This cinematographer is best-known for his association with childhood friend writer and director Gus Van Sant, though in recent years he has successfully worked with other directors as well. His work is best described as "atmospheric," ranging from the dreamy, almost painterly landscapes of Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" (1991) and "To Die For" (1995) to the gritty photojournalistic style of Larry Clark's "Kids" (also 1995). Edwards and Van Sant began working together in high school, shooting the drama "The Happy Organ" and both attended the Rhode Island School of Design.
Edwards began his career with Oregonian director Penny Allen's "Property" (1978) and "Paydirt" (1981). He also worked on Eagle Pennell's award-winning low-budget drama "Last Night at the Alamo" (earning particular praise for his black-and-white images that evoked the work of James Wong Howe) and Steve Lustgarden's "American Taboo" (both 1983). Van Sant had worked sound on "Property" but the two friends didn't really collaborate until the 1985 drama "Mala Noche," on which Edwards did second unit photography. This black-and-white drama won a Los Angeles Film Critics Award and the Edwards/Van Sant team was off and running.
"Drugstore Cowboy" (1989), on which Edwards did second unit work, was a bit more mainstream, though still a dark tale of rootless layabouts, and the eerie, atmospheric "My Own Private Idaho" became both a cult classic and a critical darling for its look at a pair of aimless souls. Edwards' sometimes hallucinogenic, surreal cinematography, shot in Seattle, Portland and Rome, was often noted in reviews. Less successful was their adaptation of Tom Robbins' offbeat dark comedy "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (1994), with its long and troubled production history. But both were back on track with the acidic comedy "To Die For," featuring Nicole Kidman in a career-making part and Edwards' beautiful exteriors (Ontario) and stylish interiors. A 180-degree turn was "Kids," executive-produced by Van Sant and directed by Larry Clark. Shot in New York, this unpleasant look at teen druggies and amoral drifters was the year's most controversial offering and featured equally gritty camerawork.
Edwards has done much work apart from Van Sant, as well, including the Oregonian photography for the Swedish documentary "The Journey" (1986). He assisted on Alan Rudolph's "Love at Large" (1990), shot the Jane's Addiction rock film "The Gift" (1993), journeyed to Mexico for Maria Novaro's relationship drama "The Garden of Eden" (1994) and served as cinematographer on the road comedy "Flirting With Disaster" (1996). A staple on the indie circuit, Edwards was tapped to shoot James Mangold's crime drama "Cop Land" (1997), co-starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro.
The worlds of TV and rock music have also provided Edwards with opportunity. He has photographed scores of music videos for such artists as Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman, in addition to many commercials. He also shot the TV documentaries "Moving Mountains" (PBS, 1991), "America's Missing Children" (CBS, 1991) and "The Look of the Year" (Fox, 1993) and has taught cinematography at the Sundance Institute.
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First feature credit (cinematography and lighting), "Property", directed by Penny Allen
First feature collaboration with Van Sant, "Mala Noche"; shot additional photography
Served as second unit photographer on Van Sant's "Drugstore Cowboy"
Was director of photography on Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho"