Haskell Wexler, one of the preeminent directors of photography in film industry, passed away today at the age of 93. Throughout a seven-decade span, Wexler’s career was one of the most influential and treasured in American cinema contributing mightily to classic movies including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). He won two Oscars in addition to his accomplishments as a cinematographer, Wexler also wrote and directed feature films as well as widely admired documentaries.
Wexler’s son Jeff (an Oscar-nominated sound mixer whose credits include Independence Day and The Last Samurai) shared the sad new on his website:
It is with great sadness that I have to report that my father, Haskell Wexler, has died. Pop died peacefully in his sleep, Sunday, December 27th, 2015. Accepting the Academy Award in 1967, Pop said: ‘I hope we can use our art for peace and for love.’ An amazing life has ended but his lifelong commitment to fight the good fight, for peace, for all humanity, will carry on.
Wexler collaborated with some of the most distinguished filmmakers of all time including Mike Nichols, Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick and Elia Kazan. His two Oscar wins were for Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)- becoming the last winner of the now-defunct Best Cinematography (Black and White) category- and for Ashby’s Dust Bowl epic Bound for Glory (1976), a biopic of folk singer Woody Guthrie. He also received Oscar nominations for shooting Milos Foreman’s classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), John Sayles’ Matewan (1987) and Ron Shelton’s Blaze (1989) starring Paul Newman. Other credits include Kazan’s America, America (1963), The Best Man (1964) written by Gore Vidal, Oscar winner In the Heat of the Night (1967), the heist classic The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and the Oscar winning Coming Home (1978).
A politically-motivated filmmaker, Wexler also made a major impression with Medium Cool (1969), a film in which he shot, wrote, directed and produced. Innovative and largely admired within the film community, Medium Cool blended fact with fiction in telling the story of a TV news reporter embroiled in violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Wexler earned a DGA nomination for Medium Cool. He also shot the Oscar winning documentary short Interviews with My Lai Veterans (1971) and Michael Moore’s comedy Canadian Bacon (1995).
Wexler is survived by his wife Rita Taggart and three children.