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William Zsigmond

William Zsigmond

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Also Known As: William Zsigmond Died: January 1, 2016
Born: June 16, 1930 Cause of Death: Undisclosed
Birth Place: Czeged, , HU Profession: director of photography, lab technician, cameraman, still photographer, camera assistant

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Szigmond helped to define the look and scope of such iconic films of the 1970s, including "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (1971), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) and "The Deer Hunter" (1978), over the course of an five-decade, Oscar-winning career. Born June 16, 1930 in Szeged, Hungary, he was the son of a famed soccer player and coach, also named Vilmos Szigmond. After earning his masterâ¿¿s degree in cinematography from the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest, he served as director of photography for a film studio. The turmoil of 1956 Hungarian Revolution spurred him and fellow student Laszlo Kovacs to record the clash between his countrymen and the Soviet occupying forces; together, they fled to Austria before making their way to the United States. There, both Szigmond and Kovacs worked on numerous low-budget horror and exploitation titles, most notably the epically titled "Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" (1964). Director Robert Altman brought him to mainstream features with "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (1971), which earned him praise for his muted palette of color and light to emphasis the filmâ¿¿s cold, dreary...

Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Szigmond helped to define the look and scope of such iconic films of the 1970s, including "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (1971), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) and "The Deer Hunter" (1978), over the course of an five-decade, Oscar-winning career. Born June 16, 1930 in Szeged, Hungary, he was the son of a famed soccer player and coach, also named Vilmos Szigmond. After earning his masterâ¿¿s degree in cinematography from the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest, he served as director of photography for a film studio. The turmoil of 1956 Hungarian Revolution spurred him and fellow student Laszlo Kovacs to record the clash between his countrymen and the Soviet occupying forces; together, they fled to Austria before making their way to the United States. There, both Szigmond and Kovacs worked on numerous low-budget horror and exploitation titles, most notably the epically titled "Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" (1964). Director Robert Altman brought him to mainstream features with "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (1971), which earned him praise for his muted palette of color and light to emphasis the filmâ¿¿s cold, dreary environment. The success of the film led to more work with Altman ("The Long Goodbye," 1973), as well as such iconic films of the decade as John Boormanâ¿¿s "Deliverance" (1972), Stephen Spielbergâ¿¿s "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which earned him an Oscar, Martin Scorseseâ¿¿s "The Last Waltz" (1978) and Michael Ciminoâ¿¿s "The Deer Hunter."  By the 1980s, Szigmond was one of the most in-demand cinematographers in Hollywood, lending his crisp visuals and painterly use of color to Brian DePalmaâ¿¿s "Blow Out" (1981) and "Bonfire of the Vanities" (1990) and Mark Rydellâ¿¿s "The River" (1984), which brought him a second Oscar nomination. In 1992, Szigmond made his debut as director on a Hungarian/Israeli production, "The Long Shadow," but soon returned to cinematography for both features and television, including the HBO biopic "Stalin" (1993), which brought him an American Society of Cinematographers Award, and the TNT miniseries "The Mists of Avalon" (2001), which earned him an Emmy nomination. As his storied body of work began to reap laurels in the late â¿¿90s â¿¿ most notably, a 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Cinematographers and a PBS documentary "No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos" (2009) â¿¿ his career continued unabated, and soon included collaborations with Woody Allen ("Melinda and Melinda," 2004) and a third Oscar nomination for DePalmaâ¿¿s "The Black Dahlia" (2006). Szigmond had begun work on four films at the time of his death in Big Sur, California on January 1, 2016.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Long Shadow, The (1992) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Side by Side (2012)
2.
 Side by Side (2012)
5.
6.
9.
10.
 Maverick (1994) Albert Bierstadt
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Milestones close milestones

1956:
Immigrated to US along with Laszlo Kovacks; brought footage of the Budapest uprising of October
:
Worked as stills photographer and cinematographer of educational films, then on commercials
1962:
Was camera operator on "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies"
1963:
First feature as director of photography, "The Sadist/Profile of Terror"; credited as William Zsigmond
:
Began directing first feature in late 1990, the Israeli-Hungarian co-production "The Prodigal Father/The Prodigal Son"
1971:
First feature with director Robert Altman "McCabe & Mrs. Miller"
1973:
Again worked as the cinematographer on Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye"
1976:
Worked with Brian De Palma on "Obsession"
1977:
Won an Oscar for his work as the cinematographer on Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
1978:
Earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematographer on Michael Cimino's "The Deer Hunter"
1980:
Again worked with Michael Cimino on "Heaven's Gate"
1981:
Was the cinematographer on the Brian De Palma thriller "Blow Out"
1990:
Again worked with Brian De Palma on "The Bonfire of the Vanities"
1990:
Was the cinematographer for the Jack Nicholson directed "The Two Jakes"
1992:
Earned an Emmy for his work on the TV-movie "Stalin"
1996:
Was the cinematographer for "The Ghost and the Darkness"
2001:
Earned an Emmy nomination for his work on "The Mists of Avalon"
2006:
Received an Oscar nomination as Best Cinematographer for "The Black Dahlia"
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Education

Academy for Theater and Film Art: - 1951

Notes

"I think that every picture has its own world and I want to create a look for that particular picture each time I'm doing one. My mind only starts working when I read the script and see the sets. Then you start creating that world." --Zsigmond quoted in "Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers" by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato (Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 1984).

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Elizabeth Fuzes. Divorced.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Vilmo Zsigmond. Soccer goalie, coach.
mother:
Bozena Zsigmond.
daughter:
Julia Zsigmond.
daughter:
Susi Zsigmond.
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