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Norman Jewison, Oscar-Nominated “Moonstruck” and “In the Heat of the Night ”Director“,” Dead at 97

The acclaimed director's movies also include 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' 'A Soldier's Story,' 'The Thomas Crown Affair' and 'Fiddler on the Roof'

<p>George Pimentel/WireImage</p> Norman Jewison on Feb. 27, 2014.

George Pimentel/WireImage

Norman Jewison on Feb. 27, 2014.

Norman Jewison, the prolific director behind classic films like Moonstruck and In the Heat of the Night, died on Saturday, Jan. 20, at his Los Angeles home. He was 97.

His publicist Jeff Sanderson confirmed his death to PEOPLE Monday.

Jewison is survived by wife Lynne St. David, his kids Kevin, Michael and Jenny, plus grandchildren Ella, Megan, Alexandra, Sam and Henry. There will be celebrations of life held in Los Angeles and Toronto at a later date.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Jewison earned seven Oscar nominations over the course of his career. Overall, his movies earned a total of 46 nominations and 12 wins at the Oscars.

In March 1999 he was given the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, presented to him by Nicolas Cage, star of his 1987 movie Moonstruck with Cher.

In his speech at the time, Jewison accepted the honor "in the names of all those people who have contributed to my work, my life's work."

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<p>Jerome Prebois/Serendipity/Alliance/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Michael Caine and Norman Jewison making 2003's "The Statement"

Jerome Prebois/Serendipity/Alliance/Kobal/Shutterstock

Michael Caine and Norman Jewison making 2003's "The Statement"

"Forty years ago, I sat at [director] William Wyler's feet and tried to learn how to make movies. Willy Wyler was a god to me, and he won this award. I think that's what is so meaningful to me, to join all those filmmakers that have gone before," he continued, adding,

"I would like to thank my immediate loved ones, my family, every actor, writer, editor, cinematographer, production designer, costume designer, sound man and editor I've ever worked with."

Jewison is behind films like Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Hurricane (1997), A Soldier's Story (1984), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971). His most recent directing work was on 2003's The Statement, starring Michael Caine and Tilda Swinton.

<p>Snap/Shutterstock </p> Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei working with Norman Jewison on 1994's "Only You"

Snap/Shutterstock

Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei working with Norman Jewison on 1994's "Only You"

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In a statement Monday, Directors Guild of America President Lesli Linka Glatter said the "legendary" Jewison was "a warrior and champion always ready to defend his fellow directors, their creative rights and the craft of directing."

"Norman’s cinematic range was truly remarkable — few filmmakers can so fluidly and eloquently move between romantic comedies, dramas and musicals as he did," Glatter added. "But his most powerful films, and those he said were his ‘dearest,’ tackled racism and injustice, including In the Heat of the Night and A Soldier's Story...."

"He will forever be remembered by his fellow directors as a vibrant force — bringing depth, insight and a necessary dose of humor to everything he touched. Our thoughts are with his wife Lynne, his family and the many Directors and Directorial team members fortunate to have been influenced by him.”

<p>Kevork Djansezian/Getty</p> Norman Jewison on Jan. 25, 2020

Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Norman Jewison on Jan. 25, 2020

In his Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award acceptance speech, Jewison offered advice to future generations of directors.

"Just find some good stories. Never mind the gross, the top 10, bottom 10, what's the rating, what's the demographic. You know something, the biggest-grossing picture is not necessarily the best picture, I want to tell you something," he said at the time. "So just tell stories that move us to laughter and tears, and perhaps reveal a little truth about ourselves."

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