogdanovich passes away at 82

Peter Bogdanovich (July 30, 1939 – January 6, 2022 CREDIT: Shutterstock)

Two-time Oscar nominee, Peter Bogdanovich has passed away at age 82. Bogdanovich is known for directing films such as The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, What’s Up, Doc?, Mask and Nickelodeon. 

Bogdanovich died shortly after midnight Thursday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, his daughter Antonia Bogdanovich told The Hollywood Reporter.

“We would like to ask for your respect of our privacy while we mourn the death of our loved one, our precious man,” she said in a statement.

Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York, on July 30, 1939. He graduated from New York City’s Collegiate School in 1957 and studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory, and he later appeared in small-scale theatrical productions.

In the early 1960s, Bogdanovich was known as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Bogdanovich was influenced by the French critics of the 1950s who wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma, especially critic-turned-director François Truffaut. Before becoming a director himself, he built his reputation as a film writer with articles in Esquire.

In 1966, Bogdanovich decided to become a director and headed for Los Angeles with his wife Polly Platt. Considered part of a generation of young “New Hollywood” directors, Bogdanovich received his break from producer Roger Corman before his career really took off with his black-and-white adaptation of author Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, set in a Texas town, which was released in 1971. The film earned eight Academy Award nominations, including directing and adapted screenplay (shared with Larry McMurtry) for him, and supporting acting awards for Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson.

“Bogdanovich, 31, has achieved a tactile sense of time and place,” Stefan Kanfer raved in Time magazine shortly after the movie opened. “More, he has performed that most difficult of all cinematic feats: he has made ennui fascinating. Together, that is enough to herald him as possibly the most exciting new director in America today.”

He followed The Last Picture Show with the comedy What’s Up, Doc?, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, and then the Depression-era road trip film Paper Moon, which won 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal an Oscar as well.

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Bogdanovich’s filmography was oftentimes overshadowed by his turbulent personal affairs, especially a life-altering tragedy. He had a well-known affair with Cybill Shepherd that began during the making of The Last Picture Show while he was married to his close collaborator, Polly Platt and eventually caused the demise of their marriage. 

In the summer of 1980, Bogdanovich’s girlfriend, model and actor Dorothy Stratten, was murdered by her estranged husband Paul Snider, who died by suicide on the same day. The killing led Bogdanovich to take a four-year hiatus from directing and shadowed the rest of his life.

In an interview with the AP in 2020, Bogdanovich acknowledged that his relationships had an impact on his career.

“The whole thing about my personal life got in the way of people’s understanding of the movies,” Bogdanovich said. “That’s something that has plagued me since the first couple of pictures.”

He returned with the Cher drama Mask and went on to make more intimate films like Illegally Yours and Texasville, a follow-up to The Last Picture Show. Bogdanovich maintained a love of acting and appeared in several films and appeared in 14 episodes of the HBO smash hit series The Sopranos as Dr. Elliot Kupferberg. 

Bogdanovich wrote several books about movies, including Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week, Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors and Who the Hell’s in It: Conversations with Hollywood’s Legendary Actors. In 1984, Bogdanovich wrote the book The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, where he blamed Hugh Hefner for her demise, claiming that the Playboy founder triggered Snider’s wrath when he banned him from his mansion.

Most recently, Bogdanovich directed the comedy She’s Funny That Way in 2014, starring Owen Wilson and Imogen Poots, and the documentary The Great Buster, about silent film legend Buster Keaton, which played Venice and Telluride in 2018.

His works have been cited as influences by such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino, Rian Johnson, David Fincher, Edgar Wright, the Safdie brothers, David O. Russell, Andy Muschietti, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, and Noah Baumbach.

Friends, colleagues, and fans took to social media after news of his passing broke:

Peter Bogdanovich is survived by his daughters Antonia and Sashy as well as grandchildren Maceo, Levi and Wyatt.