Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Bill Butler is dead

The American Society of Cinematographers announced the death of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bill Butler on Wednesday, two days before his 102nd birthday. He was regarded as one of the most important influences in the golden period of American cinema, glamsquad reports 


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“I hear you’re making a movie about a fish,” he once told a teenage Steven Spielberg about a picture that would later become “Jaws.” Butler was the film’s cinematographer, and the picture was an exercise in a film crew’s war against an uncooperative mechanical shark, the conditions, and their own imaginations.

The Spielberg production was one of the most infamously difficult filmmaking endeavors in cinema history, but it went on to smash US box office records and define a new type of filmmaking: the summer blockbuster.

“Bill Butler was the bedrock on that rickety, rocking boat called the Orca in ‘Jaws,'” Spielberg said Variety after Butler’s death. “He was the only calm in the midst of that storm, and as we battled nature and technology, which wore both of us down, the audience eventually won the war.”

“I owe him a great deal for his consistent and creative contributions,” Spielberg remarked.

Butler, an Indiana native, appeared to have the Midas touch when it came to some of the most cherished films of the 1970s. He partnered with John Boorman on his classic ‘Deliverance’ in 1972, following that with two outings opposite Francis Ford Coppola in ‘The Conversation’ and ‘The Godfather’.

Butler’s portrayal of an emotionless, unstoppable evil in ‘Jaws’ was quickly followed by another renowned nemesis, Nurse Ratched, in Jack Nicholson’s film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ in 1975. Those efforts earned him his lone Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

As Butler’s renown grew, so did the scope of his work. He shot many ‘Rocky’ sequels (albeit not the original), ‘Grease,’ and the Bill Murray comedy ‘Stripes’ before his production rapidly declined in the 1990s.

Butler’s final performance was the underappreciated 2009 horror film “Evil Angel.” His wife Iris and five daughters survive him.

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