His work included 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' and 'Empire of the Sun' and, for Barry Levinson, 'Bugsy.'
Allen Daviau, the five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer who worked for Steve Spielberg and Barry Levinson on films including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun and Bugsy, died Wednesday of complications from the coronavirus. He was 77.
His death was announced by the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, where he lived. Daviau is the fourth resident at the MPTF facility to die from the virus.
Daviau was introduced to Spielberg in 1967 and worked on two of the director's early short films, and the pair went on to collaborate on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); "Kick the Can," a segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984); The Color Purple (1985); "Ghost Train," a 1985 episode of the NBC anthology series Amazing Stories; and Empire of the Sun (1987).
He then served as Levinson's cinematographer on Avalon (1990) and Bugsy (1991).
Daviau also shot John Schlesinger's The Falcon and the Snowman (1985), the Spielberg-produced Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Albert Brooks' Defending Your Life (1991), Peter Weir's Fearless (1993), Frank Marshall's Congo (1995), Rand Ravich's The Astronaut's Wife (1999) and Stephen Sommers' Van Helsing (2004), his final feature.
He received lifetime achievement awards from the Art Directors Guild in 1997 and the American Society of Cinematographers in 2007.
Born on June 14, 1942, in New Orleans and raised in Los Angeles, Daviau was introduced to Spielberg in 1967. "Steven had seen some of my 16mm work,” he said in a 2007 interview. "He and I shared a great love of movies."
"I wanted to break into the film business, and my 8mm and 16mm films weren’t doing the trick," the director said. "When I was about 18, I'd worked with Allen on a short film that was never finished called Slipstream; it was shot by Serge Haignere, but Allen operated the B camera, and Allen and I became good friends."
Daviau was the cinematographer on the 26-minute long Amblin' (1968), which Spielberg said in 2007 "was a pretty big break for both of us. I don’t know how crazy we are today about our individual work in that film, but I always think of Allen as a terrifically versatile cinematographer."
Daviau shot thousands of commercials as well as documentaries, industrials and educational films — and created psychedelic special-effects lighting for Roger Corman's The Trip (1967) — before he gained entry into the International Photographers Guild.
While doing a lawnmower commercial in Arizona, he learned that Spielberg was looking for a cinematographer for E.T., and sent the director a tape of a 1980 CBS telefilm that he shot, The Boy Who Drank Too Much, starring Scott Baio. "It had a lot of mood, and it's about kids, so I knew Steven would watch it!" Daviau said.
Recalled Spielberg: "I did something I rarely do. I didn't think twice; I picked up the phone and asked Allen if he would photograph my next feature."