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Tom Petty Documentary Director Peter Bogdanovich Dies at 82

Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show and the 2007 Tom Petty documentary, Runnin’ Down a Dream, has died at age 82.

The news was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by his daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich.

Born to immigrant parents in Kingston, N.Y., in 1939, Bogdanovich’s career began in the early ’60s as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and a movie writer for Esquire. In 1966, he decided to pursue directing and moved to Los Angeles, where he carried on with film journalism until hired to work on 1966’s The Wild Angels. The film was successful, and he soon made his own directorial debut with the thriller Targets in 1968.

Following the monumental success of 1971’s The Last Picture Show, which earned eight Oscar nominations (including an Academy Award for Best Director), Bogdanovich directed 1972’s What’s Up, Doc?, another box-office smash. Other directing credits include Saint Jack (1979) and They All Laughed (1981). During the filming of the latter, Bogdanovich began a relationship with one of the featured actresses, Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate who was murdered by her estranged husband shortly after filming completed.

Bogdanovich penned a memoir about Stratten’s death, The Killing of the Unicorn, and took a hiatus from filmmaking before returning with another critical and commercial success, 1985’s Mask. As an actor, Bogdanovich appeared in The Sopranos, as well as Orson Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind, which was finally completed and released in 2018.

In 2009, Bogdanovich won a Grammy Award for Best Music Film for his 2007 Petty documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream. “We had a mutual friend who recommended me for the directing job,” Bogdanovich remembered for The Hollywood Reporter, shortly after Petty’s death in 2017. “He asked if I was interested, and I always say yes. Then I called my ex-wife and said, “Remind me who Tom Petty is. Is he a folk singer?”

Petty’s widow, Dana, shared a photo of her husband with Bogdanovich following news of the director’s death.

The director recalled Petty’s concern during production regarding the movie’s length. “At one point, the picture was running over five hours, and Tom said, ‘It’s getting a little long,'” Bogdanovich remembered. “And I said, ‘I’m sure you know this, but if we’ve got the audience on our wavelength, it doesn’t matter how long it is. And if we don’t, it doesn’t matter how short it is.’ It ended up being four hours and 19 minutes.”

Bogdanovich’s last film, a documentary on actor and comedian Buster Keaton titled The Great Buster: A Celebration, premiered in 2018. “My mother used to say to me, ‘If you have a thousand people watching your movie and one of them understands what you’re trying to do, you’re lucky,’” Bogdanovich told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. “That sounds almost pretentious, but I know what she meant.”

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