The 1978 film The Deer Hunter, about three friends drafted into the Vietnam War, won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Cimino (above, left). The critical success of the movie gave Cimino hope that his next big production, Heaven’s Gate, an epic western, would be as well received. No such luck. The film cost a whopping $44 million to make and in its first version clocked in at 3 hr. 40 min. Critics ripped it to shreds, calling it an “unqualified disaster” that was a waste of time, talent and money. United Artists forced Cimino to chop 75 min. off, but to no avail. After five months of re-editing, the movie was still a flop, grossing just over $3.4 million. Cimino went on to make several other films in the ’80s and early ’90s but none that could restore him to the glory days of The Deer Hunter.
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