There are few cinematographers who can count the likes of George Lucas, Terrence Malick, Milos Forman, Mike Nichols, and Elia Kazan among the directors they’ve worked with. Then again, there were few like Haskell Wexler, and sadly, he has passed away at the age of 93.
Getting his start with industrial films and documentaries (he won an Emmy for “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang,” Wexler made his major feature debut with “America, America” in 1963, and the next decade and more would be littered with classics. “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?,” “In The Heat Of The Night,” “Once Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Days Of Heaven,” “American Graffiti,” and more all found Wexler’s talented eye on set. He was Oscar-nominated five times for Best Cinematography, winning twice, for ‘Virginia Woolf’ and Hal Ashby‘s “Bound For Glory.”
Aside from his fantastic work behind the camera, Wexler was also politically vocal from early on. His feature directorial debut, “Medium Cool,” was set against the events of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and throughout years spoken spoke out strong against the dangerous conditions crew members faced when working long hours on film sets. It became the subject of his 2006 documentary “Who Needs Sleep?“
“I hope we can use our art for peace and for love,” Wexler said, when accepting his Academy Award in 1967, and that’s a beautiful thought to remember the cinematographer by. [THR]