Michael Winner Has Died

Jokers and Death Wish director was 77

Michael Winner

Michael Winner, director of Death Wish, producer, and of late, Sunday Times food critic, has died. He was 77.

Born in Hampstead in 1935, Winner cut his teeth as a journalist, working as a cub reporter on the Kensington Post, Showgirl Glamour Revue and the NME, before scoring a job as assistant director making BBC television programmes.

By the early '60s he'd made a name for himself as a director. Shoot To Kill, a thriller about a showbiz reporter that had shades of autobiography about it, marked his feature debut. But it was his collaboration with Oliver Reed, beginning with The Jokers in 1964 and continuing with I'll Never Forget What'sisname and Hannibal Brooks, that gave his career a timely boost.

He was best known as a filmmaker for 1974's tough-guy thriller Death Wish. In it, Charles Bronson played Paul Kersey, a vigilante whose violent quest to avenge the murder of his wife was set against a bleak and brooding New York cityscape. The film was a box-office smash and launched a Death-franchise that never quite matched the appeal - or controversy - of the original, or their 1972 thriller The Mechanic.

1998's comedy-thriller Parting Shots proved to be his last movie, with Winner turning hand back to journalism and writing often brutal, usually entertaining restaurant criticism for The Sunday Times, occasionally also popping up in insurance ads to cheer up haggard motorists.

"I’ve had an incredible life," an ailing Winner reflected last year. "Brando was my best friend, Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, even though he tried to kill me three times... I can look back and say I have lived a life that very few people alive have lived. I have done 40 major movies with the biggest stars in the world.”

His wife Geraldine, who survives him, issued a statement describing him as "a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous".