Writer, director, actor and film historian Peter Bogdanovich has died age 82. His death was confirmed to NPR by his manager Fred Specktor.
Known as a maverick filmmaker, Bogdanovich made movies that ran the gamut from the bleak, 1971 coming-of-age drama The Last Picture Show starring Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd to zany comedies like What’s Up Doc. He made documentaries about Buster Keaton and Tom Petty. He acted in the HBO series The Sopranos as therapist Dr. Elliot Kupferberg.
According to The Hollywood Reporter who spoke with the filmmaker’s daughter, Bogdanovich died early Thursday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.
In a prolific career that spanned more than 50 years, Bogdanovich touched every aspect of filmmaking. He began his career as a critic, studied the movies of his heroes like Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock and curated film series at The Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere. He got to know Orson Welles, starred in his last, but unfinished film, The Other Side of the Wind and eventually co-wrote Welles’ biography. Bogdanovich also joined the effort to complete Welles’ film which debuted on Netflix in 2018.
Bogdanovich was raised in New York by parents who were European immigrants; his father was a painter from Serbia. Peter wanted to be an actor and studied with the legendary Stella Adler. He told film historian David Thomson, “I started seeing pictures — several hundred a year — and I always preferred old movies.” Younger generations might know Bogdanovich, with his glasses and trademark scarf, as the character Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, a therapist from HBO’s The Sopranos. More recently he made documentaries about Buster Keaton and Tom Petty.
Bogdanovich shot The Last Picture Show, based on Larry McMurtry’s novel, in black and white. Roger Ebert wrote the film “felt new and old at the same time” and captured the “emptiness” of a Texas prairie town in 1951. The movie was nominated for several Academy Awards including for best picture, best director and best writing, screenplay based on material from another medium. Bogdanovich co-wrote the screenplay with McMurtry. During filming, Bogdanovich and actress Cybill Shepherd fell in love and eventually married. They divorced in 1978.
Among the many tributes on social media, director Guillermo del Toro tweeted that Peter Bogdanovich, “birthed masterpieces as a director and was a most genial human. He single-handedly interviewed and enshrined the lives and work of more classic filmmakers than almost anyone else in his generation. ” Viola Davis wrote, “RIP Peter Bogdanovich! You made me fall in love with movies. Rest well.”