Star Wars cinematographer Gilbert Taylor dies aged 99

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 3:10am

Gilbert Taylor, the British cinematographer behind hit movies like Star Wars, The Omen and Dr Strangelove, has died. He was 99.

His death on Friday at home on the Isle of Wight was confirmed by his wife, Dee, the BBC reported.

Taylor brought a cinéma-vérité sensibility to black-and-white pictures like the 1964 Beatles comedy A Hard Day's Night and Stanley Kubrick's cold war satire Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He ensured that the battle footage in Dr Strangelove was disturbingly realistic by shooting it like a documentary.

"Stanley could handle a camera, so I told him, 'For all this war stuff, we'll both put on battle dresses and take Arriflexes into the action'," Taylor said in a profile in American Cinematographer. "We'll film it just like combat cameramen."

Roman Polanski chose Taylor to work on Repulsion, his 1965 psychological thriller.

"Our first day's shooting left me amazed and a bit perturbed," Polanski said. "As the rushes were shown, however, he possessed such an unerring eye that his exposures were invariably perfect."

Taylor brought a claustrophobic feel to Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 serial-killer film Frenzy and used a silk stocking as a filter to create the soft, haunting look of the satanic horror film The Omen. He also masterminded the bright, clean shots for Star Wars. The director, George Lucas, "avoided all meetings and contact with me … so I read the extra-long script many times and made my own decisions as to how I would shoot the picture", Taylor said.

I am most happy to be remembered as the man who set the look for Star Wars. I wanted Star Wars to have clarity because I don't think space is out of focus

Gilbert Taylor was born in April 1914 in Bushey Heath, England. He studied to be an architect until age 15, before becoming an assistant to an early cinematographer, William Shenton, in 1929. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1939 and spent the second world war photographing night-time bombing raids over Germany. He took a small unit of cameramen to cover the liberation of concentration camps.

Taylor said he regarded his work on Star Wars as his greatest accomplishment. "I am most happy to be remembered as the man who set the look for Star Wars," he said. "I wanted Star Wars to have clarity because I don't think space is out of focus."

The New York Times



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