Zsigmond escaped from his native Hungary when he was 26

By Alex Heigl
January 03, 2016 04:05 PM
Tamas Kovacs/MTI/AP

Oscar-winning cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond, who worked on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Deer Hunter, among others, died Jan. 1 at 85, his business partner Yuri Neyman confirmed.

Zsigmond’s five-decade career included work on Deliverance, Blow Out, The Ghost and the Darkness and The Long Goodbye. He won an Academy Award for Close Encounters and was nominated for his work in The Deer Hunter, The River and The Black Dahlia.

More recently, Zsigmond shot a number of episodes of Mindy Kaling‘s sitcom The Mindy Project. In 2003, he was ranked among the 10 most influential cinematographers in film history in a survey by the International Cinematographers Guild.

Zsigmond escaped his native Hungary at 26 after Russia invaded in 1956. He started working on low-budget films before getting his break in 1971 with Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller. He eventually worked with Martin Scorsese (on the documentary about The Band’s final live performance, The Last Waltz) as well as Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate) and Brian de Palma (Blow Out and The Bonfire of the Vanities).

Showing a humility that belied his long list of achievements, Zsigmond once told Rolling Stone that “a cinematographer can only be as good as the director.”