Michael Winner: Death Wish director dies aged 77


The director became well-known for his action films

Related Stories

Film director and newspaper columnist Michael Winner has died, aged 77, his wife Geraldine has confirmed.

Born in Hampstead, London in 1935, he directed more than 30 films, including Death Wish and Scorpio.

He was also famous for his barbed restaurant reviews, written for The Sunday Times under the banner "Winner's Dinners".

Winner had been ill for some time. Last summer, he said liver specialists had given him 18 months to live.

Paying tribute to her husband, Mrs Winner said: "Michael was a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous.

"A light has gone out in my life."

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber said he would "deeply miss" his friend, writing on Twitter: "True originals come rarely in a lifetime."

Monty Python comedian John Cleese added: "I have just heard the very sad news about Michael. He was the dearest, kindest, funniest and most generous of friends.

"I shall miss him terribly."

And Winner's former editor at The Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, said: "So sad to hear of death of my old mate Michael Winner. One of life's great characters."

Martin Ivens, acting editor of The Sunday Times, added: "For nearly 20 years he delighted readers with his inimitable Winner's Dinners column.

"He was also not afraid to laugh at himself and rejoiced in the huge postbag of letters which poked gentle fun at him - often he would forward particularly insulting letters that had been sent straight to him for inclusion alongside his column. He will be greatly missed."

Michael Winner's one-liners

  • The only way to hold a decent dinner party in Hollywood now is to have a seance.
  • Cooking is not a speciality act. It does not require four men juggling lavatories or a set of trapeze artists.
  • Ideally, the average woman needs 25 hours attention a day and if she could get a bit more she'd try for that.
  • Men are ridiculous. Women are far better people. Much wiser (not difficult) and with a temperament to deal with life's complexities and men's abrasiveness. They're also far better at washing socks and darning.
  • I've had 130 lovers so I've had a good run. Geraldine makes up for all of them.
  • A little vulgarity is a thoroughly good thing.
  • I do not lurk. I ponce about, cause trouble, bring light and happiness to the world and generally behave with impeccable (if misplaced) self-assurance.

A law graduate from Cambridge University, Winner had written about film for local papers and, later, the NME, before he joined Motion Pictures Limited as a writer and editor in 1956.

By 1962, he had directed his first full-length movie, Play it Cool, a pop musical starring Billy Fury, at Pinewood Studios.

He established his own film company, Scimitar, in the mid-1960s and made a number of satirical films starring Oliver Reed, including The System and I'll Never Forget What's 'Is Name.

But he became more well-known for his action movies, especially the violent Death Wish series, starring Charles Bronson as an architect who turns vigilante after his wife and daughter are murdered.

Speaking to The Big Issue last year, Winner said he knew the film would be his epitaph.

"When I die, it's going to be 'Death Wish director dies'," he said.

"I don't mind though - Death Wish was an epoch-making film. The first film in the history of cinema where the hero kills other civilians.

"It had never been done before. Since then it has been the most copied film ever. Tarantino put it in his top 10 films ever made."

In later years, Winner also directed and starred in a series of commercials for a car insurance company featuring the catchphrase: "Calm down dear!"

It was fuel to the fire of critics who felt Winner was a brash, sexist oaf, but he insisted it was all done with a hefty dose of irony.

"If you create this comedy character of wealth and opulence swanning around, people hate you," he told The Independent in 2010.

"But the ones who hate me don't get me at all. They don't get the joke."

Michael Winner and Diana Dors In 1963 he directed Diana Dors in a bedroom scene for the crime drama West 11

For his entry in the 2012 edition of Who's Who, the director listed his interests as "eating, being difficult, making table mats, washing silk shirts" and "doing Pilates badly".

But he was also a charity campaigner, who established The Police Memorial Trust after the fatal shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.

That led to the unveiling of the National Police Memorial in central London, which honours officers killed in the line of duty, in 2005.

Winner was reportedly offered an OBE for his charity work the following year but turned it down, saying: "An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets well at King's Cross station".

The director had experienced a run of ill-health since eating a bad oyster on holiday in Barbados in 2007. It gave him the rare bacterial infection Vibrio vulnificus, which kills about 50 per cent of its victims within 48 hours.

He was on the brink of death five times and underwent a gruelling 19 operations, including the removal of three tendons, leaving him with mobility difficulties.

The Queen and Michael Winner The Queen unveiled the National Police Memorial alongside Winner in 2005

Later, he picked up the E coli infection from a steak tartare, and was hospitalised eight times in the last few months of his life.

