Michael Ballhaus


Director Of Photography

About

Birth Place
Berlin, DE
Born
August 05, 1935
Died
April 12, 2017

Biography

This distinguished cinematographer reportedly developed an interest in filmmaking after director Max Ophuls allowed him to watch the filming of "Lola Montes" (1955). In 1970, Ballhaus shot "Whity," the first of some 15 films for Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In some ways his work for the enigmatic German director was not a harbinger for Ballhaus' talents. Fassbinder worked at a furious pace,...

Family & Companions

Helga Mavia Betten
Wife
Married on August 23, 1958.

Notes

"When I was 17, I watched Max Ophuls direct 'Lola Montes'. I was fascinated by the cinematographer's use of light and shadows. I discovered cinematography isn't about getting the right exposure on film. It's about storytelling, and translating words into images. My dream is to shoot a picture with as little dialogue as possible. You should be able to turn the sound off and not lose meaning." --Michael Ballhaus (quoted in Eastman Motion Picture Films ad, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, March 5, 1991)

"With all the complex action scenes, this film ['Air Force One'] was definitely the most technically difficult I've ever shot." --Ballhaus in FILM & VIDEO, July 1997

Biography

This distinguished cinematographer reportedly developed an interest in filmmaking after director Max Ophuls allowed him to watch the filming of "Lola Montes" (1955). In 1970, Ballhaus shot "Whity," the first of some 15 films for Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In some ways his work for the enigmatic German director was not a harbinger for Ballhaus' talents. Fassbinder worked at a furious pace, making lighting textures problematic, and his camera was often static, leaving it up to the cinematographer to provide energy in scenes which have been classified as deliberately claustrophobic. While several of these films are known only to cineastes, a few like "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (1972) and "The Marriage of Maria Braun" (1978) were art-house successes.

In the early 1980s, Ballhaus emigrated to the USA where he quickly established himself as a highly-regarded cameraman. His first American film was John Sayles' "Baby, It's You" (1982) and he has frequently collaborated with a number of major directors, including Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese and James L Brooks. Ballhaus' style could be described as eclectic rather than easily recognizable, and he has proven equally comfortable with period dramas and contemporary comedies. His feel for illumination has allowed him facility with features that cover numerous stages in a character's life, whether in flashbacks or prologues. This was particularly true in his first network TV project in the USA, the Dustin Hoffman version of "Death of a Salesman" (CBS, 1985). Directed by Volker Schlondorff, the telefilm allowed Ballhaus to capture the brighter, higher keyed "look" of Willy Loman's recollections of the late 20s, a feat not accomplished on stage that was more true to playwright Arthur Miller's intent. Ballhaus earned an Oscar nomination for Brooks' "Broadcast News" (1987), in which the on-camera TV sections had to "feel" like real TV, while the narrative called for the behind-the-scenes meat of the film to have an urgency, but seem like real life. He earned a second Academy Award nomination in 1989 for "The Fabulous Baker Boys," a masterful piece of cinematography in which the air seemed to stand still in the lives of Beau and Jeff Bridges until Michelle Pfeiffer appears to stir up the atmosphere. Nichols' "Working Girl" (1988), was lit to offer the fantasy appeal Melanie Griffith has for the world in which she aspires to ascend.

Ballhaus' collaboration with Scorsese, who possess a keen instinct for camera placement and movement, began with "After Hours" (1985), which turned downtown Manhattan into an offbeat world. They followed with another urban setting in "The Color of Money" (1986), where Chicago became the unique location and as much a character in the film as its leads. "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) had a searing, piercing sun which gave not only a sense of the Judean desert but also one of an almost holy spirit glistening the frames. Yet, for many cineastes, Ballhaus is better recognized for his ability in depicting spatial textures. One of his signature moments on film is in Scorsese's "GoodFellas" (1990) when Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is meeting Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) at a diner knowing Conway wants to "whack" him. The camera first is subjective, flowing through the diner from Liotta's point-of-view towards De Niro, the length of movement seeming both perilous and long. The actors sit at a booth in what might have been a dull two-shot, but the scene is given added intensity by its deep focus. Through the window in the background, life outside the diner is ongoing and continuous, in active depth; it is the same kind of shot which distinguished the films of Orson Welles. Even with features that the critics or audiences snubbed, such as "The Mambo Kings" (1992) and "The Age of Innocence" (1993), Ballhaus has been able to win applause for making the look of the film appealing and inviting.

