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Overview for Roger Deakins
Roger Deakins

Roger Deakins


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Also Known As: Roger A. Deakins Died:
Born: May 24, 1949 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Devon, England, GB Profession: Cinematography ... director of photography camera operator still photographer


After starting out his career in documentaries, Roger Deakins became one of the few elite cinematographers of his generation, thanks in large part to his routine collaborations with filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. Ever since his Oscar-nominated camerawork on "Barton Fink" (1991), Deakins filmed some of the most remarkable images recorded on celluloid. Whether conveying the sweeping grandeur of hope taking flight from prison walls in "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994), capturing the isolated, brittle snowscape of "Fargo" (1996), or putting on display the vibrant spirituality of Tibet in "Kundun" (1997), Deakins created a visual style visual style that turned him into a cinematographer sought after by the top directors in the business, while also earning a slew of Academy Award nominations. His work was awarded numerous times, mostly for his stunning camerawork on Coen Brothers films such as "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001), "No Country for Old Men" (2007) and "True Grit" (2010). He did, of course, branch out beyond the Coen Brothers universe where he earned further acclaim, most notably with "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), "House of Sand and Fog" (2003), "In the Valley of Elah" (2007), "The Reader" (2008) and "Skyfall" (2012). Because of his achievements and extraordinary work for over three decades, Deakins had earned the reputation as one of Hollywood's top cinematographers of all time.

Born on May 24, 1949 in Torquay, Devon, England, Deakins became interested in visual arts when he discovered painting as a youngster. He later studied graphic design at the Bath School of Art and Design, where he developed a love for still photography. After being asked to shoot a documentary in his hometown, Deakins left Bath to attend the National Film and Television School outside London. Once he had finished school, Deakins began working as a cinematographer on documentaries, often entering dangerous situations that ultimately yielded engaging cinema. For his first official credit - a documentary called "Around the World with Ridgeway" - Deakins spent nine months on the high seas capturing the tensions of sailboat crews in a 'round-the-world yacht race. Based on his effective camerawork, Deakins was hired to film documentaries in Africa, including "Zimbabwe," a searing look at their history of genocide, and "Eritrea - Behind Enemy Lines," which focused on the conflict between the Sudan and Ethiopia.

Turning his attention back on his native land, Deakins shot "Welcome to Britain" (1976), an examination of England's strange policy of issuing passports to citizens of former colonies, only to deny them entry to the mainland. One of his first forays into fictional storytelling was "Cruel Passion" (1977), an erotic drama based on the Marquis de Sade novel starring former lover of Prince Andrew, Koo Stark. Deakins continued with documentaries, including shooting "Van Morrison in Ireland" (1979) and "Blue Suede Shoes" (1980), a filmed look at the first Great Yarmouth Holiday Camp concert, which featured performances by artists from rock-n-roll's golden era. By the early 1980s, Deakins had left the documentary world for good to focus squarely on feature films. He filmed the short collection "Return to Waterloo" (1983), followed by a period drama about Italian prisoners in Scotland during World War II, "Another Time, Another Place" (1983). Deakins made his first memorable impression with "1984" (1984), a grim and ominous-looking take on George Orwell's famed novel about totalitarian societies.

After shooting lesser features like "Shadey" (1985) and "Defense of the Realm" (1985), Deakins entered the strange and sordid world of late-1970s punk rock with "Sid and Nancy" (1986). He continued making films in his native England, delivering typically solid work on thrillers like "White Mischief" (1987) and "Stormy Monday" (1988). Deakins then crossed the Atlantic for his first American feature, "Mountains of the Moon" (1990), a sweeping epic based on the adventures of Sir Richard Burton (Patrick Bergin) and John Hanning Speke (Iain Glen) during their 19th century quest to find the source of the Nile River. He next provided stunning aerial shots for "Air America" (1990), a comedy-adventure about two American pilots (Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr.) flying covert missions for the CIA's private airline during the last days of the Vietnam War. But it was his work on "Barton Fink" (1991) - his first of many collaborations with Joel and Ethan Coen - that propelled Deakins into the upper echelon of cinematographers. In this comedic thriller about a playwright (John Turturro) struggling with writer's block while penning his first movie, Deakins pulled all the stops in creating a gauzy look to 1940s Hollywood, or the dark, hellish confines of a seedy hotel room, while adding loopy angles and drastic camera movements to the mix. The result was a memorably stylish film that earned Deakins numerous critics' awards, including one from the National Society of Film Critics for Best Cinematography. Deakins next worked with famed indie director John Sayles on the engaging character study, "Passion Fish" (1992), then took a step deeper into Hollywood waters with the thriller "Thunderheart" (1992) and the lush children's fantasy "The Secret Garden" (1993).

If Deakins had remained an unknown commodity to the industry, then he certainly became one thanks to his next film, "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994). His tight, confining imagery depicting life inside a maximum security prison captured fully the futility of hope, until a wrongly accused murderer (Tim Robbins) breaks free from the prison walls and soars free. Deakins' stunning camerawork earned him several critics and society awards, and his first Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. Now firmly established as a premiere photographer, Deakins went back to work with the Coen Brothers on "The Hudsucker Proxy" (1994), giving this Frank Capra-esque period slapstick comedy an almost gothic, Dickensian look. Returning to the confines of prison, he shot "Dead Man Walking" (1995) for writer-director Tim Robbins, an emotionally gripping drama about a nun (Susan Sarandon) who struggles to find the soul of a murder (Sean Penn) condemned to death.

