Regardless of anything else, director Michael Cimino would be forever associated with two films - the Oscar-winning epic "The Deer Hunter" (1978) and the financial disaster that was "Heaven's Gate" (1980). After a career in advertising, Cimino came to Hollywood as a screenwriter on "Silent Running" (1971) and "Magnum Force" (1971). The latter introduced him to star Clint Eastwood, whom Cimino directed in his auspicious debut, "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (1974). But Cimino staked his claim with the dark and disturbing Vietnam War epic, "The Deer Hunter" (1978), which controversially explored the negative effects of war on the soldiers who fight them. The film drew high praise from all corners while earning Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. With his newfound clout, Cimino went wild with excess on his next picture, "Heaven's Gate" (1980), an impenetrable - albeit beautifully shot - Western that went over budget by a long shot and brought down United Artists after a meager showing at the box office. Though he was given the chance to direct again, Cimino produced more box office flops with "Year of the Dragon" (1985), "The Sicilian" (1987), "Desperate Hours" (1990) and "Sunchaser" (1996). Adding insult to injury, Cimino was long accused of having undergone a sex change operation due to his increasingly effeminate appearance, an accusation he laughingly denied but was unable to shake. While no one could refute his directing talents, Cimino remained the poster child of Hollywood excess and was seemingly incapable of having mainstream Hollywood take him seriously again.