Among Ballhaus' recent credits is Robert Redford's "Quiz Show" (1994), in which the Charles Van Doren character was made to seem angelic, the rosy quality of his cheeks playing to the underlining theme The cinematographer has also worked with director Wolfgang Peterson twice, on "Outbreak" (1995) and "Air Force One" (1997). His lensing of Barry Levinson's "Sleepers" (1996) mixed a period feel in the first act, a colorlessness (to focus on the emotions of the sexual abuse rather than the visual horror of it) for the first part of the second act, then offered a color burdened by shadows for the anguished denouement. Ballhaus reteamed with Mike Nichols for the politically-themed "Primary Colors" (1998).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

In Berlin (2009)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Side by Side (2012)
Himself
Auge in Auge (2008)
Cinematographer Style (2006)
Fassbinder's Women (2000)
Himself
Ich Will Nicht Nur, Dass Ihr Mich Liebt (1993)
Himself
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1992)
Himself
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Counsel--Anwalf
Der Kleine Godard (1978)

Cinematography (Feature Film)

3096 (AT) (2013)
Director Of Photography
The Departed (2006)
Director Of Photography
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
Director Of Photography
Uptown Girls (2003)
Director Of Photography
Gangs of New York (2002)
Director of Photography
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Director Of Photography
What Planet Are You From? (2000)
Director Of Photography
Wild Wild West (1999)
Director Of Photography
Primary Colors (1998)
Director Of Photography
Air Force One (1997)
Director Of Photography
Sleepers (1996)
Director Of Photography
Outbreak (1995)
Director Of Photography
I Only Want You to Love Me (1994)
Director Of Photography
Martha (1994)
Director Of Photography
Quiz Show (1994)
Director Of Photography
I'll Do Anything (1994)
Director Of Photography
The Age Of Innocence (1993)
Director Of Photography
The Mambo Kings (1992)
Director Of Photography
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Director Of Photography
What About Bob? (1991)
Director Of Photography
Guilty By Suspicion (1991)
Director Of Photography
Postcards From The Edge (1990)
Director Of Photography
Goodfellas (1990)
Director Of Photography
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
Director Of Photography
Bolwieser (1989)
Director Of Photography
The House On Carroll Street (1988)
Director Of Photography
Baja Oklahoma (1988)
Director Of Photography
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Director Of Photography
Working Girl (1988)
Director Of Photography
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Director Of Photography
Broadcast News (1987)
Director Of Photography
The Glass Menagerie (1987)
Director Of Photography
Under the Cherry Moon (1986)
Director Of Photography
Edith's Tagebuch (1986)
Director Of Photography
The Color of Money (1986)
Director Of Photography
Death of a Salesman (1985)
Director Of Photography
After Hours (1985)
Director Of Photography
Heartbreakers (1984)
Director Of Photography
Malou (1984)
Director Of Photography
Das Autogram (1984)
Director Of Photography
Reckless (1984)
Director Of Photography
Old Enough (1984)
Director Of Photography
Sheer Madness (1983)
Director Of Photography
Baby, It's You (1983)
Director Of Photography
Der Zauberberg (1982)
Director Of Photography
Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982)
Director Of Photography
Looping (1981)
Director Of Photography
Der Aufstand (1980)
Director Of Photography
Trilogie des Wiedersehens (1979)
Cinematographer
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Director Of Photography
Kaleidoskop: Valeska Gert, Nur zum Spass-nur zum Spiel (1979)
Director Of Photography
Deutscher Fruehling (1979)
Director Of Photography
Die Erste Polka (1978)
Director Of Photography
Despair (1978)
Director Of Photography
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Camera Operator
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Director Of Photography
Frauen in New York (1977)
Director Of Photography
Chinese Roulette (1976)
Director Of Photography
Also es war so... (1976)
Director Of Photography
Satan's Brew (1976)
Cinematographer
Adolf & Marlene (1976)
Director Of Photography
Sommergaeste (1975)
Director Of Photography
Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (1975)
Director Of Photography
Fox and His Friends (1975)
Director Of Photography
The From the Family of Reptiles/Island (1974)
Director Of Photography
World on a Wire: Part 1 (1973)
Director Of Photography
World on a Wire (1973)
Director Of Photography
World on a Wire: Part 2 (1973)
Director Of Photography
Tschetan, der Indianerjunge (1973)
Director Of Photography
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Director Of Photography
Sand (1971)
Director Of Photography
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Director Of Photography
Whity (1970)
Director Of Photography