But he continued to write his weekly column for The Sunday Times until 2 December, 2012, signing off with the headline: "Geraldine says it's time to get down from the table. Goodbye."

Winner met his wife 56 years ago, but did not marry until 2011 in a small ceremony witnessed by actor Michael Caine and his wife Shakira.

Mrs Winner said her husband had died on Monday at his home in Kensington, London, where she had been nursing him.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    His best moment was when he had a pop at Richard Littlejohn on Richard Littlejohn Live and Uncut.

  • Comment number 410.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Irritating, obnoxious, infuriating at times but always witty, intelligent and most importantly entertaining all the time. Too many people in the media spotlight are overly trained or worried about saying the wrong thing and therefore cover up the true them.Far from that he was happy to poke fun himself and his eccentricities.You don't really have to have agreed with him or liked him to admire that

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Never really posted on here, but this guy who has sadley died, was a wonderful person. Pompos and entertaining, but mostly, human. Will be missed, and thank you for your life! God bless all that you leave behind. XXXX

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    I'm delighted to see you used Michael Winner's headline for the item. Love you, BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    he would come across as a pompous and arrogant man,but i believe that was a front.
    underneath that he was articulate, very knowledgeable and generous.
    he also told it like it was,no frills,no pc,not afraid to give his opinion,i admired him very much for that.

    another character who will be sadly missed,r.i.p mr winner

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    He directed some ground breaking movies for his time. Nowadays, they're looked upon with distaste, but from the outset of his career, he was both honest and undaunted by critism. Brash, chauvinistic? defintely, but entertaining and humurous. RIP

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Death Wish was gratuitous and pandering to the frustrated little wannabe vigilantes who would probably go out and indiscriminately give people the Paul Kersey treatment based on their won judgement of who the baddies are, which for some is practically everyone that is not like them.
    Sums it up nicely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Such sad news. Killed by an Oyster.. I have no doubt he would find this very amusing. I gave a public showing of In This Life, which I feel is one of the most important films made about refugee migration... he truly is the man who spoke sense when the likes of Richard Littlejohn and Jan Moir were stirring hatred, bigotry and paranoia. Rest in peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    "Quite a few Smart Alecs on here telling us ecoli is not a virus . This is only half-correct . Ecoli is a bacterium which is usually harmless ... So harmful ecoli is a virally [bacteriophage] infected bacterium ."

    Actually, totally correct: E. coli is a BACTERIUM whether infected by phage or not. Just as you are no less human (presumably) because you contain many bacteria and viruses right now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Overrated, in every aspect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    What a character, colourful, flamboyant & funny but clearly he was much more than this.

  • Comment number 399.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    I am so devastated to hear of Michael's death. He was an iconic figure and, absolutely, entertained me with his wit, wisdom and entertainment (especially the adverts). Oh, how I wish I could have met him. They certainly broke the mould when he was made Thank you and may you rest in peace; athough I, somehow, think that you will find that very difficult xx

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    385. dave
    ...BBC should close the accounts of these nasty trolls rather than just remove the comment
    Or go one further, Paul Kersey style, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    He directed one of my favourite films, "The Mechanic 1972 version" This film had no dialogue for the first 16 minutes now that's brave these days its yak yak yak. He struck me as a genuine character and was just a bit larger than life, a marmite man R.I.P.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Pompous, self opinionated, aloof......... all things that I feel Mr Winner would take as compliments. You always got a mixed bag with him but it was all done with an underlying humour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    @348 - A Have Your Say column when another human being - an eccentric, unique character at that - has passed away is not the time to chip away at ones character or criticise, whatever your feelings posters should be respectful to those close to him and his admirers sad at his death. Disrespectful comments should be moderated IMHO. Rest In Peace, your time on this earth is done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Did not know Michael Winner.Have never met him.But did admire his films.Not to keen on why he wandered into Advertising?But do understand the need to maximise income.
    Such a shame that our Advertising Industry persuade good people to help sell the product....
    Be it Aftershave..Perfume...Insurance. .or a Political Party..
    But ..thats just me...
    Keep buying the product...

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    He was a fixture of the British cultural scene and like Ken Russell he made films that I often disliked, yet I always felt that our national life needed people with the level of disrespect for "the norms" that they both espoused. Rest in peace Michael - calmed down at last.


Page 3 of 23


More Entertainment & Arts stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.