The Towering Inferno director John Guillermin dies, aged 89

John Guillermin, the British director of The Towering Inferno and the 1976 version of King Kong, died earlier this week at his home in Los Angeles. Producer and friend Nick Redman said Wednesday that Guillermin had been ill for a few time, but that his death was unexpected.


Beginning his career in the late 1960s, Guillermin’s long list of credits including The Blue Max and Shaft in Africa.

“The Towering Inferno” also benefited from exceptionally good actors, including Paul Newman as the architect of the 138-story building and Steve McQueen as the fire chief.

In a statement, Guillermin’s wife Mary called him “sensitive and passionate, full of a fierce rapture himself”. He moved to Hollywood in 1950 to pursue a career in movies, and made his first movie, I Was Monty’s Double, in 1958.

“The Towering Inferno” was an Academy Award nominee for best picture and ended up winning for original song, film editing and cinematography, according to Variety.

Known for his big budget adventures, Guillermin also had a reputation of being a hard man to work with.

Then came 1978’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic novel Death on the Nile, which included another star-studded cast: Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, David Niven, George Kennedy, and Angela Lansbury.

Guillermin also dabbled in writing and producing, having written and produced “Melody in the Dark, “High Jinks in Society” and “Paper Gallows“.


Guillermin’s productions – such as his remake of King Kong (1976), dismissed by one critic as “addled-brained” – favoured pyrotechnics, all-star casts and soap-opera plots over intellectual subtlety or depth of characterisation, but audiences flocked to them in droves. He was, even in his 80s, an irrepressible life-force, funny, cantankerous, profane, sophisticated, urbane.

John Guillermin directed the 1974 film'The Towering Inferno.                                   
           Warner Bros