As a child, Allen Daviau developed an interest in photography and cameras which he has translated into a career as one of the most respected directors of photography in contemporary cinema. After studying stage lighting and working in camera stores and photo labs, he began working on student films and as a professional photographer. In the mid-1960s, Daviau shot promotional films for recording artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and The Who and was a still photographer for The Monkees. In 1967, he was introduced to aspiring filmmaker Steven Spielberg who eventually chose him to shoot the well-received short "Amblin'" (1969). Daviau began to find work as a cinematographer on TV-movies like "The Streets of L.A." (CBS, 1979) and "Rage" (NBC, 1990) before earning his first feature credit, for additional photography, on the special edition of Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (released in 1980).
Considered one of the masters of the Hollywood film of the past two decades, Daviau has a knack not only just for crisp, energetic images that seem to jump off the screen, but also for lighting which delves into the psychological thought processes of the characters. He has been able to capture internal thoughts of characters which some film purists think was more easily done in black and white, not color. In that sense, Daviau may be considered a master of color filmmaking. He has shot several films from the point of view of a small child ("E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" 1982; "Empire of the Sun" 1987; "Avalon" 1990). His work creates very specific worlds: a placid suburbia visited by a space creature in "E.T."; the grubby backstreets of China and the bleached out Japanese internment camp in "Empire of the Sun"; the gauzy afterlife of Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life" (1991), and the burgeoning world of Las Vegas in "Bugsy" (also 1991). For "The Color Purple" (1985), Daviau created a rich saturation of colors that blend so that the land and foliage become the people become the sky. Despite earning Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography for "E.T." "The Color Purple," "Empire of the Sun," "Avalon" and "Bugsy," he has yet to win the award. He has continued to work into the 90s earning further praise for his work on Peter Weir's "Fearless" (1993) and Frank Marshall's "Congo" (1995).
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Cinematography (Feature Film)
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Introduced to Steven Spielberg
Served as cinematographer for Spielberg's short "Amblin'"
First TV credit as director of photography, "The Streets of L.A.", a CBS TV-movie starring Joanne Woodward
First feature film credit, Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition" (additional photography)
First feature credit as director of photography, "Harry Tracy"
Chosen by Spielberg as director of photography on "ET, The Extra-Terrestrial"; earned first Academy Award nomination
Headed the second unit photography on Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"
Shot pilot of the NBC series "Amazing Stories", executive produced by Spielberg
Won second Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for Spielberg's "The Color Purple"
Served as cinematographer on Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun"; won ASC and BAFTA Awards also earned third Academy Award nomination
First screen collaboration with Barry Levinson, "Avalon"; garnered fourth Oscar nod
Shot Levinson's "Bugsy"; won fifth Academy Award nomination
Was one of the interview subjects in the documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography"
Was director of photography on "Congo", directed by Frank Marshall