‘Moonstruck’ Director Norman Jewison Dead At 97

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA)

Fiona McLoughlin Contributor
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Norman Jewison, director of “Moonstruck” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” died Saturday at his home at the age of 97, according to multiple reports.

Jeff Sanderson, a spokesman for Jewison’s family, confirmed his death, according to The New York Times (NYT). Sanderson said the family requested privacy at this time and did not reveal where Jewison lived. Sanderson said Jewison died “peacefully,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Jewison’s 1987 movie “Moonstruck” won 18 awards and had 19 nominations total, including three Oscars wins in 1988 and four other Oscar nominations. The film earned Cher an Oscar and helped ignite Nicolas Cage‘s career. Though Jewison received numerous nominations in his career, he never won an Oscar for his directing, according to The NYT.

“Norman was loved for his creative spirit, his infectious energy and his distinct voice. For his commitment to social justice, for pushing the boundaries of filmmaking and advancing the art of storytelling,” the Canadian Film Centre, founded by Jewison in 1988, said on Twitter. “His legacy will live on through his timeless films and the countless individuals and organizations he has inspired, and will continue to inspire, for generations to come.”

The Canadian-born director had a career spanning over 50 years, working on films tackling topics like racism and injustice, The AP reported. Jewison hitchhiked through the southern parts of the United States after his military service with the Canadian Navy in World War II, where he saw Jim Crow segregation firsthand, the outlet reported.

His experiences inspired his 1967 film “In the Heat of the Night.” The movie starred Sidney Poitier, who played a black detective trying to help a white, racist sheriff — played by Rod Steiger — solve a murder in a small town, according to The AP. Jewison won the Academy Award for Best Picture for the film, and Steiger won an Oscar for Best Actor.

“The movies that address civil rights and social justice are the ones that are dearest to me,” he once said, according to The NYT. (RELATED: Iconic Television Director Robert Butler Dead At 95). 

“Every time a film deals with racism, many Americans feel uncomfortable,” he wrote in his autobiography published in 2004, The AP reported. “Yet it has to be confronted. We have to deal with prejudice and injustice or we will never understand what is good and evil, right and wrong; we need to feel how ‘the other’ feels.”