Entertainment & Arts

Vilmos Zsigmond, Close Encounters cinematographer, dies at 85

Vilmos Zsigmond Image copyright AP
Image caption Vilmos Zsigmond, the son of a famous football player, escaped to the US from Hungary after the 1956 Russian invasion

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, best known for his work on The Deer Hunter and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, has died aged 85.

Zsigmond's business partner, Yuri Neyman, said he died on Friday in Big Sur, California.

The film-maker won an Oscar for Steven Spielberg's 1977 film Close Encounters and was nominated again a year later for The Deer Hunter.

He was also revered as an architect of the American New Wave in the 1970s.

Hungarian-born Zsigmond first gained renown for his collaboration with maverick director Robert Altman on his films McCabe and Mrs Miller and The Long Goodbye.

He went on to work with many of cinema's most celebrated film-makers and became one of Hollywood's most admired cinematographers, thanks to his contributions on films such as Blow Out, Deliverance, The River and Images.

The most recent of his four Oscar nominations came in 2007 for The Black Dahlia. He also shot a number of episodes of the Fox sitcom The Mindy Project.

'Made a difference'

In 2003, Zsigmond ranked among the 10 most influential cinematographers in film history in a survey conducted by the International Cinematographers Guild.

Guild president Steven Poster said in a statement: "Vilmos' genius was not only in his images, but in his sense of duty to honest storytelling. Working up close with him, I also learned about perseverance and an obligation to the story from the master.

"His brave beginnings providing footage from the Hungarian revolution will always be an important part of his legacy and to future generations of cinematographers and film students. He made a difference."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Steven Spielberg was particularly impressed with Zsigmond's work and chose him to work on his debut feature The Sugarland Express

American Psycho novelist and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis paid tribute on Twitter saying Zsigmond was "one of the greatest cinematographers in movie history and defined the look of 70s film".

Easy Rider actor Peter Fonda also tweeted: "Such a dear man and great friend."

Zsigmond was one of the most in-demand cinematographers in Hollywood, working with directors such as Michael Cimino, Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma and George Miller.

Spielberg was particularly impressed with Zsigmond's work and chose him for his debut feature The Sugarland Express, which then inspired the director to hire him again for his global hit Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Zsigmond's Oscar nomination for the traumatic Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter came in 1979 and the cinematographer considered the film one of his finest achievements.

During the 1980s, the film-maker worked on smaller movies and received another Oscar nomination for Mark Rydell's The River in 1984.

Zsigmond also worked on a series of Woody Allen films in the 2000s, including Melinda and Melinda, Cassandra's Dream and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

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