It is with great grief that we inform about the death of one of the world's most respected cinematographers William A. Fraker, ASC, BSC, a winner of six Oscar nominations, three BAFTA nominations and a Lifetime Achievement Award from ASC (2000) and from Plus Camerimage Festival (2003). He died on May 31st at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 86.
His enormous body of work includes unforgettable credits like Rosemary's Baby, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Bullitt or Paint Your Wagon. He earned Oscar nominations in the Best Cinematography category for Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1978), Heaven Can Wait (1979), 1941 (1980), War Games (1984) and Murphy's Romance (1986), and a sixth one for Visual Effects on 1941. Additionally War Games, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Bullit won him three BAFTA nominations. He was also known for his efforts to mentor young filmmakers. The workshop he did in 2003 during his visit at Camerimage Festival attracted huge crowds, and the last several years Fraker spent teaching at his alma mater, the University of Southern California.
Fraker was a consummate perfectionist who would go to extraordinary lengths to capture the best shot. During the filming of Bullitt in San Francisco, he hoisted a camera while strapped on to the front of a Mustang going more than 160 km per hour. "They went so fast his white beard flew up on his face," said his longtime friend and colleague Floyd Mutrux, the writer, actor and director. "He couldn't see where he was coming or going, but he got the shot."
Fraker was in the first wave of a new generation of cinematographers that included Vilmos Zsigmond, László Kovács and Néstor Almendros who rose through the ranks of the studio system and helped usher in a golden era of filmmaking in the 1970s. They brought a different way of thinking to Hollywood during the 1960s and ‘70s.
William Fraker also directed three feature films and several TV films and series. In 1979 he was made a honorary member of the BSC. He served as President of the ASC for three terms in 1979, 1984 and 1991.
Billy Williams, BSC, a friend for over thirty years, described him as a man "always willing to share his experience with others, open, friendly, of genial disposition, a gentleman."
Michael Goi, ASC President, said that "William Fraker embodied not only the consummate artistry that was necessary to become a legend in his craft but also the romance and glamour of making movies."
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