The Iconic Gordon Willis, A Legend of Cinematography, Dies

Hollywood is paying tribute to the kind of person you say ‘they don’t make them like that any more’ about. Gordon Willis, famous for his indelible imprint on Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather films as director of photography, has died.

Gordan WillisGordon Willis in 2009

Respected throughout Hollywood as a master of his craft, Willis also worked with Woody Allen on Manhattan, Annie Hall, Zelig, Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, and The Purple Rose Of Cairo – all of which were based in New York, where his father was a make up artist for Warner Brothers. 

Before photography - which he studied while in the Air Force during the Korean War - caught his eye, Willis was attracted to the world of acting. Shortly after leaving the army, he became an assistant cameraman and then first cameraman.

“This is a momentous loss,” confirmed ASC President Richard Crudo late Sunday night, via Deadline. “He was one of the giants who absolutely changed the way movies looked. Up until the time ofThe Godfather 1 and 2, nothing previously shot looked that way. He changed the way films looked and the way people looked at films.”

His first film was comedy drama End of the Road in 1970. He retired following 1997 action thriller The Devil’s Own, which starred Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford.

Tributes have been rolling in from all corners, including Twitter: US author Bret Easton Ellis tweeted: "America's greatest cinematographer GORDON WILLIS: RIP." Chris McQuarrie – a best screenplay winner for The Usual Suspects – wrote, "No one showed more with less." And finally the Girls creator, writer and lead star, Lena Dunham, said, "May we always view the world as if through his lens."

Gordon Willis and industry experts talk cinematography in The Godfather


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