George Parker: RIP Michael Cimino, the director who shot miles and miles of film

In case you missed it, Mike Cimino died on Saturday. OK, so who the fuck was Mike Cimino, you ask? Described by the LA Times as “Having an audacious, ecstatic, sensuous, deranged and ultimately staggering vision of what the movies could be, and a willingness to pursue that vision utterly without compromise,” he was the director that won a ton of Oscars with The Deer Hunter, starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep, to be immediately followed by Heaven’s Gate, a film that destroyed United Artists.

All the gory details are deliciously served up in Steven Bach’s wonderful book, Final Cut. Mike was notorious for going way, way over budget and shooting enough takes to make your eyes bleed. For Heaven’s gate he shot more than 250 MILES of accumulated footage, and the first edit was fourteen hours.

Back in my Mad Man days I had the misfortune of working with him when he was a commercials director at MPO, a New York production house. I have an entire chapter devoted to him in Confessions of a Mad Man. All about the saga of shooting multiple takes whilst filming a Maxwell House campaign using trained seagulls. So many takes, in fact that I wanted to stab my eyes out with rusty knitting needles. Needless to say, not one of the perfectly shot takes was ever used in the final edit. What a guy…he eventually moved to Paris and became what a girl. As we used to say up North..there’s now’t so queer as folk.

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About George Parker

George Parker has spent 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is, which is required reading for those looking for a gnarly view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, Confessions of a Mad Man, makes the TV show Mad Men look like Sesame Street.