Peter Bogdanovich, director of ‘Paper Moon,’ dead at 82


Peter Bogdanovich, the ascot-wearing cinephile and director of 1970s black-and-white classics like
"The Last Picture Show" and "Paper Moon," has died. He was 82.
Bogdanovich died early Thursday morning at this home in Los Angeles, said his daughter, Antonia
Bogdanovich. She said he died of natural causes
Considered part of a generation of young "New Hollywood" directors, Bogdanovich was heralded as
an auteur from the start, with the chilling lone shooter film "Targets" and soon after
"The Last Picture Show," from 1971, his evocative portrait of a small, dying town that earned
eight Oscar nominations, won two (for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman) and catapulted him to stardom at
the age of 32. He followed "The Last Picture Show" with the screwball 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.
His turbulent personal life was also often in the spotlight, from his 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, to the murder of his Playmate girlfriend Dorothy Stratten and his
subsequent marriage to her younger sister, Louise, who was 29 years his junior.
Reactions came in swiftly at the news of his death.
"Oh dear, a shock. I am devastated. He was a wonderful and great artist," said Francis Ford
Coppola in an email. "I’ll never forgot attending a premiere for ‘The Last Picture Show.’ I
remember at its end, the audience leaped up all around me bursting into applause lasting easily 15
minutes. I’ll never forget although I felt I had never myself experienced a reaction like that, that
Peter and his film deserved it. May he sleep in bliss for eternity, enjoying the thrill of our applause
Tatum O’Neal posted a photo of herself with him on Instagram, writing "Peter was my heaven &
earth. A father figure. A friend. From ‘Paper Moon’ to ‘Nickelodeon’ he always made me feel safe. I love
you, Peter."
Guillermo del Toro tweeted: "He was a dear friend and a champion of Cinema. He 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."
Born in Kingston, New York, in 1939, Bogdanovich started out as a film journalist and critic, working as
a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art, where through a series of retrospectives he endeared
himself to a host of old guard filmmakers including Orson Welles, Howard Hawks and John Ford.
"I’ve gotten some very important one-sentence clues like when Howard Hawks turned to me and said
‘Always cut on the movement and no one will notice the cut,’" he said in an interview with The
Associated Press. "It was a very simple sentence but it profoundly effected everything I’ve
But his Hollywood education started earlier than that: His father took him at age 5 to see Charlie
Chaplin and Buster Keaton movies at the Museum of Modern Art. He’d later make his own Keaton
documentary, "The Great Buster," which was released in 2018.
Bogdanovich and Platt moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, where they attended Hollywood parties and
struck up friendships with director Roger Corman and Frank Marshall, then just an aspiring producer, who
helped get the film "Targets" off the ground. And the professional ascent only continued for
the next few films and years. But after "Paper Moon," which Platt collaborated on after they
had separated, he would never again capture the accolades of those first five years in Hollywood.
Bogdanovich’s relationship with Shepherd led to the end of his marriage to Platt, with whom he shared
daughters Antonia and Sashy, and a fruitful creative partnership. The 1984 film "Irreconcilable
Differences" was loosely based on the scandal. He later disputed the idea that Platt, who died in
2011, was an integral part of the success of his early films.
He would go on to make two other films with Shepherd, an adaptation of Henry James’s "Daisy
Miller" and the musical "At Long Last Love," neither of which were particularly
well-received by critics or audiences.
And he also passed on major opportunities at the height of his successes. He told Vulture he turned down
"The Godfather," "Chinatown" and "The Exorcist."
"Paramount called and said, ‘We just bought a new Mario Puzo book called "The Godfather."
We’d like you to consider directing it." I said, "I’m not interested in the Mafia,’" he
said in the interview.
Headlines would continue to follow Bogdanovich for things other than his movies. He began an affair with
Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten while directing her in "They All Laughed," a romantic comedy
with Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara, in the spring and summer of 1980. Her husband, Paul Snider,
murdered her that August. Bogdanovich, in a 1984 book titled "The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy
Stratten, 1960-1980," criticized Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire for its alleged role in events he
said ended in Stratten’s death. Then, nine years later, at 49, he married her younger sister Louise
Stratten, who was just 20 at the time. They divorced in 2001, but continued living together, with her
mother in Los Angeles.
In an interview with the AP in 2020, Bogdanovich acknowledged that his relationships had an impact on his
"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
Despite some flops along the way, Bogdanovich’s output remained prolific in the 1980s and 1990s,
including a sequel to "The Last Picture Show" called "Texasville," the country music
romantic drama "The Thing Called Love," which was one of River Phoenix’s last films, and, in
2001, "The Cat’s Meow," about a party on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht starring Kirsten
Dunst as Marion Davies. His last narrative film, "She’s Funny that Way," a screwball comedy
starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston that he co-wrote with Louise Stratten, debuted to mixed
reviews in 2014.
Over the years he authored 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."
He acted semi-frequently, too, sometimes playing himself (in "Moonlighting" and "How I Met
Your Mother") and sometimes other people, like Dr. Elliot Kupferberg on "The Sopranos,"
and also inspired a new generation of filmmakers, from Wes Anderson to Noah Baumbach.
"They call me ‘Pop,’ and I allow it," he told Vulture.
At the time of the AP interview in 2020, coinciding with a podcast about his career with Turner Classic
Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, he was hard at work on a television show inspired by Dorothy Stratten, and
wasn’t optimistic about the future of cinema.
"I just keep going, you know. Television is not dead yet," he said with a laugh. "But
movies may have a problem."
Yet even with his Hollywood-sized ego, Bogdanovich remained deferential to those who came before.
"I don’t judge myself on the basis of my contemporaries," he told The New York Times in 1971.
"I judge myself against the directors I admire — Hawks, Lubitsch, Buster Keaton, Welles, Ford,
Renoir, Hitchcock. I certainly don’t think I’m anywhere near as good as they are, but I think I’m pretty


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