Oscar winning director Michael Cimino died today at the age of 77. Here are his best quotes about life, Hollywood, and directing:
When asked by “People” magazine, Nov. 11, 1996 issue, how the disaster of Heaven’s Gate (1980) affected his life: “It was really a great trauma, as everyone knows. Since then, I’ve been unable to make any movie that I’ve wanted to make. I’ve been making the best of what is available.”
“They’ve been running Deer Hunter like crazy on Bravo. And here is the whole goddamned Congress singing ‘God Bless America’ on the steps of the US Capitol. I said, ‘Holy shit, this is the ending of the movie.'” (on The Deer Hunter (1978) in hindsight, post-9/11, London Independent on Sunday, July 2002)
I don’t make movies intellectually, I don’t make movies to make a point, I make movies to tell stories about people.
Films are home movies of your past.
If you don’t get it right, what’s the point?
[on Heaven’s Gate (1980)] It took me a long time before I was able to say, “I’m proud of that movie.” And I am proud of it. I could not have made it any better than I made it. No excuses, and no regrets.
Nobody lives without making mistakes. I never second-guess myself. You can’t look back. I don’t believe in defeat. Everybody has bumps, but as Count Basie said, “It’s not how you handle the hills, it’s how you handle the valleys.”
I think some people think that I’m totally nuts. Some think I’m a druggie. They say I had $50,000 in my budget for Heaven’s Gate (1980) allocated to cocaine. They say I’m an alcoholic. I’m not, despite rumors to the contrary. All the things people think I am, I’m not. That’s why I never answer them in the press, because they’re ridiculous. And some of them are pretty wild. They’ve said everything about me that they could: racist, Marxist, rightist, homophobic, sex-change – I don’t know what else they could come up with.
Vilmos [Zsigmond] and all those guys have built themselves up to be bigger than directors. It’s bullshit. Does anyone remember who shot Kubrick’s movies? Do you remember who shot David Lean’s movies? No one remembers who shot Dr. Strangelove or Barry Lyndon (1975).
I’m not revisiting the past, like Francis Ford Coppola, re-cutting Apocalypse Now (1979) 29 times. Why do you think Francis is re-cutting Apocalypse? He’s dried up. I’m going forward; he’s going backward.
If you look at Buddhists, sometimes they appear like they are getting younger. It’s not supernatural – they’re just evolving as better human beings. If you’re evolving, it’s going to show on your face. The premier example of the polar extreme, of someone devolving, is Marlon Brando, who is getting nuttier every day. Enlightenment shows on the face. Depravity shows on the face.
[on book publishing] When a guy is perceived as macho, female editors aren’t going to like it – because they all want to be men.
[on Oliver Stone] Oliver thinks he’s the greatest thing since chopped liver. He’s a great guy, a great writer; we have a great working relationship and I love him. But he’s a better writer than director. He’s incredibly, insanely jealous about the fact that I published a novel. He’s always wanted to be the next Hemingway; he didn’t want to be a director.
[on Steven Bach] This man has given me endless grief for his work of fiction, and it should be classified as fiction. He’s made money off my blood, my work, for 20 years. 
This is a lonely country and people die of loneliness as surely as they die of cancer. But I also know that in every friendship there’s the potential for destructiveness as well as nourishment.
[responding to a journalist’s question about Heaven’s Gate (1980) in 1990] I take full responsibility, and all other questions are answered by the film itself.