Entertainment & Arts

Towering Inferno director John Guillermin dies at 89

Towering Inferno poster Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption The Towering Inferno starred two of the biggest box office stars in the world, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman

British director John Guillermin, whose films included The Towering Inferno and Death on the Nile, has died aged 89.

The Towering Inferno, released in 1974, won three Oscars and starred Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden and Faye Dunaway.

Guillermin's action-packed 1976 version of King Kong, starred Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.

He died on Sunday at his home in the Topanga Canyon area of Los Angeles, his friend Nick Redman confirmed.

In a statement, Guillermin's wife Mary called him "sensitive and passionate, full of a fierce rapture himself."

Born in London to French parents, Guillermin attended the University of Cambridge before joining the Royal Air Force.

His career directing began in France with documentary film-making. In 1950, he moved to Hollywood to study film-making methods.

Following the success of disaster films such as Airport and The Poseidon Adventure, Guillermin assembled a star-studded cast for The Towering Inferno.

The movie, still regarded as a classic of the genre, about a fire that breaks out on the 81st floor of a shoddily-built skyscraper starred McQueen and Newman - two of the biggest film stars of the day.

Known for his big budget adventures, Guillermin also had a reputation of being a difficult man to work with. In his memoirs, film editor Ralph E Winters, described an incident he witnessed when he worked with Guillermin on King Kong.

'Irascible streak'

In the screening room, Winters said a frustrated Guillermin kicked the seat in front until it broke. He received an apologetic phone call the next day.

In his 1995 autobiography, Charlton Heston, who worked with the director on 1972's Skyjacked, described him as having an "irascible streak".

For 1978's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, Guillermin assembled a cast of top acting talent.

Peter Ustinov played the legendary sleuth Hercule Poirot alongside David Niven, George Kennedy and Angela Lansbury.

He won the Evening Standard British Film Award in 1980 for the movie.

His final film was the Kong sequel King Kong Lives in 1986.

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