Producer (Feature Film)

The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
Executive Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

3096 (AT) (2013)
Dp/Cinematographer
Side by Side (2012)
Other
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
Dp/Cinematographer
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Dp/Cinematographer
Fassbinder's Women (2000)
Other
Primary Colors (1998)
Dp/Cinematographer
Outbreak (1995)
Dp/Cinematographer
Ich Will Nicht Nur, Dass Ihr Mich Liebt (1993)
Other
The Age Of Innocence (1993)
Other
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1992)
Other
What About Bob? (1991)
Dp/Cinematographer
Guilty By Suspicion (1991)
Dp/Cinematographer
Postcards From The Edge (1990)
Dp/Cinematographer
Goodfellas (1990)
Other
The House On Carroll Street (1988)
Dp/Cinematographer
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Dp/Cinematographer
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Dp/Cinematographer
Broadcast News (1987)
Dp/Cinematographer
After Hours (1985)
Dp/Cinematographer
Death of a Salesman (1985)
Dp/Cinematographer
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Dp/Cinematographer
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Other
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Dp/Cinematographer

Cast (Special)

Martin Scorsese Directs (1990)
Private Conversations: The Making of the Television Adaptation of "Death of a Salesman" With Dustin Hoffman (1985)

Cinematography (Special)

Landscape With Waitress (1986)
Director Of Photography

Life Events

1970

First collaboration with Rainer Werner Fassbinder "Whity"

1972

Shot Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant"

1975

Was cinematographer on Fassbinder's "Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven"

1978

Last films with Fassbinder, "Despair", "The Stationmaster's Wife" and "The Marriage of Maria Braun"

1979

Initial work for Volker Schlondorff, "Kaleidoskop: Valeska Gert, Nur zum Spess-nur zum Spiel"

1982

US film debut as director of photography, John Sayles' "Baby, It's You"

1982

Immigrated to USA

1985

Worked in US TV for first time, "Death of a Salesman" (CBS), directed by Schlondorff

1985

First collaboration with Martin Scorsese, "After Hours"

1986

Shot "The Color of Money", directed by Scorsese and starring Paul Newman

1987

Hired by Newman to shoot "The Glass Menagerie"

1987

Nominated for an Academy Award for "Broadcast News", directed by James L Brooks

1988

Shot Mike Nichols' "Working Girl", Frank Oz's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ"

1989

Nominated for a second Academy Award for "The Fabulous Baker Boys"

1990

Reunited with Scorsese on "GoodFellas"

1992

Served as cinematographer on "Bram Stoker's Dracula", directed by Francis Ford Coppola

1993

Began teaching at the University of Hamburg

1994

Was director of photography on "Quiz Show", directed by Robert Redford

1994

Reunited with James L Brooks for "I'll Do Anything"

1995

Worked with director Wolfgang Peterson on "Outbreak"

1997

Again teamed with Peterson on "Air Force One"

1998

Shot "Primary Colors" for Mike Nichols

1999

Was cinematographer on the overblown feature adaptation of the TV series "Wild Wild West"

2000

Second collaboration with Redford as director, "The Legend of Bagger Vance"

2000

Again partnered with Nichols on the comedy "What Planet Are You From?"

2001

Shot "Investigating Sex" for director Alan Rudolph

2002

Was director of photography for Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"; received a BAFTA nomination for Best Cinematography

