Cinematographer and director Michael Chapman who is most widely known for his dynamic camera work on Martin Scorsese films Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Waltz, has passed away on Sunday from congestive heart failure. Chapman was age 84.
During the course of his celebrated career, Chapman earned himself nominations for two Oscars for best cinematography for his astounding black and white photography work on Raging Bull and also receiving a nod for The Fugitive. Chapman was mentored by Gordon Willis, for whom he served as a camera operator on Hal Ashby’s The Landlord as well as on The Godfather, Up the Sandbox and Klute before receiving his big break when Scorcese hired him for Taxi Driver.
The cinematographer was born on November 21st, 1935, in Wellesley, Mass. and attended Columbia University before starting work as a freight brakeman. A lucky opportunity would see Chapman enter film work through his father-in-law, Oscar-nominated French American cinematographer Joe Brun, who didn’t want him to continue working as a freight brakeman.
Chapman even had small roles in more than a dozen films in films that he worked on and he also ventured into directing for the 1983 Tom Cruise film All the Right Moves and Daryl Hannah starring The Clan of the Cave Bear in 1986. He was also the man behind Peter Gabriel: Live in Athens 1987, which was filmed at the zenith of the ex-Genesis singer’s solo popularity but not released until 2013.
In 2004, Chapman received the lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers, of which he was a member since 1995, and another lifetime achievement from the Camerimage International Film Festival in 2016.
Chapman retired from production after shooting his last film The Bridge to Terabithia, which was released in 2007 and then taught film at North Carolina School of the Arts.