'Godfather,' 'Manhattan' cinematographer Gordon Willis dead at 82

Mon May 19, 2014 7:21pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gordon Willis, the cinematographer responsible for stirring camera work in such film classics as the "Godfather" trilogy and several of Woody Allen's best-known films, has died aged 82.

Willis died on Sunday in Falmouth, Massachusetts, funeral home Chapman Cole & Gleason confirmed. The cause of death was not immediately available.

"This is a momentous loss," American Society of Cinematographers President Richard Crudo told Hollywood trade website Deadline. "He was one of the giants who absolutely changed the way movies looked."

Willis received an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 2010 and was nominated for best cinematography Academy Awards for Allen's "Zelig" and "The Godfather: Part III."

"He was a brilliant, irascible man, a one of a kind," "Godfather" director Francis Ford Coppola said in a statement. "A cinematic genius with a precise aesthetic. My favorite description was that 'He ice-skated on the film emulsion.' I learned a lot from him."

Willis' work was credited with lending unique, often stunning imagery to a roster of films ranging from the romance "Manhattan" and lavish musical "Pennies From Heaven" to the Watergate thriller "All the President's Men."

In thrillers such as Alan Pakula's "The Parallax View" and "Klute," for which Jane Fonda won her first Oscar, Willis's camera work evoked a dream-like, fugue state that critics credited with elevating the films to the status of classics.

The Queens, New York-born Willis worked often with Coppola, Pakula and especially Allen, with whom he made eight films.

"Gordy was a huge talent and one of the few people who truly lived up to all the hype about him," Allen said in a statement.   Continued...

Cinematographer Gordon Willis arrives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences 2009 Governor Awards in Hollywood, California November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser