The eye behind some of the cinema’s most beloved films has passed away. It was announced today that Michael Chapman, the cinematographer behind films such as TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and THE FUGITIVE, died yesterday at the age of 84. The news was announced by his wife, Amy Holden Jones, a screenwriter who penned INDECENT PROPOSAL, MYSTIC PIZZA, and BEETHOVEN.
Michael Chapman began his career as a camera operator, working on films such as THE LANDLORD, KLUTE, THE GODFATHER, JAWS, and more. Chapman soon transitioned to cinematography and served as director of photography on Martin Scorsese‘s TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, and THE LAST WALTZ, as well as Philip Kaufman‘s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, Paul Schrader‘s HARDCORE, Carl Reiner‘s DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID and THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, Joel Schumacher‘s THE LOST BOYS, Richard Donner‘s SCROOGED, Ivan Reitman‘s KINDERGARTEN COP, Andrew Davis‘ THE FUGITIVE, Gregory Hoblit‘s PRIMAL FEAR, Joe Pytka‘s SPACE JAM, and much more. Chapman also served as DP on Michael Jackson‘s music video for Bad. His final film credit was Gabor Csupo‘s BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA in 2007. Chapman also directed a few projects of his own, including ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, a sports drama that starred a young Tom Cruise. Michael Chapman was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for both RAGING BULL and THE FUGITIVE, and would be honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 2004.
While speaking with Cinephilia & Beyond several years ago, Chapman was asked how they pulled off the final scene at the end of TAXI DRIVER where the camera glides over the scenes of the massacre. Turns out, the best way to get it done was to simply cut a hole through the ceiling. “Marty wanted to do it, and it was an old beat-up building on the West Side that was kind of falling apart, so we took a chance,” said Chapman. “I drew a line where it should be, the grips took chainsaws and they cut it! And it worked. They had to brace the outsides of the building so the structure wouldn’t collapse, but it worked.” Indeed it did. You will be truly miss, Mr. Chapman.