Family & Companions
A highly-acclaimed cinematographer, especially noted for his four collaborations with Stanley Kubrick, John Alcott emigrated to the USA in 1980 and became one of the most sought after directors of photography. He also started a lucrative second career directing and shooting TV commercials.
The London native broke into films in the 1960s as what the British call a "focus puller" (a first assistant cameraperson in the USA). Alcott worked on various camera crews until 1968 when he was given a chance to shoot several scenes for Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." By 1971, he was Kubrick's cinematographer of choice, working on "A Clockwork Orange" (1971), "Barry Lyndon" (1975), for which he won an Oscar, and "The Shining" (1980). Alcott was known for his keen ability to give even the most horrific tale a high degree of visual attractiveness and beauty without detracting from the story. For example, his work on "The Shining" includes numerous daytime and nighttime shots set in a bush-enclosed maze. These scenes, particularly the snow-bound ones, appear as if painted on canvas--stark and vivid, the coldness being blown by a arctic wind from the screen, despite the terror displayed within them. Even Jack Nicholson's son appears as if painted by Gainsborough, with hints of "The Blue Boy" in the lighting and framing.
Alcott had evoked Gainsborough, Corot and Watteau in his award-winning work on "Barry Lyndon." Shot throughout Europe, this 19th Century period piece included gorgeous tableaux, including several shot by candlelight and finely lensed battle sequences. While "A Clockwork Orange" worked as analytic cubism, "Fort Apache: The Bronx" (1981), despite its raw feel, at times could have been an urban mural as the characters seem placed in a backdrop of which they are prisoners not of their making. Alcott turned "The Beastmaster" (1982) into a colorful fantasy and "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" (1984) into the green-hued world lacking in the old black and white films, a canvas in which the humidity melts on the screen. The Kevin Costner spy vehicle, "No Way Out" (1987), was dedicated to Alcott, as it was his last work before his death of a heart attack earlier that year.
Cinematography (Feature Film)
Film Production - Main (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
First film as focus puller, "Whistle Down the Wind"
First collaboration with Stanley Kubrick (additional photography), "2001: A Space Odyssey"
First film as director of photography, Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"
Won Academy Award for lensing Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon"
Last screen collaboration with Kubrick, "The Shining"
Moved to the USA from England
Final film as director of photography, "No Way Out"; released posthumously