Ailing filmmaker John Schlesinger, the Oscar-winning director of Midnight Cowboy, was taken off life support Thursday at a hospital in Palm Springs, Calif., his spokeswoman said. The 77-year-old openly gay filmmaker suffered a debilitating stroke in December 2000. Spokeswoman Ronni Chasen said his condition at Desert Regional Medical Center has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks.
Schlesinger's last film was the 2000 comedy The Next Best Thing, which starred Madonna as a straight woman who decides to have a child with her gay friend, played by Rupert Everett.
Born in London in 1926, Schlesinger was a character actor for stage, film, and television and also made documentaries such as Terminus, about a day in the life of a train station. He is perhaps best known for the 1969 drama Midnight Cowboy, which starred Jon Voight, as a naive Texan who turns to prostitution to survive on the streets of New York, and Dustin Hoffman, as the scuzzy, ailing vagrant Ratzo Rizzo. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three--best director, best picture, and best adapted screenplay. Schlesinger had two other Oscar nominations for directing 1971's Sunday Bloody Sunday and 1965's Darling. As an actor, he had small roles as a doctor in the 1997 TV movie The Twilight of the Golds and a prisoner in the 1956 World War II drama The Battle of the River Plate.
Schlesinger lives in Palm Springs with photographer Michael Childers, his companion of 30 years.