Gordon Willis, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated and influential cinematographers, passed away on May 18, 2014 at the age of 82. The cause of death has not been released, but Willis’ passing has been confirmed by American Society of Cinematographers president, Richard Crudo.
Born in New York City, Willis was originally interested in acting, lighting and stage design, but he later turned to photography. While serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, he worked in the motion picture unit and then in advertising and documentaries during the 1960s. He soon caught the attention of rising filmmakers like Alan J. Pakula, Francis Ford Coppola and Hal Ashby, who hired Willis for his first movie, The Landlord.
Willis was known for subtle but indelible touch on 1970s releases such as The Godfather, Annie Hall and All the President’s Men. His nickname was “The Prince of Darkness” because of his trademarks: the strong contrast of light and dark and a willingness to break the rules.
According to The Guardian, from 1971 to 1977, his films were nominated 39 times and won 19 Oscars: from Best Picture for The Godfather and Annie Hall to Best Actor/Actress for Jane Fonda in Klute and John Houseman in The Paper Chase. However, Willis himself never won a competitive Oscar and was nominated only twice, for Woody Allen’s Zelig and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Part III, which was released in 1990.
Explaining he got “tired of trying to get actors out of trailers, and standing in the rain,” in an interview with Splice Today, Willis ended his career with Pakula’s The Devil’s Own in 1997. Although Willis has passed away, he leaves behind him a legacy that will be forever remembered and cherished by movie lovers of all generations.
By LYNN CHAE