Acclaimed British film director Michael Winner, whose credits include three "Death Wish" films starring the late Charles Bronson, has died at the age of 77.
Winner died on Monday at his London home after an illness, his wife, Geraldine, told the Associated Press. Winner gained fame in 1972 after he first directed Marlon Brando in the “Nightcomers.”
Born in Hampstead, in 1935, Winner was known in Hollywood for his work with such Tinseltown icons as Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Faye Dunaway.
While one of his earliest features was a nudist film released in 1962, he later specialized in thrillers and action movies, including the "Mechanic," ''Scorpio" and the violent vigilante "Death Wish" series.
When he wasn’t directing movies, Winner acted as a restaurant critic for the Sunday Times.
Writing for his "Winners Dinners" column, his reviews were known to have had him barred from many restaurants.
Winner closed out his “Winners Dinners” column in December 2012, but refused to say goodbye forever.
"Who knows, after Christmas I might make a comeback," he wrote. "How many times did Sinatra do it?"
In later years, he became famous for a series of insurance ads with the catchphrase "Calm down, dear!" Prime Minister David Cameron once used the phrase to a female lawmaker in the House of Commons, prompting howls of outrage.
Winner was also an active proponent of law enforcement issues and established the Police Memorial Trust after WPC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered in 1984. Thirty-six local memorials honoring police officers who died in the line of duty have been erected since 1985, beginning with Fletcher's in St. James's Square, London. The National Police Memorial, opposite St. James's Park at the junction of Horse Guards Road and the Mall, was also unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on April 26, 2005.
Winner had experienced health problems since getting a bacterial infection from bad oysters in 2007.
In an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper, he said liver specialists had told him in the summer of 2012 that he had between 18 months and two years to live. He said he had researched assisted suicide offered at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, but found the bureaucracy of the process off-putting
His wife, a former dancer who married Winner two years ago, told the AP that he was "a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life."