Videos

Movie Clip

Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - Their Strong Right Hand Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) in a more cordial parting with Countess Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer), with May (Winona Ryder) and her mother (Geraldine Chaplin), Joanne Woodward narrates to his dinner, with his mother and sister (Sian Phillips, Carolyn Farina) and Jackson (Alec McCowen), in Martin Scorsese’s The Age Of Innocence, 1993.
Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - The Talk Will Be Of Little Else Martin Scorsese’s opening, shooting at the Philadelphia Academy Of Music, introducing Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), gossips Lefferts and Jackson (Richard E. Grant, Alec McCowen), May (Winona Ryder), Mrs Welland (Geraldine Chaplin) and Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), in The Age Of Innocence, 1993.
Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - Shattered By A Whisper From the opening opera sequence, with one of a series of single takes as remarkable as any by director Martin Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, with Joanne Woodward’s enthralling narration from the Edith Wharton novel, following Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), in The Age Of Innocence, 1993.
Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - Tell Me What You're Running From Director Martin Scorsese breaks with narrative convention, with Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) after attending a play, involving yellow roses, with Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), then joining her upstate, their desire still repressed, when Beaufort (Stuart Wilson) appears, in The Age Of Innocence, 1993.
Death Of A Salesman (1985) - He's Liked But He's Not Well-Liked Dustin Hoffman as title character Willy Loman, unaware of the conversation his grown sons Biff and Happy (John Malkovich, Stephen Lang) are having upstairs, musing himself into a recollection of a scene we suspect never happened, in the TV film of Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman, 1985.
Death Of A Salesman (1985) - I'm The New England Man! Opening the acclaimed TV movie, directed by Volker Schlondorff from the successful 1984 Broadway revival, and closely overseen by the playwright Arthur Miller, Dustin Hoffman as Willy Loman, Kate Reid his wife Linda, home from an incomplete sales trip, in Death Of A Salesman, 1985.
Death Of A Salesman (1985) - If I'd Have Gone With Him To Alaska Not leveling with neighbor Charley (Charles Durning) about his job troubles, Dustin Hoffman as title character Willy Loman, losing himself in memories of his brother Ben (Louis Zorich), whom he presents to his wife and sons, (Kate Reid, John Malkovich, Stephen Lang), in the TV movie of Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman, 1985.
Broadcast News (1987) - How Do You Say No To That? Rising reporter Tom (William Hurt) growing into his role, with editor Bobby (Christian Clemens), then his story (with date-rape victim Marita Geraghty) watched in the newsroom, Aaron (Albert Brooks), producer Jane (Holly Hunter) and anchor Jack Nicholson reacting, in Broadcast News., 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) - Influenced By The Star System Overwrought TV news producer Jane (Holly Hunter) doesn’t go over well, giving a speech about the decline in news coverage before a professional conference, but is reassured when she meets Tom (William Hurt), a budding anchorman, early in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) - Along The Nicaraguan Border Reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) and producer Jane (Holly Hunter) under fire in Nicaragua, followed by one of her crying fits, then in the control room with exec Ernie (Robert Prosky), assistant Blair (Joan Cusack), new-hire Tom (William Hurt) and anchorman Bill (Jack Nicholson), in Broadcast News, 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) - We're Not Gonna Make It! Newsroom action scene stolen by desperate Joan Cusack's barrelling run with a videotape, producer Jane (Holly Hunter) with editor Bobby (Christian Clemens), reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) in support and newly-hired Tom (William Hurt) dazzled, in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, 1987.
Color Of Money, The (1986) - Luck Itself Director Martin Scorsese narrates his opening, in which Paul Newman, in his Academy Award-winning performance reprising "Fast Eddie Felson," from The Hustler, 1961, is introduced, along with Helen Shaver and John Turturro, in The Color Of Money, 1986, also starring Tom Cruise.

Trailer

Family

Lenna Huter
Mother
Actor.
Oskar Ballhaus
Father
Actor.
Florian Ballhaus
Son
Camera operator. Has worked on films with father.
Jan Sebastian Ballhaus
Son
Production assistant. Has worked on films with father.
Pam Katz
Daughter-In-Law
Camera assistant. Wife of Florian Ballhaus; has worked on films with father-in-law.

Companions

Helga Mavia Betten
Wife
Married on August 23, 1958.

Bibliography

Notes

"When I was 17, I watched Max Ophuls direct 'Lola Montes'. I was fascinated by the cinematographer's use of light and shadows. I discovered cinematography isn't about getting the right exposure on film. It's about storytelling, and translating words into images. My dream is to shoot a picture with as little dialogue as possible. You should be able to turn the sound off and not lose meaning." --Michael Ballhaus (quoted in Eastman Motion Picture Films ad, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, March 5, 1991)

"With all the complex action scenes, this film ['Air Force One'] was definitely the most technically difficult I've ever shot." --Ballhaus in FILM & VIDEO, July 1997