John Guillermin, a prolific British director best known for blockbusters like the 1974 disaster movie "The Towering Inferno" and the 1976 remake of "King Kong," died Sunday at his home in Topanga, Calif. He was 89. The cause was a heart attack, his wife, Mary Guillermin, said.
Guillermin directed a raft of films in various genres from the end of the 1940s until he retired from filmmaking in the 1980s. He had a reputation as an intense, temperamental perfectionist, notorious for screaming at cast and crew alike. His domineering manner often alienated producers and actors.
David Wolper, producer of the miniseries "Roots," nearly fired Guillermin from "The Bridge at Remagen" (1969) after he upbraided the crew and told Wolper not to appear on set during a complicated scene. But Guillermin's impeccable eye and ability to capture both intimate moments and large-scale action scenes usually overcame that reputation.
"The Towering Inferno," about a group of hapless partygoers trying to escape a conflagration inside the world's tallest skyscraper, had an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, O.J. Simpson and Fred Astaire.
The film, which cost about $15 million to produce, a staggering amount at the time, used four camera crews and featured some of the largest stage sets ever created, including a 100-foot-tall model of the skyscraper that was destroyed during filming. It brought in $116 million at the box office and won Academy Awards for cinematography, film editing and music.
NEW YORK TIMES