A Horror Icon Has Died

Five-time Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Owen Roizman has died.

By Chad Langen | Published

Owen Roizman
Owen Roizman

According to Variety, Owen Roizman, the five-time Academy Award-nominated cinematographer responsible for shooting classic films like Tootsie and The Exorcist, has passed away. A spokesperson for the American Society of Cinematographers announced in a Twitter statement that Roizman, who was 86 at the time of his death, had been battling an undisclosed illness. The news of his passing comes right on the heels of the death of another industry icon, Earl Boen.

As a child, Owen Roizman wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in Hollywood, even though his father was a cameraman himself. Upon hearing about the film industry’s possible wages, however, he became money hungry. As a teenager, he spent his summer breaks working at a camera rental store in New York City and later became an assistant to cinematographer Gerald Hirschfield.

After shooting several television commercials, Owen Roizman made his feature film debut as a cinematographer on the 1970 movie Stop! The Bill Gunn-directed drama tells the blistering story of four beautiful people, two strange marriages, and a murder. To this day, the movie has never been released but has had screenings at various museums and film societies.

The following year, Owen Roizman served as director of photography for his second film, William Friedkin’s The French Connection. The critically-acclaimed crime drama earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, and it set the style for several of Roizman’s future projects. Starring Gene Hackman, Roy Schneider, and Fernando Rey, the movie won multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture.

In 1973, Owen Roizman nabbed another Oscar nomination for his visuals on The Exorcist. The terrifying film saw him reunite once again with William Friedkin to deliver one of the most iconic genre offerings in history. The story centers on a mother who seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter after she’s possessed by a mysterious entity.

In addition to his frequent collaborations with William Friedkin, Owen Roizman often worked with legendary director Sydney Pollack. He took on the visuals of Pollack’s most famous projects including Tootsie, Havana, and The Electric Horseman. The filmmaking duo also teamed up on Three Days of the Condor and Absence of Malice.

Although he was certainly most active during the 1970s and 1980s, Owen Roizman continued to work as a cinematographer throughout the early ‘90s. He served as director of photography for high-profile flicks like The Addams Family, Grand Canyon, and Wyatt Earp. The latter, which stars Kevin Costner, earned him yet another Academy Award nomination for stellar camerawork.

kevin costner wyatt earp
Kevin Costner in Wyatt Earp

Owen Roizman hung up his camera following his work on 1995’s French Kiss, but he kept a presence in the industry. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences from 2002 to 2011, representing the Cinematographers Branch. In 2017, he received an Academy Honorary Award at the 9th Governors Awards ceremony.

Prior to his death, Owen Roizman lived in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mona Lindholm, their son Eric and Roizman’s sister Frankie. Our thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.