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Moonstruck star Cher thanks late director Norman Jewison for happiest experience

Moonstruck star Cher praises late director Norman Jewison for happiest experience (Richard Shotwell Invision/AP/PA)
Moonstruck star Cher praises late director Norman Jewison for happiest experience (Richard Shotwell Invision/AP/PA)

Hollywood star Cher has led those remembering filmmaking “giant” Norman Jewison following his death aged 97.

Jewison, who was nominated for three best director Academy Awards, is known for his work on Fiddler On The Roof, In The Heat Of The Night, Jesus Christ Superstar and Moonstruck.

He was presented with the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy at the annual ceremony in 1999, which honoured the “superior craftsmanship” of Jewison’s body of work over four decades.

The filmmaker died peacefully at his home on January 20, his publicist Jeff Sanderson confirmed to the PA news agency.

Celebrations of his life will be held in Los Angeles and Toronto at a later date.

Cher, who won an Academy Award for best actress in 1988 for her role as Loretta Castorini in beloved romantic comedy Moonstruck, said Jewison “lives on through his work”.

“Farewell sweet prince. Thank you for one of the greatest, happiest, most fun experiences of my life,” the singer-turned actress said on X, formerly Twitter.

“Without you, I would not have my beautiful golden man (Academy Award). Norman you made Moonstruck the great film people.

“Script, actors, etc, needed you dear.”

While Lee Grant, who starred in Jewison’s social drama In The Heat Of The Night, which won five Academy Awards including best picture and best actor for Rod Steiger, also paid tribute to the filmmaker.

“Norman Jewison is a giant and I am in his debt,” the Oscar-winner said.

“He gave me back a career at the end of the blacklist. I doubt there has been a more versatile director before or since.

“A huge hearted man and truly unique talent. Nothing I say here can do him justice. But I can say ‘Thank You’,” she added.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Jewison joined the Royal Canadian Navy and later earned a bachelor’s degree in general arts before enrolling on a two-year work study programme with the BBC in London, returning to Canada to write, direct and produce hit TV dramas and comedy-variety shows.

His film directing debut came with the 1962 comedy 40 Pounds Of Trouble starring Tony Curtis, before later co-writing and directing hit film The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen.

Jewison’s films have covered a wide range of subjects and styles, from political satire in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming; to gamesmanship in The Thomas Crown Affair, and racial prejudice in A Soldier’s Story – adapted from Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

He also directed the hit screen version of Broadway’s Fiddler On The Roof, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, futuristic Rollerball and crime drama F.I.S.T. starring Sylvester Stallone.

Jewison founded the Canadian Film Centre in 1988, where storytellers could “could learn to master the medium of filmmaking and ultimately command a place on screens around the world”, its website says.

Cher
Cher won an Academy Award for her role in Moonstruck (Chris Pizzello/AP/PA)

In the same year Moonstruck was released, earning three Academy Awards for best actress, best supporting actress for Olympia Dukakis and best writing for John Patrick Shanley.

Other notable credits include In Country with Bruce Willis and Emily Lloyd about the legacy of the Vietnam War; romantic comedy Other People’s Money starring Danny DeVito and Penelope Ann Miller; and Only You with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr about a woman who travels to Italy in search of her one true love.

Jewison also directed sports drama The Hurricane, based on the life of prizefighter Rubin “Hurricane” Carter starring Denzel Washington, and Dinner With Friends starring Andie MacDowell – which won Jewison an Emmy award nomination.

In 2010, he was presented with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award, the top honour from the Directors Guild of America.

Jewison is survived by his wife Lynne St David, his children Kevin, Michael, and Jennifer, and his grandchildren Ella, Megan, Alexandra, Sam and Henry.