Ted Demme, a director known for dark dramas (''Blow'') and blackly satirical comedies (''Life,'' ''The Ref''), died after playing in a charity basketball game yesterday. The 37-year-old Demme was participating in a celebrity hoops contest at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica when he suffered an apparent heart attack. He was rushed to Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, where doctors pronounced him dead after 20 minutes. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death, a Los Angeles coroner's office spokeswoman told the Associated Press.
The nephew of ''Silence of the Lambs'' and ''Philadelphia'' director Jonathan Demme, Ted Demme got his start during the late '80s as a producer on ''Yo! MTV Raps'' and as a director of music videos (notably, ''Streets of Philadelphia,'' Bruce Springsteen's Oscar-winning theme to his uncle's movie). He made his feature directing debut with MTV's Dr. Dre and Ed Lover in the 1993 comedy ''Who's the Man?'' But he soon turned to darker fare, much of it starring pal Denis Leary, who's starmaking monologue ''No Cure For Cancer'' Demme had directed for television. Leary starred opposite Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis in Demme's dysfunctional-family Christmas satire, ''The Ref'' (1994), and later in his ''Mean Streets''-like crime drama ''Monument Ave.'' Demme also directed ''Beautiful Girls,'' ''Life'' (with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence spending a lifetime behind bars), and last year's true-life cocaine saga ''Blow,'' with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. Demme is survived by wife Amanda Scheer-Demme, the music supervisor on many of his films.