It was a sad day to learn that film director Michael Winner had passed away today (January 21st 2013). At the age of 77, Winner had directed over 30 movies, most notably the ‘Death Wish’ series, which starred his good friend and frequent collaborator Charles Bronson.
Born in 1935 into a wealthy family, Winner had a decent start in life, with him starting out at the BBC. After ten years or so directing shorts, documentaries and B-films, it wasn’t long until he was writing and directing what he was became famed for; glamorous women and revenge flicks, teaming up with Bronson for the first time with the 1972 Western ‘Chato’s Land’. His close bond with Bronson, perhaps strengthened by their Polish roots, Winner went on to direct him five more times with ‘The Mechanic’ (1972) (recently remade with Jason Statham in the Bronson role), ‘The Stone Killer’ (1973) and then giving Bronson his most famous character, Paul Kersey, in the soon-to-be-remade Death Wish I (1974), Death Wish II (1982) and Death Wish 3 (1985).
A charismatic man, Winner, also had a tremendous sense of humour and could certainly give it as much as take it. He’d often edit his movies himself, going under the name Arnold Crust and Arnold Crust Jr. He’d go on to work with his close friends Roger Moore and Michael Caine on the con-man caper ‘Bullseye!’. Later years saw Winner in car insurance commercials and becoming a restaurant critic, as well as setting up The Police Memorial Trust, memorials for British Police officers killed in the line of duty.
In 1993 I gained a personal contact in Mr Winner when I started out in film, with him considering to sponsor me so I was able to attend the London International Film and Television School here in London. He decided against it, telling me to just get out there and gain first-hand experience with festivals and film-sets, writing and reading and get a camera and make things, to which I did just that.
Whilst not an amazing director, Michael Winner was indeed an amazing character and definitely knew how to make a movie. He was certainly not one to shy away from controversy and he made films look more expensive than they cost to make. Unwell for some time, for me he will live on as a true British cinema legend. Michael Winner, I salute you.