Deakins renewed his collaboration with the Coen Brothers on their seminal crime thriller, "Fargo" (1996). He masterfully used the bleak, white landscape of northern Minnesota to create an air of haunting isolation that brought to life the desperation of a car salesman (William H. Macy) trying to scam money from his father-in-law (Harve Presnell) by using two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his own wife (Kristen Rudrud). Both the Coens and the film were widely praised, though Deakins received his share of accolades, including his second Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. Meanwhile, the DP was more and more in demand, especially from some of the biggest names in cinema. After shooting the Gulf War-era thriller "Courage Under Fire" (1996), he worked with director Martin Scorsese on "Kundun" (1997), a stunningly and colorfully photographed look at the trials and tribulations of the 14th Dalai Lamai of Tibet, who was forced into exile in 1959 after a Chinese invasion. For this film, Deakins earned his third Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.

After filming the action thriller "Under Seige" (1998), a big, dumb Steven Segal film saved by Tommy Lee Jones' deft performance as the heavy, Deakins rejoined the Coen Brothers on their eventual cult hit, "The Big Lebowski" (1998). He deviated to film "The Hurricane" (1999), a biopic on Rueben Carter (Denzel Washington), a former heavyweight champion wrongly imprisoned for murder, and "Anywhere But Here" (1999), a coming-of-age drama about a mother and daughter (Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman) starting a new life in Beverly Hills. Back with the Coen Brothers once again, Deakins earned two more Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography for his sepia-toned, dreamlike imagery on "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000), and the beautiful black-and-white noir look of "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001), which featured perhaps the most elegiac car crash scene in cinema history.

Despite all the accolades heaped upon his next project, "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), Ron Howard's sappy look at mathematician John Forbes Nash's lifetime battle with schizophrenia, Deakins was left out of the awards-time nomination loop. After filming "Levity" (2003) and the Coens' lesser comedy, "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003), he gave "House of Sand and Fog" (2003) a stark, almost Ingmar Bergman-like tone that helped underscore the desperation of a woman (Jennifer Connelly) fighting to get her house back from an Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley) and his family after it was improperly seized. Before teaming back up with the Coens on their mediocre remake "The Ladykillers" (2004), Deakins gave M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" (2004) a rich, haunting feel. He then opened the landscape for "Jarhead" (2005), depicting Iraq during the first Gulf War as a vast desert land alive with burning oil fields.

In 2007, Deakins marked perhaps the most fertile point in his long career of creating stunning and memorable images on film. He first helped writer-director Paul Haggis bring to life the tortured search by a father (Tommy Lee Jones) for his missing son home from Iraq in "In the Valley of Elah" (2007). For "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford" (2007), Deakins beautifully depicted the sweeping landscapes of the Midwestern United States (Canada, actually) in this ominous tale of foreboding - namely, the pending murder of the famed train robber (Brad Pitt) by one of his most trusted gang members (Casey Affleck). Deakins then turned his attention to the stark deserts of west Texas in "No Country For Old Men" (2007), the Coen Brothers' much-lauded adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's terse novel about a down-and-out Vietnam vet (Josh Brolin) running off with $2 million in drug money with a coolheaded psychopath (Javier Bardem) and a world-weary sheriff (Jones) on his trail. For both "Jesse James" and "No Country for Old Men," Deakins earned duel Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography. He earned his eighth Academy Award nod for his camera work on "The Reader" (2008), an honor Deakins shared with fellow cinematographer Chris Menges. It was a busy year for the venerable cinematographer, as Deakins also managed to squeeze in DP duties on director Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" (2008), starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, in addition to "Doubt" (2008), featuring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The following year, he reteamed with Joel and Ethan Coen to lense "A Serious Man" (2009), a drama about a put-upon Jewish academic in 1960s Middle America who lives life as a closeted homosexual. Sticking with the Coens, Deakins filmed their next effort, "True Grit" (2010), the second big screen adaptation of the classic Western novel by Charles Portis. While the 1969 version won movie legend John Wayne his only Oscar, the 2010 film racked up an impressive number of Academy Award nominations, including one for Deakins in the category of Best Achievement in Cinematography. He also served as DP on "The Company Men" (2010), starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as three men laid off from the same corporation in the midst of the Great Recession. The following year, he served as a visual consultant on the animated "Rango" (2011) while performing his usual cinematography duties on Andre Niccol's sci-fi thriller "In Time" (2011), starring Justin Timberlake and Olivia Wilde. After again serving as a visual consultant for the animated "Rise of the Guardians" (2012), Deakins earned his 10th Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography for his exemplary work on "Skyfall" (2012), widely hailed as one of the best James Bond films in years. After shooting the tense thriller "Prisoners" (2013), Deakins scored another Oscar nomination for "Unbroken" (2014), Angelina Jolie's biopic of Olympic star turned World War II POW Louis Zamperini.

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