Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Haskell Wexler Dies At 93
Haskell Wexler, the cinematographer on films including One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, and Bound For Glory—and acclaimed director in his own right—died in his sleep in Santa Monica on Sunday.Wexler's son Jeff wrote on his website:
It is with great sadness that I have to report that my father, Haskell Wexler, has died. Pop died peacefully in his sleep, Sunday, December 27th, 2015. Accepting the Academy Award in 1967, Pop said: 'I hope we can use our art for peace and for love.' An amazing life has ended but his lifelong commitment to fight the good fight, for peace, for all humanity, will carry on.
Wexler's credits are long, varied, and highly-acclaimed. He won his first Academy Award for Cinematography with 1966's Mike Nichols-directed/ Liz Taylor-starring Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Ten years later, Wexler won another Oscar for his work on Hal Ashby's Woody Guthrie biopic Bound For Glory. You might also recognize his work on a little film called One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which won Best Picture in 1975.
He went beyond cinematography, too: Wexler wrote, directed, and produced Medium Cool, a groundbreaking cinema verite combination of documentary and fiction that captured some action at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Here's a clip:
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wexler served as supervising cameraman and visual consultant on American Graffiti after meeting a young George Lucas at a race track; Wexler gave Lucas a recommendation that helped him get into USC’s film school. Wexler also briefly worked with Francis Ford Coppola on The Conversation, shooting the Union Square sequence, before he was fired. Your loss, Francis.
Rolling Stone writes that Wexler also shot 1979's 'No Nukes' concert at Madison Square Garden, which included a Bruce Springsteen performance that would result in a couple of his music videos, like this one:
If that doesn't give you the chills, why don't you try Terrence Malick's staggering Days of Heaven (his work on the film was more or less split with Nestor Almendros; Wexler was credited with providing "additional photography" and was ineligible for the Oscar that year, which Almendros won):
Wexler had long been involved in political activism, and made several documentaries about causes he cared about. The Washington Post cites including 1965's The Bus, which chronicled southern Freedom Riders, Interviews With My Lai Veterans, a 1971 film that focused on survivors of U.S. brutality in Vietnam, and 1974's Introduction to the Enemy, which was based on his trip to North Vietnam with Jane Fonda and her then-husband Tom Hayden. He didn't let old age stop him either. In 2011, he took a camera down to Los Angeles' City Hall to film Occupy L.A.:
We could go on and on about Wexler's passion for film and career-long activism, but instead we'll leave you with this (and seriously, go watch Medium Cool!):