Michael Winner dies aged 77
He had been ill for some months and died today at his home in Kensington, London, where he was being nursed by his wife. Last summer, Winner revealed that liver specialists had given him 18 months to live.
[Related story: The world according to Winner - his best quotes]
Paying tribute to her husband of two years, Mrs Winner, said in a statement: "Michael was a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous.
"A light has gone out in my life."
Winner has more than 30 films on his CV, including the ‘Death Wish’ series.
Cult hit... Bronson in Death Wish (Credit: Rex Features)
He was born in Hampstead, London in 1935 and started out as a journalist before joining Motion Limited as an editor in the 1950s.
His early British films ranged from dramas, such as ‘The Games’ and comedies like ‘The System’, with regular star Oliver Reed. It was World War 2 adventure ‘Hannibal Brooks’, which also starred Reed as soldier attempting to transport an elephant through war-torn Europe, that brought him to the attention of Hollywood.
Winner's big hit in the States was of course ‘Death Wish’, with Charles Bronson starring as a vigilante who goes on the rampage after muggers kill his wife and sexually assault his daughter. The film was criticised for its violence, but it was a success, and Winner would eventually direct two sequels.
He directed many of the biggest stars of the 70s and 80s, such as Sophia Loren (in 'Firepower'), Marlon Brando ('Nightcomers') and Michael Caine and Roger Moore in 'Bullseye!'.
High life... Winner larking around with Sophia Loren (Credit: Rex Features)
However in the 1990s his directing career took a back step to his newspaper columns, most famously his scathing restaurant reviews in 'Winner's Dinners' for The Sunday Times.
He also became famous to a whole new audience thanks to his hugely popular adverts for Esure, featuring the immortal catchphrase: 'Calm down dear, it's a commercial".
Calm down dear!... Winner in esure ad (Credit: YouTube)
In recent years Winner had several major health scares. In 2007, he contracted the bacterial infection Vibrio vulnificus from an oyster meal in Barbados. He was on the brink of death a number of times, almost had to have leg amputated and underwent 19 operations. He did recover, but was then infected with the superbug MRSA.